Source: ‘Disband current Zec secretariat’ –Newsday Zimbabwe
THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) secretariat should be disbanded and new civilian staff employed before the 2023 elections to ensure the credibility of the electoral management body, independent election watchdogs have said.
The opposition and other civic groups have previously raised concern over the ‘heavy militarisation’ of Zec’s secretariat saying this compromised the electoral management body’s integrity.
In an interview with NewsDay Weekender, Zimbabwe Election Advocacy Trust (ZEAT) executive director Ignatious Sadziwa said Zec should employ impartial people to ensure free and fair elections.
“Utoile Silaigwana, who is the head of secretariat of the commission is a former army officer and a host of other members are either aligned to the CIO [Central Intelligence Organisation] or police, something that the Constitution does not allow. We advocate for the disbandment of both the commission and the secretariat and employ impartial civilians to manage elections as espoused in the Constitution,” Sadziwa said.
“The year 2022 has been a long tumultuous and contentious election year for next year’s general elections. We held by-elections under very difficult conditions amid contestations between Zec, the civil society and political parties mainly the Citizens Coalitions for Change over a myriad of issues.
“The issue of ballot paper printing which is shrouded in opaque and shadowy dealings, the unilateral appointment of compromised Zec officials without due diligence is another landmine which compromises the integrity of Zec.”
Sadziwa also condemned the Electoral Amendment Bill as a ‘fraud’ to avoid implementing much-needed electoral reforms.
“The Electoral Amendment Bill which is now in its third reading in Parliament is another fraud as it fell short in addressing the above mentioned anomalies. We are currently witnessing raising horrific cases of electoral violence especially in rural areas, a trend which will render elections fair. There is a need for an all stakeholder’s electoral conference to try and mitigate some of these problems,” he said.
Election Resource Centre’s legal and advocacy officer Takunda Tsunga said: “The electoral commission must take steps to address the issues that affected the electoral environment in 2022 which includes taking steps to address politically-motivated violence and the partisan conduct of traditional leaders. Additionally, the commission should further carry out voter registration campaigns to ensure inclusion of all.”
But Zec spokesperson Jasper Mangwana said the Constitution does not bar former serving army officers from being employed by Zec.
“These are just malicious issues raised by the stakeholders but we want to make it clear that the commission has no employee who is a serving member of any of the security organisations of the country,” Mangwana said.
“Even if there are former, they don’t report to those structures, they report directly to the commission. The commission is the ultimate authority in terms of who is to be employed.
“There is no law that bars anyone who has been previously employed as former security personnel to apply for a job in the commission if they have the qualifications and the experience. These are just baseless allegations.”