From Daniel Nemukuyu in Nyanga—
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson Justice Rita Makarau has urged stakeholders in the electoral process to collectively come up with mechanisms of resolving election related disputes to ensure a free, fair and credible poll next year. Speaking at a three-day all-stakeholder workshop on electoral disputes resolution in Nyanga yesterday, Justice Makarau said it was incumbent upon the stakeholders to agree on mechanisms of settling conflicts.
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“It is, therefore, prudent to start our debate by accepting that disputes are part of the electoral process throughout the electoral cycle,” she said.
“The issue that we must focus on is, what mechanisms are in place to deal with these when they do occur? As you may all be aware, we will as Zimbabwe be conducting a general election in the year 2018. It is, therefore, imperative that we pre-empt all contentious electoral issues and try to devise means to peacefully resolve them.
“The power to resolve all disputed issues may not be within our jurisdiction, but we believe collective engagement of stakeholders and sharing of information well before-hand is vital,” she said.
Justice Makarau said while Zimbabwe had a comprehensive legal framework to prevent, manage and resolve disputes through judicial means, alternative mechanisms were also crucial.
“The Constitution of Zimbabwe and electoral laws do provide a comprehensive legal framework for the prevention, management and peaceful resolution of electoral disputes,” she said.
“The law provides a complex framework where diverse stakeholders have a role to play in the resolution of electoral disputes, hence their presence at this workshop.”
The workshop, that was organised with the assistance of the Embassy of Switzerland and the Election Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa, attracted election officers from other countries, members of the civic society, local political parties, the police, Judiciary and other stakeholders.
The deliberations, Justice Makarau said, should provide an impetus needed in reducing electoral disputes in the country’s electoral process.
Speaking at the same workshop, Charge d’Affaires for the Embassy of Switzerland Dr Nicolas de Torrente’, said electoral disputes were a worldwide problem and commended ZEC for its strides in engaging the stakeholders.
“These issues are certainly not unique to Zimbabwe,” he said. “Other countries have been confronted with similar problems. Regional and international bodies have also addressed these questions and set standards.
“This is why drawing and reflecting on regional and international experiences is so important.”
Among the foreign election experts attending the workshop was former Chief Justice of Tanzania Mohamed Chande Othman, former chief elections officer for the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa Mr Mosotho Moeypa and chairperson of the SADC Electoral Advisory Council Advocate Abel Leshele Thoahlane.