Walk the talk, Zec tells Mugabe, Tsvangirai
HARARE – President Robert Mugabe and his bitter coalition partner Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai are battling pressure from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to put their houses in order.
The electoral body has submitted a raft of demands that includes cars, cash, lifting of government job freeze, full-time jobs and adequate notice to ensure credible elections become real next year.
The demands include a 90-day notice that could effectively mean Mugabe’s wish for March elections is dead.
Both Mugabe and Tsvangirai agree that elections, which are likely to be Zimbabwe’s hardest fought since the 1980 independence polls, should go ahead next year.
But Zec appears far from convinced that the two are doing enough to make this a reality despite the tough public talk at political rallies and meetings.
The Daily News can reveal that principals to the power-sharing Global Political Agreement have received a plethora of demands from Zec which they are battling to deliver on.
Besides the sticky issue of funding which has forced the coalition to beg for funds from the United Nations and erstwhile enemies in the European Union, the elections body has demanded eight weeks’ notice before the referendum can be held and 90 days for the general election.
A copy of the demands seen by the Daily News also reveals the election commission needs cars, equipment refurbishment and staff to be fully operational before any poll is held.
“Zec needs a waiver of government’s freeze on the civil service staff recruitment policy for it to operate optimally. Of the 830 staff members required by the commission only 470 are available at the moment and dotted around the country,” states Zec.
“We also would like the commissioners to work full-time to make sure preparations proceed unhindered. The commission also needs 131 cars,” Zec states.
The Daily News has it on good authority, that apart from giving the go ahead to Cabinet to seek funding from external sources, Mugabe and his coalition partners last week agreed to allow Zec commissioners to start working on a full-time basis.
This comes amid claims that Zec chairperson, the Namibian-based jurist, Simpson Mutambanengwe is unhappy with the working arrangements and lack of clarity from government on how the commission should operate.
Mutambanengwe’s deputy, Joyce Kazembe, has been the acting Zec boss during his lengthy absence.
The electoral body in its plea to Mugabe and Tsvangirai said it had a budget of only $7 million, and besides the cars, also required $23 million for equipment, training, voter education material and salaries.
Tsvangirai confirmed in an interview with the Daily News the electoral supervisory body had made the demands.
“Zec told us it requires an eight week notice to adequately prepare for the referendum. I am happy though that this process will only require citizens to provide their national identity cards so they can vote. So there is not much need for the voters’ roll on this one,” he said.
“However, after that there is a very important exercise of voter registration and I must say the Registrar-General (RG) has been placing unnecessary barriers to those who want to register. That will need to be looked at and make sure Zec plays its role of supervising the registration of voters,” he said.
Mugabe and hawks in his former liberation movement have been calling for elections since 2009 and in the past few months the veteran Zanu PF strongman has declared the country will go to the polls in March.
Tsvangirai maintains dates for elections are dependent on the completion of a string of reforms, including media and security sector realignments and the adoption of a new constitution.
“We cannot be talking about dates when Zec has no money,” said Tsvangirai.
Zec spokesperson Lovemore Sekeramayi could neither deny nor confirm this.
“These are obviously very important matters that I cannot discuss over the phone. I am off duty I would request you to put them in writing,” Sekeramayi said.
He had not responded by the time of going to print.