HARARE – Election watchdog, the Election Resource Centre (ERC), has petitioned President Emmerson Mnangagwa, urging him to set clear timelines for the implementation of electoral reforms if at all he is sincere about holding free and fair elections.
Mnangagwa has repeatedly said his government would hold free and fair elections but is yet to put in motion amendments to electoral processes that have caused perennial contestation of elections.
With less than five months to the eagerly anticipated elections, ERC proposed immediate reform of electoral processes, in particular, the alignment of electoral laws with the Constitution.
“A lot of these election processes are time-bound and if we have these changes happening on the eve of the election they are immaterial,” ERC director Tawanda Chimhini said.
“We have written to the president directly to say his statements in his inaugural speech must find their way to practical steps that his administration must begin to take. And these steps are centred on three fundamental areas.
“One the legal framework, if the administration is serious about free and fair elections the expectation is that we immediately see moves to align our electoral laws.”
Chimhini said by now there should be clear dates by which legislative reforms including the repealing of the Public Order and Security Act, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, as well as comprehensive media reforms, should be implemented.
He also urged the creation of a political environment that allows citizens to freely participate in electoral processes and opening up our electoral processes for international scrutiny.
“The political environment that comprises fairness of election with traditional leaders campaigning for a certain political party is still prevalent. If this administration is serious about free and fair elections we expect the to tell traditional leaders that they have no right to campaign for political parties,” Chimhini said.
The opposition has been on record calling for the presence of international monitors and observers should be in place at least six months before the election.
Turning to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), ERC said lack of electoral reforms compromises the independence of Zec and subsequently the transparency, accountability and adhering to international best practice regarding administration of electoral processes.
Zec recently embarked on a Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) mop up exercise from January 10 to February 8, 2018.
At least 2 850 mobile and 87 static registration centres were established across the country.
“While the extension of voter registration is commendable, the ERC notes that the exercise was launched before the completion of adequate preparations, procedures and communication.
“Further, the ERC is concerned that critical electoral processes continue to be administered against the backdrop of an Electoral Act that remains largely unaligned with the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” Chimhini said.