LATEST: I have been attacked, my family has been attacked – ZEC boss

ZEC chief elections officer Army Major (Rtd) Utloile Silaigwana

ZIMBABWE Electoral Commission (Zec) Chief Elections Officer, Mr Utoile Silaigwana has a made a passionate appeal to political players and opinion leaders not to fuel hate and division among society as the country embarks on its harmonised elections.

In an interview on Friday, Mr Silaigwana said there was no need to turn the election into a war, as it was a process that comes and goes, with the nation reverting back to its development agenda. He said attacks that he and his family often receive was testimony that people were not aware that Zec officials were simply tasked with presiding over the process as guided by legal provisions.

“Our people forget that as an electoral officer I have rights that must be respected, my rights must not be infringed upon by anyone. Even the Constitution states that when you exercise your rights make sure that those rights do not infringe on another person’s rights. I have been attacked; my family has been attacked.

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At one point I had my two daughters at some boarding school in Matabeleland South traumatised by teachers. I had to drive all the way from Harare to see the school head. I did not fight, I just asked to see the teachers and ask them why they were doing that.

Those are the things I am sometimes subjected to, as if I am not a citizen of this country with rights. I also had a situation where my family car was burnt when my child was inside. This is what I come across but people forget that if it was not me here managing the elections it was going to be someone else doing the same thing. What we are saying is why should we turn the election environment into a battlefield.”

Mr Siliagwana said it was essential for political players to adopt an attitude where they put the nation first ahead of their personal differences or interests, noting that elections were just a passing phase but the nation should never be divided.

“Let’s have elections, yes, it’s a contestation but it must be contested within the confines of the law and also contested in a way where we agree to disagree. In my personal view, as a country, we must have one vision so that those political parties can contest on who can take the vision forward better than the other.

If we don’t have a shared vision then we will have challenges, because who doesn’t want a good thing. So let’s have that shared vision so that we contest in peace and after the elections we accept the outcome of the process,” he said.

Mr Silaigwana said with the advent of social media there was a need for the public to evaluate and analyse information they got via social media and always strive to seek correct information from the institution mandated to run the election and not from anyone else as they run the risk of being misled.

“We want peaceful elections, no one wants an election that will cause harm to anyone and no one should get injured because of elections, so we are encouraging peace and understanding. The most important thing is that both the contestants and the generality of the population try to understand the electoral process because at times you find the candidates themselves do not understand the Electoral Act, they then end up bringing the logical thinking instead of the legal thinking,” said the Zec CEO.

He further reiterated that the electoral process included every stakeholder inclusive of the public, hence all should work hand in hand to ensure the successful running of the elections.

Mr Siliagwana also took a swipe at people who questioned why the State funded their operations, stating that every country in the world had their election management body funded by the State and Zimbabwe was not an exception.

“I see someone say elections must be run by non-citizens because every citizen in the country has a political party that they support. Yes, I have a right to vote but I also have to run elections. What is important is that when I do my job, I do it independent of the influence of anybody, and that independence is guaranteed by the constitution.

I have always challenged people to show me where we were not independent or where we produced a voter education material that supports a certain political party. When we do voter education material or the ballot paper, our primary stakeholder is the ordinary voter, we don’t design for a certain political party,” he said.

— Sunday News

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