President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s allies that are members of a platform ostensibly set up to improve the country’s electoral environment after the disputed 2018 polls have turned their swords on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) after it produced a contentious delimitation report.
Zec is finalising the delimitation report after a parliamentary ad-hoc committee raised a number of alleged anomalies in the delimitation process.
The Political Actors Dialogue (Polad), which is composed of fringe opposition party leaders that contested the 2018 polls and was set up by Mnangagwa, said the divisions in Zec that arose after the draft delimitation report did not bode well for credible elections.
Seven commissioners refused to append their signatures to the report after claiming that it violated the constitution. The commissioners accused Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba of not consulting them.
Chigumba cut a lone figure during appearances in Parliament and at State House where she received Mnangagwa’s recommendations on the delimitation report last week.
Polad’s governance and legislative agenda chairperson Lovemore Madhuku said there must be evidence that the delimitation outcome was a collective effort from Zec commissioners.
“The preliminary delimitation report doesn't pass the test set out in the constitution. Polad regards it as a failure on the part of Zec,” Madhuku said.
“Polad is concerned about the internal governance of Zec. Under our constitution, Zec is a corporate body consisting of nine commissioners.
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“The delimitation process cannot be the work of one or two commissioners; there must be clear evidence that all commissioners are involved at every stage of the process.
“This is essential for the integrity and credibility of Zec. Polad would like to see public appearances of Zec commissioners at all platforms where Zec is either presenting to, or receiving from, the president reports relating to the delimitation process.
“Zec must use all the remaining stages to demonstrate in public the involvement of all commissioners.”
Since it was set up, Polad has been measured in its criticism of Mnangagwa’s administration and institutions such as Zec. Its heavy rebuke of the commission could indicate that it has achieved little in its efforts to change Zimbabwe’s election landscape.
Citizens Coalition for Change leader Nelson Chamisa, who narrowly lost to Mnangagwa in the disputed 2018 polls refused to join Polad saying it was a waste of time.
Madhuku said Polad also queried the formula used by Zec in drawing constituency boundaries.
“In addition, Polad reiterates that the equality of votes principle enshrined in our constitution must be fully respected and that the 20% variance permitted must be correctly applied,” the respected constitutional lawyer said.
“We emphasise that the total and final population figures from the 2022 census must be taken into account.
“The delimitation process must be an opportunity for Zimbabweans to demonstrate their commitment to peace, political dialogue, constitutionalism, democratic participation by citizens and respect for the rule of law."
Bulawayo-based political analyst Effie Ncube said the divisions at Zec were not a good sign.
“The fact that other commissioners, the majority for that matter, distanced themselves from the report while only two commissioners were for the report is not a good sign for the efficient, effective and smooth functioning of such a crucial constitutional body,” Ncube said.
“There is a need for them to quickly learn and implement the art of consensus building and democratic decision making.
“More than anybody else, it is the chairperson who must show leadership and make sure there is internal unity.
“Zec is one of the institutions and agencies which determine whether the country holds a free and fair election.
“Therefore, the country cannot ignore what is happening there.”
Meanwhile, Chigumba is said to be heavily relying on the Zec secretariat to finalise the delimitation report as the seven commissioners remain frozen out.
The ‘rebellious’ commissioners are Rosewita Murutare, Kudzai Shava, Jane Mbetu-Nzvenga, Shepherd Manhivi, Abigail Mohadi, Jasper Mangwana and Catherine Mpofu.
They wrote to Mnangagwa and Parliament accusing Chigumba and her deputy Rodney Simukai Kiwa of unilaterally imposing the delimitation report on the electoral body .
Chigumba referred all questions to Zec CEO Utoile Silaigwana who had not responded to questions sent to him by the time of going to print.
Zec spokesperson Mangwana requested questions in writing, but did not respond as well.