Joseph Madzimure-Senior Reporter
AHEAD of the March 26 by-elections, political parties must sell their ideas to the electorate and not seek scapegoats in the event of losing, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba has said.
Her remarks come as some opposition forces have already started claiming, without evidence, that the electoral management body is manipulating the voters’ roll.
However, instead of seeking to blame Zec, political parties should campaign peacefully and entice the electorate with their ideas, Justice Chigumba said.
The country is set to hold by-elections in 28 National Assembly constituencies and 122 local authority wards.
As the clock ticks towards the polls, there is heightened political activity with several parties holding rallies to drum up support.
Speaking at the launch of the National Multi-party Liaison Committee (MPLC) in Harare yesterday, Justice Chigumba said political parties should campaign peacefully and desist from hate speech.
“I urge political parties to campaign peacefully, refrain from hate speech, and use the MPLC to solve conflicts. Political parties must resist the urge to blame ZEC in advance as you are facing defeat, please we want to hear more of what your party stands for and give us your strategies,” she said.
She said political parties should concentrate more on addressing challenges affecting the electorate in their respective constituencies instead of blaming ZEC on the way elections are conducted.
The launch was attended by civil society organisations, political parties and other stakeholders.
Justice Chigumba quashed social media reports that Zec was tempering with the voters’ roll, saying that the electoral body is not accountable to social media but Parliament.
“As we are in election mode, you will be reading all about voter’s roll fraud from nameless, faceless individuals on social media. They continue to send questions and we know our mandate and how to account to stakeholders. You want ZEC to respond to Twitter or social media, give us proper legislation. Zec will account through Parliament according to the legislative framework, not social media,” said Justice Chigumba.
Political parties and candidates contesting in the March 26 by-elections are bound by the provisions of the code of conduct which they signed and presented to the commission along with their nomination papers.
In line with the Electoral Act, Zec launched the multiparty liaison committee where disputes and conflicts will be resolved amicably during and after the March 26 by-elections.
Speaking at the same occasion, Zec chief election officer, Mr Utoile Silaigwana, said contesting political parties and candidates are expected to take the lead in ensuring peaceful campaigns
“It is in this spirit that you have been invited to the launch of this MPLC meeting so that you periodically engage one another to resolve any forms of electoral disputes that might arise on the road to polling day in an amicable way,” he said.
MPLCs are established in terms of Section 160B of the Electoral Act of Zimbabwe.
Mr Silaigwana said the meeting was also meant to outline the role of MPLCs and assist political parties and candidates to participate and resolve disputes among themselves. The MPLC will be cascaded to constituency and local authority levels.
The meeting also highlighted contents of the code of conduct for political parties and candidates, which gives guidelines to peaceful electioneering conduct.
“As you are aware, this code of conduct, which is also referred to as the Fourth Schedule of the Electoral Act was revised to encompass all electoral stakeholders in order to have a holistic approach to enhancement of peaceful conduct during elections,” he said.
Political parties and candidates signed the code of conduct during the nomination period for the by-elections and are expected to abide by it.
They should, among other things, desist from any conduct that is prohibited in the Electoral Law, including but not limited to, use or threats of violence, hateful language, intimidation, bribery and damage to property.
Mr Silaigwana urged political parties to publicise the code of conduct widely in election campaigns and promote a climate of tolerance in which electioneering activities take place without fear, coercion, intimidation or reprisals.