Urgent attention should be paid to electoral reforms on voter registration, transparency of the voter’s roll, and the right of political parties to freely campaign, Professor Welshman Ncube has said.
Prof Ncube, a senior leader in the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), said Zimbabwe should put its attention on these pressing problems, as only a few months are left until dates for the 2023 national elections are set.
His remarks follow the CCC’s unveiling of the Pre-Election Pact on Electoral Reforms (PREPARE), which calls for electoral reforms before next year’s elections.
“As provided in the constitution, voter registration must be continuously accessible to people. This thing of saying that outside the outreach programme, you can only register at the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) offices like in Bulawayo is wholly unacceptable. It means people have no effective access to voter registration,” he said, lamenting the lack of transparency in the entire electoral process.
Prof Ncube noted that despite talk on the delimitation of constituencies, the process was still not implemented.
“So far it has been opaque. There’s been no transparency, time is running out and the things that should be done publicly have not been done,” lamented the law expert.
He cited how the media coverage was still unfair despite the constitution and Electoral Act having adequate law for both private and public media to fairly cover elections.
“We know the state media is far off the legal imperatives of what it should be doing,” said Prof Ncube.
The constitutional law expert bemoaned how the security apparatus, particularly the police, exhibited questionable behaviour yet the law specified how their conduct should be.
“The law is never followed,” said Prof Ncube.
“The role of the police must be neutral and keep the peace but it’s not happening”
The CCC leader claimed there was widespread abuse of legislation that requires police to be notified of meetings.
“Police have been insisting over the years that the obligation to notify them is in fact a different obligation altogether, that it is an obligation to apply for their permission, not the law. All of these things need to be attended to,” he said.
The CCC leader also decried how the law was inadequate when it came to the counting and transmission of election results, particularly for the presidential election as opposed to the local and parliamentary elections.
“People ought to see results that came from polling stations, see the collation of results at a particular ward, constituency, province in real life so that there is no contestation over the actual result,” he said, bemoaning how Zimbabwe continuously moved from cycle to cycle of disputed elections.
“The moment you have disputed elections you will have legitimacy issues. If ever you are a government where the majority of people don’t believe it is there by virtue of their sovereign right or that they put that government there, that government will never have the moral and political authority to lead effectively. Hence you continue to have the characteristics of a failed state, a failed economy, politics and a failed everything.”
Prof Ncube cautioned that if some of these issues are not resolved ahead of the 2023 elections, Zimbabwe would have “a palpably unfair and unfree election.”
“No one will be convinced about the outcome and resultantly the government is never going to be able to change the fortune of the country,” he said.
“So it is important for all parties to recognise that it might be late but there is an urgent need for genuine sincere dialogue over some of these issues. It is important to talk about these things, time is of the essence.”
The CCC leader acknowledged the ruling Zanu PF party would always be reluctant to engage in genuine electoral reforms “because they have never been a democratic party.”
“They have never accepted the sovereign right of people to select a government of their choice. They believe that by virtue of their participation in the liberation struggle, people have obligation to vote for them but people don’t vote for them,” he said, noting how Zanu PF resorted to violence against people as retribution for rejecting them.
“This is why you saw the signs all over the country, the construction of no-go areas in the rural areas. They believe that they own the electorate and no one else other than them should have access and those who exercise their sovereignty then get visited by violence in order.”
Prof Ncube emphasised that resorting to violence, threats and withdrawal of government services in order to coerce people to hold a particular political opinion or vote in a certain way was undemocratic.
“As CCC, we must continue to prepare and overwhelm Zanu PF in an election, notwithstanding the absence of electoral reforms and machinations they will engage in order to defeat the sovereign right of people to elect a government of their choice,” he said.