Traditional leaders must remain impartial and non-partisan
Traditional leaders have been accused of meddling with partisan politics which greatly compromises their important role of promoting social cohesion within communities.
Citizens who participated in the Electoral Amendment Bill virtual public consultation said traditional leaders are in the habit of involving themselves in partisan politics and trying to influence their subjects to vote for specific people.
The meeting, held Tuesday, sought to gather input from citizens on the Bill which was gazetted on November 18, 2022.
Participants noted that the Bill is silent on a number of pertinent issues which include political interference, political violence and lack of independence by ZEC.
A participant, Josephine, reiterated that traditional leaders should be impartial during the electoral period.
“Role of traditional leaders and their impartiality should be guaranteed and there should be consequences for politicians that force traditional leaders to take sides. Traditional leaders should be impartial in word and deed and corrective measures are taken where a traditional leader has willfully been partisan,” she said.
Another participant, Rekai Rushinga, said there is a need for stringent laws that prohibit chiefs from involving themselves in partisan politics.
Meanwhile, participants also expressed concern about the lack of independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and reiterated that for the election process to go well the Commission must be independent.
Lovemore Magorimbo, a participant, said the commission must ensure that each political party is involved in the selection of Commissioners.
“The Commission itself needs to be impartially effective hence the need to have all commissioners nominated through the Parliament. Each political party with Parliamentary representation must be involved in the nomination process for the ZEC commissioners. A president belongs to a political party and so if he is given the powers to handpick commissioners for the ZEC obviously he will do so without forgetting his party interests,” he said.
“The electoral laws together with the constitution must be upheld by those who are employed to uphold these laws. Political violence must be a reason enough for candidates to be disqualified. The Electoral Commission must be independent and the Minister of Justice must not meddle with affairs of the commission.”
Another participant, Youngerson Matare, said the electoral law should ensure that an independent audit of the voters’ roll is conducted.
“The electoral reform bill must also provide for an independent audit of the voters’ roll and provide timelines for the provision of an auditable and verifiable voters roll to all political parties and political stakeholders,” he said.
A representative from Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), Heather Koga, noted that ZEC needs to invest more in voter education so as to curb violence.
“Voter rights, and results management issues are some of the things that cause violence. Voter education should be improved in order to reduce the issues of political violence. ZEC needs to invest in these so that people can have enough knowledge on elections,” she said.