HARARE – Contrary to claims by Zanu PF that the issue of ballot paper cannot be subjected to open tender, the Electoral Act mandates the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to disclose the process to competing parties in an election.
There has been disagreement between the ruling party and the Nelson Chamisa-led opposition MDC over whether information relating to the number of ballot papers that would be printed for the forthcoming polls, where they are to be printed and the name of the organisation printing them should be made public.
The MDC wants the process to be subjected to open tender while the ruling party is adamant that such a move will compromise the security of the ballot.
Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi recently rejected proposals by MDC parliamentarians for the floating of an open tender for the procurement of the ballot papers, claiming this was against the country’s current procurement provisions.
Contrary to explanations being given by the ruling party on the opaqueness of the whole process, Veritas — an organisation that gives information on the work of courts and Parliament — said Zec must come clean in the spirit of openness and fairness.
Veritas said Section 52A of the Electoral Act mandates Zec to provide, without delay, the relevant information to all political parties and candidates contesting an election, and to all observers.
The information that has to be provided, according to Veritas, pertains to, “where and by whom the ballot papers for the election have been or are being printed; and the total number of ballot papers that have been printed for the election; and the number of ballot papers that have been distributed to each polling station”.
According to Veritas, there is no legitimate reason why Zec should not reveal now the name of the printers selected.
“There is also nothing in the law that prevents Zec from allowing a few independent observers to monitor the printing.
“This would go a long way to establishing trust with political parties and the general public,” the organisation said.
Observers allege that Zanu PF is planning to use the ballot papers to rig the forthcoming elections expected not later than August 21, through “chromatography”.
Writing on his Twitter account, civil society leader Brian Kagoro said, “#AfricanLivesMatter Procurement of election materials (including ballot papers, indelible ink, boxes) must be subjected to public tender.
“The tender awardees must be known and interrogated for any link to any of the contestants in an election.
“#AfricanLivesMatter There is no free, let alone fair election, without transparency regarding election materials procurement.
“You cannot hold the printing of ballot papers
or election materials a secret when we have a right to freedom of information”.
MDC leader Chamisa has threatened to disrupt the election if the information pertaining to where the ballot papers are being printed is not availed to his party.
Zec has not yet made the information known to the public pertaining to who will be printing the ballot papers and where they will be printed.
Speaking to a local private weekly over the weekend, Zec chairperson Priscillah Chigumba said everything that has been done so far, including the use of a direct tender was above board.
“Zec has opted to use the direct procurement method provided for in terms of Section 33 (2) (b) of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act (Chapter 22:23) after considering issues such as quality of service and security, among others.
“However, please note that in any event, Section 52A of the Electoral Act (Chapter 2:13) compels the commission to provide political parties, candidates and observers with the following information before elections: where and by whom the ballot papers for the election are being printed or have been printed; the total number of ballot papers printed for the election; and the number of ballot papers that have been distributed to each polling station.
“Therefore, there is nothing secretive about the printer and the ballot papers printed or to be printed for an election.
“Zec will publish this information in the same way it has always done with other elections,” Chigumba said.