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Comment: Veil is off ZEC

THANKS to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission lawyer George Chikumbirike for shining a bit of light on why we still do not have the results of the presidential election two weeks after the people cast their ballots.

In court on Wednesday – where Chikumbirike was defending the ZEC’s decision not to announce the results of the presidential election – he revealed to the nation key information on the nature of forces at play on the commission. “It would be dangerous in my view to give an order (for ZEC to release results) because it might not be complied with … because of outside exigencies which the party (ZEC) will be unable to control,” Chikumbirike said without elaborating.
The statement is not only revealing in as far as it shows that ZEC has been sat on and therefore cannot release results but is also a tacit warning from the  executive that it can undermine the rule of law when it likes even if it means subverting the will of the people in an election.
Justice Tendai Uchena hearing the case has said he will give a ruling on the issue on Monday but this could turn out to be an academic exercise. There is no doubt here who is most likely to refuse to accept the results of the poll.  The Zanu PF government has already started to dispute results which have not been made public to the electorate.  Its propaganda machine is even claiming that voters who supported the opposition did not have ideological depth and therefore made the wrong decision.
President Mugabe and his government are not likely to take kindly to election results which show that Mugabe lost the election and there is therefore no need for a run-off. The party cannot stomach defeat. It is in denial that Zimbabweans have rejected its corrupt and incompetent administration. It has therefore seen it fit to block the announcement of the election result. The electoral commission on the other hand is prepared to toe this line and defend its decision to keep the nation in suspense as long as it serves the designs of Zanu PF to subvert the will of the people.
What we have here is a coup by stealth. The role of the commission should be to give the election a semblance of transparency and fairness in line with the Sadc Mauritius protocol. It should represent the interests of the voters, not the parochial and self-serving ends of a dictatorial regime.  The commission has failed to display its impartial credentials. Today its behaviour gives the impression that it has become another layer of the Zanu PF government bureaucracy which has been roped in to protect a bad loser. Is that really how the ZEC wants to be seen?
The bureaucracy includes the police and security agencies which have been instructed to arrest and interrogate electoral officers in order to discredit the electoral process. All because Zanu PF lost.
The forces referred to by Chikumbirike are already working to control the electoral process by usurping the ZEC’s mandate. A suborned national electoral body is a danger to democracy as its supervisory role is easily compromised by the ruling elite. The Zanu PF government has in the past demonstrated that it is not afraid of blatantly disregarding the rule of law as long as it safeguards the tenure of the ruling aristocracy. Key institutions of governance which include the police, the military and the judiciary have all in one form or another become pliant instruments of Zanu PF.
Elsewhere in this edition retired Justice George Smith demonstrates how the lethargy in the judiciary has subverted the will of the electorate by ensuring that ruling party candidates who were dubiously elected to parliament completed their terms on full benefits.
There is a clear pattern of government’s subversion of the rule of law by disregarding court orders dating back to the time of the land resettlement fiasco. The police have refused to effect evictions ordered by the courts taking their cue from a contemptuous executive. This pernicious thread of lawlessness has contributed immensely to the country’s collapse as the state has now made it its business to methodically assault civil liberties.  The executive and the judiciary can no longer be relied on to safeguard property rights, a key requirement of investors.
Chikumbirike’s statement on Wednesday will only attract more international attention. It is ironic that the President’s Office went to such lengths to exclude foreign journalists in order to minimise negative publicity only to create a bigger story by withholding the election results. Now the whole world is focused on Zimbabwe’s delinquent behaviour. Voters have been denied their right to know the outcome of an election for the highest office in the land.
Whatever the ruling on Monday, it will still be incumbent on the ZEC to announce the results of the poll but the electoral body is now hopelessly compromised. In the event of a run-off, can we trust the ZEC to run the election professionally and what guarantees do we have that the results will be announced expeditiously without outside “exigencies” exerting their evil influence?

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