Thandeka Moyo Bulawayo Bureau
THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has said some of the items contained in an MDC Alliance petition on electoral reforms are misdirected as they cannot be legally dealt with by the commission. The commission said it could not accede to the Alliance’s demands to delay the elections as that was the duty of the courts.
The MDC Alliance had demanded an electronic copy of the provisional voters’ roll, an independent external audit of the voters’ roll, retirement of alleged security personnel within ZEC, access to BVR servers, removal of alleged military personnel in rural areas and queried the setting up of additional polling stations.
The alliance also wanted ZEC to allow for the Diaspora vote, disbanding of the accreditation committee, involvement in procurement and movement of the ballot papers, among other issues.
Pursuant to these demands, the MDC Alliance last week held a march in Harare and handed its petition over to ZEC asking these to be addressed as conditions precedent to the upcoming 30 July harmonised elections.
On the Diaspora vote, the commission said it was guided by a Supreme Court ruling that there was no provision for such in the pending elections.
In a statement yesterday, ZEC chairwoman Justice Priscilla Chigumba said the commission had gone out of its way to engage stakeholders on electoral processes and issues to meet regional and international standards.
“With regards to provision of the provisional voter’s roll, the demand by the Alliance is premature. We provided a read-only copy of the printed voters’ roll because it is subject to correction.
“It is only rational that in the circumstances, for the commission to be allowed to complete its process and produce a new voters’ roll which stakeholders would have every right to raise questions and objections on.
“The commission is at the tail end of the process of cleaning and updating the roll following the inspection period which was conducted from May 19 to 29,” said Justice Chigumba.
She said members of the public were free to go and inspect the voters’ roll at any ZEC office during working hours.
“The Alliance is also free to undertake an independent external audit on its own or in collaboration with other stakeholders and share recommendations with the commission,” Justice Chigumba said.
ZEC said all stakeholders were addressed on conducting an independent external audit of the voters’ roll and that such a request from any stakeholder lacked a legal basis.
“One of the issues raised in the petition had to do with the procurement and movement of the ballot paper and I would like to reinforce that such is the exclusive right of the commission in terms of Section 239 of the Constitution.
She added: “This is an administrative matter for which the commission is not subject to the direction or control of any person. However, as a consensus-building gesture in order to foster transparency, the commission has resolved to allow political parties and other stakeholders to observe the printing of the ballots when the time comes.”
ZEC denied the existence of serving members of the security forces within its establishment. She those making the allegations had been challenged to produce evidence, which they had not done. She said some of the Aliiance bordered on mischief.
Justice Chigumba said the commission did not have power to disband the accreditation committee as this was the Legislature.
“The issue of the use of food and inputs as political weapons is not for the Commission. This also applies to the demilitarisation of rural areas as the commission has no knowledge of such,” she said.
“Our response to the conditions precedent for holding elections, our response would be the commission is bound by the Constitution to carry out its mandate. Once a proclamation has been issued it is required by law to proceed with preparations for elections and it can only be stopped by a court of law”.
Justice Chigumba said the MDC Alliance or any other stakeholder could not access the BVR servers as they were a security issue.
“The issue of access to the server is controlled in the same way as is the case with all institutions that keep custody of information of a security or confidential nature. We also encourage stakeholders not to mystify the issue of additional polling stations as we have allowed the creation of sub-polling stations for a polling area where the threshold of voters exceeds its set limit,” she said.
Justice Chigumba said plans to decentralise accreditation centres were at advanced stages.
The Alliance had raised concern on equal access to the media by parties contesting the elections.
Justice Chigumba said: “The commission has written to the Zimbabwe Media Commission and the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe in line with section 160 of the Electoral Act. The best time to ensure there is access to and equal coverage of all political parties by the media would be after June 14 when the commission knows who will be contesting.”
ZEC has said the BVR system is tamper-proof and makes it impossible to rig the election.
President Mnangagwa has repeatedly assured the world that the elections will be free, fair and credible.
The Government has invited observers from all over the world to witness the election.