‘Zim political parties should be registered’

The registration of political parties in the country may assist govern their conduct during elections, as currently there is no punishment if politicians violate the code of conduct while campaigning, a Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) official has said.

This comes after Zambia, which held its election on August 12, 2021, was credited for its ability to enforce its electoral code of conduct where several candidates and political parties including the ruling party were suspended by that country’s electoral commission for demonstrating violence or hate speech.

Speaking at a virtual dialogue hosted Thursday by the Public Policy and Research Institute of Zimbabwe, CITE and the Zimbabwe Election Support Network on Zambia’s Historic Election: Lessons for Zimbabwe, ZEC commissioner, Dr Qhubani Moyo said the country’s electoral code of conduct was not punitive rather was an agreement by parties.

“Yes clearly that is a very good lesson, we do have a code of conduct currently but there are no sanctions or enforcement mechanisms. It’s just more of a consensus document where parties come in and agree that this is what we must not do,” he said.

“It doesn’t go further to say what sanctions should happen should such incidents happen. Clearly, the Zambian situation which we have seen as well in Tanzania and other countries  where a political party that breaks the code of conduct will get some sanctions is something that we should take on board and be able to do as a country.”

Moyo indicated it was ‘really’ important to have a legal definition of what constitutes a political party.

“Maybe by also making sure political parties are registered. Currently, we don’t have any registration of a political party. You group yourself and write to the commission that we are such and such an organisation then you are just allowed to exist, therefore a code of conduct together with the registration of political parties could come in handy,” he said.

“This will make sure we have a bit of sanity in terms of how political parties behave, especially towards the way the commission itself is treated.”

The commissioner claimed Zimbabwe had a ‘tragic’ situation where some political parties attacked ZEC as part of their election manifesto.

“Instead of addressing reforms they could have addressed in parliament, in terms of changing electoral laws, some political parties want to come out and bash the commission for what they would have failed in parliament,” Moyo said.

“What is desired in my view is to make sure we have a stable political environment in elections. Political parties, therefore, must take it as a form of an early exercise that they push for electoral reforms in parliament – that whatever happens, the commission is there to implement whatever has been agreed.”

Moyo criticised these political parties for ‘continuously’ failing to call for electoral reforms but then turned on ZEC.

“They go to parliament, fail to achieve whatever electoral laws they want to change, then come here and bash the commission, saying it is not playing according to the rules. The job of the commission is cut for it in the constitution and the electoral act. As long as we play according to the defined rules of the game, surely the commission should be given the kind of respect that it should have,” summed up the commissioner.

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