Harare (New Ziana) –With the election season upon the country, the spotlight is on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) which is hard pressed to prove its credibility and integrity which have been under scrutiny over the years.
The electoral management body, which is preparing to conduct by-elections in 28 National Assembly constituencies and more than 100 local authority wards on March 26 this year, has started rolling out processes towards the conduct of valid polls.
These include the recent launch of a biometric voter registration blitz, which will also inform the delimitation of electoral boundaries for the 2023 harmonised elections.
According to the Electoral Act, ZEC is mandated to prepare for, conduct and supervise elections for the Office of the President, Parliamentarians, Provincial and Metropolitan Councils as well as the governing bodies of local authorities. ZEC is also in charge of national referenda.
But it is not just about conducting elections, ZEC must ensure that the elections and referenda are conducted efficiently, freely, fairly, transparently and in accordance with the law.
The pressure for ZEC to show its mettle is motivated by the accusations of impartiality, inefficiency and outright rigging that have been made over the years by mostly opposition political parties, the private media and Western sponsored Non-Governmental organisations.
Undaunted, and intent on engendering confidence in the electoral processes and outcomes, ZEC has opened itself to stakeholder and public scrutiny.
During the current electoral season, ZEC has held many consultations with civil society, political parties, the media and other stakeholders as part of is continuous effort to refine electoral processes.
Issues covered for the current electoral period include production of voter education material, codes of conduct, the roles and expectations for all stakeholders, all a part of its duty and commitment to uphold transparency and instilling confidence in the electoral system.
In terms of the Electoral Act, an electoral period in the case of an election to fill a vacancy in the membership of Parliament: ” is the period between the calling of the election and the declaration of the result of the poll for the constituency concerned in terms of section 66(1).”
Some of the highlights of the road that ZEC has traversed in the current election season include:
President Emmerson Mnangagwa issued a proclamation for the by-elections on January 6 this year, triggering processes culminating in the sitting of nomination courts on January 26.
The nomination courts sat throughout the day in accordance with the law, and barring a few incidences, ZEC put on a flawless show in fulfillment of its constitutional mandate.
After the nomination court, ZEC, as per Section 21 of the Electoral Act, was bound to provide copies of the voters’ roll to successfully nominated candidates, and just a day after the nomination courts sat, it fulfilled that legal requirement.
The nomination process was however not without incident, but commendably, when it erred, ZEC owned up and apologised.
During the nomination process, Dyke Makumbi, a prospective Citizens Coalition for Change candidate in Ward 12, Chinhoyi municipality encountered challenges lodging his nomination papers because his nominators could not be found on the voters’ roll as required by law.
ZEC swiftly identified and rectified the problem, with its chief elections officer Utoile Silaigwana explaining that the anomaly had occurred due to administrative issues.
Additionally, ZEC spokesperson Commissioner Joice Kazembe, who was in Chinhoyi supervising the nomination process, said the commission would ensure such mistakes did not occur again.
“This is a first actually, and our intention is that such a mistake does not happen again,” she told New Ziana.
“I think we have tried to be transparent and not dismiss the issue. I think it is an unfortunate development that happened but we will try to ensure as much as possible that such a situation does not prevail again.”
Mobile Biometric Voter Registration, Voter Education
ZEC commenced a phased countrywide mobile voter registration blitz at the start of February.
Under the first phase running from February 1 to 28, over 2 700 registration centres have been established in addition to the 73 permanent district and provincial centres.
The second phase will be conducted between April 11 and 30.
Silaigwana explained to the media on January 31 the legal implications that accompanied a voter registration campaign, chiefly a voter education program, for which he said at least 1 885 people had since been recruited and deployed.
“Voter education teams who have been deployed in advance will inform prospective registrants of when the registration teams will be in the area and the registration centres where the teams will be operating from. Members of the public are urged to be on the lookout for these voter educators for this information,” he said.
Explaining the BVR equipment deployment factors, ZEC said it was guided by the number of polling stations as of 2018, projected area population, geographical location and community of interest.
In total, 776 BVR kits have been deployed.
Apparently ZEC is religiously following these process to show its total commitment to delivering flawless polls which adhere to the general principles of democratic elections.
It is heartening to note that the zeal of ZEC to gain public confidence in its processes is fulfilling part 1 of the Electoral Act which provides that “….the authority to govern derives from the will of the people demonstrated through elections that are conducted efficiently, freely, fairly, transparently and properly on the basis of universal and equal suffrage exercised through a secret ballot.”