THE United States has dealt President Emmerson Mnangagwa a massive body blow, tabling a raft of very challenging electoral reform demands that include a reconstitution of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) with the involvement of the opposition.
The US also demanded the flushing out of military personnel in the electoral body and the prohibition of soldiers from campaigning for the ruling party.
Mnangagwa rose to leadership on the back of a military coup and opposition parties have already raised a red flag over the role of the military in trying to influence the outcome of the forthcoming polls.
While Sadc, the African Union and the United Kingdom have warmed up to the new dispensation, the US has extended sanctions on the country and promised to remove them if Mnangagwa lives up to his pledge to hold free and fair elections.
And in the latest development, that will likely strain relations between Harare and Washington, the US Senate foreign relations committee, in typical opposition rhetoric, wants Mnangagwa’s administration to weed out military personnel from Zec and confine soldiers to barracks.
Senators Chris Coons and Jeff Flake on Thursday introduced a Bill giving Mnangagwa pre-conditions for the removal of sanctions.
Coons said the new legislation updates the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 (Zidera) passed in 2001.
The demands come after the opposition under the umbrella of the MDC Alliance have released 10 similar electoral reform demands that Mnangagwa should implement or face street protests.
“After 37 years of suffering under the repressive rule of [former President] Robert Mugabe, the people of Zimbabwe should be excited about the possibility of a brighter future.
“To ensure conditions throughout the country improve, the international community should insist on concrete actions from the new government of Zimbabwe before lifting sanctions and renewing investment in the country.
“This Bill is intended to outline the US Senate’s expectations of the steps President Mnangagwa and other leaders should take,” the Senators said in their notice.
The US wants the reconstitution of Zec with members “nominated by all political parties represented in the Parliament of Zimbabwe, and permitted to entirely carry out the functions assigned to it in section 239 of Zimbabwe’s 2013 Constitution in an entirely independent manner”.
“The defence forces of Zimbabwe are neither permitted to actively participate in campaigning for any candidate nor to intimidate voters, and must verifiably and credibly uphold their constitutionally mandated duty to respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all persons and be non-partisan in character,” the demands read.
“International observers, including from the US, the AU, the Sadc and the EU are permitted to observe the entire electoral process, both prior to, on, and following voting day, including by monitoring polling stations and counting centres, and are able to independently operate in a manner enabling them to access and analyse vote tallying, tabulation, and the transmission and content of voting results.”
The US also requires from Mnangagwa the publishing of the biometric voter registration roll endorsed by all registered political parties in all media platforms.
“Candidates are allowed free and full access to State media, which must afford equal time and coverage to all registered parties, in an impartial manner, and must be able to campaign in an environment that is free from intimidation and violence,” the demands read.
“Civil society organisations should freely and independently be able to carry out voter and civic education, observing as well as conducting a parallel voter tabulation exercise at all levels.”
The US is also demanding that Mnangagwa admit that human rights have been breached and set in motion a process of healing the country as well as order an immediate inquiry into the disappearance of prominent human rights activists, including Patrick Nabanyama, Itai Dzamara and Paul Chizuze.
“It is the sense of Congress that the government of Zimbabwe and the Southern African Development Community should enforce the Sadc Tribunal rulings from 2007 to 2010, including disputes involving employment, commercial, and human rights cases surrounding dispossessed Zimbabwean commercial farmers and agricultural companies,” the Bill further read.
Zimbabwe has also been ordered to take concrete, tangible steps towards good governance, including respect for opposition, rule of law and human rights.
Zanu PF spokesperson, Simon Khaya Moyo declined to comment on the US demands.
“We can’t respond to newspaper reports, the US should write to us, we will respond accordingly,” he said.
MDC-T leader, Nelson Chamisa’s spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka said what the Americans have said vindicated the opposition party.
“What they said is what us basically enshrined in our Plan and Environment for a Credible Election document with our 10 talking issue for electoral reforms.
“We feel vindicated that the document we have launched 48 hours ago, some people in the world are speaking our language,” he said