Zec has been dragged to court over the illegal printing of ballot papers by the PDP leader Tendai Biti.
The PDP challenge comes after Legislative watchdog, Veritas, has called on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to reveal the name of the ballot paper printers “now” as there was “no legitimate reason” why it should not do so.
The call by Veritas came at a time Zec was delaying to disclose the identity of the ballot paper printers regardless of the fact that the date for harmonised elections was fast approaching.
Elections are due by August 21, 2018, according to Veritas.
“This secrecy over which supplier is printing ballot papers has fed into the opposition’s lack of trust in Zec,” the body said recently in a statement.
Veritas said as stated in the first paragraph, section 52A of the Electoral Act states that the Commission shall without delay provide the following information to all political parties and candidates contesting an election, and to all observers (a) where and by whom the ballot papers for the election have been or are being printed; and (b) the total number of ballot papers that have been printed for the election; and (c) the number of ballot papers that have been distributed to each polling station.
In addition, Veritas said once the Electoral Amendment Bill becomes law Zec must ensure that “the number of ballot papers printed for any election does not exceed by more than ten per cent the number of registered voters eligible to vote in the election.”
“This means that eventually Zec will have to divulge these details. But there is no legitimate reason why Zec should not reveal now the name of the printers selected,” it said.
“There is also nothing in the law that prevents Zec from allowing a few independent observers to monitor the printing. This would go a long way to establishing trust with political parties and the general public.”
The Zimbabwe Independent recently reported that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) will print ballot papers for the forthcoming general elections locally, amid indications that Government Printers is a firm favourite to do the job ahead of Fidelity Printers.
The Zimbabwe Independent understands that South Africa-based Mondi Shanduka had been contracted to supply newsprint to be used for printing ballot papers.
There was marked speculation that government was considering hiring a company from Eastern Europe to do the work, raising suspicion of manipulation.
The speculation gained traction after Zec chairperson Priscilla Chigumba and special advisor to the president Chris Mutsvangwa visited Russia to observe elections recently.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa is expected to face MDC Alliance candidate Nelson Chamisa in the country’s first elections after the toppling of long-time leader Robert Mugabe through a military coup last November.
Former vice-president Joice Mujuru is also expected to participate in the polls, together with leaders of other smaller political parties.
A senior Zec official told the Independent the electoral management body had resolved to print the ballot papers locally.
“Traditionally the ballot papers has been printed locally and that should continue.
The newsprint for this exercise will be acquired from South Africa and parties are going to be invited to observe the printing process of the ballot papers.
The commission will ensure that the election is free, fair and credible and that the will of the people will prevail,” a Zec official privy to the developments said.
“What we will ensure is that the outcome of the elections will not create any disputes.
We must come out of the elections more united than divided.”
With elections only two months away, the opposition has raised the red the flag, complaining that there is no transparency in terms of who will be responsible for the printing of the ballot papers, while demanding the implementation of sweeping electoral reforms.
Chamisa recently told BBC HardTalk anchor Steven Sackur — who controversially claimed ballot papers had been printed — that the lack of transparency over ballot papers would tilt the electoral playing field in favour of the ruling party.
“In fact, there’s a fundamental dispute around the manner in which these elections are being marred in preparation.
We are not in agreement in terms of who prints the ballot papers, we are not in agreement in terms of where the ballot papers are going to be printed, the security of the ballot papers, its distribution, we are not in agreement,” Chamisa said.
“And this is three months before an election we are not in agreement in terms of the role that should be played by our important and esteemed security forces in terms of elections, we are not agreed.
“Our view is that this election can be, has the potential to be free and fair election but we need to resolve some of the fundamental issues around how the election itself is going to be conducted.
Whether or not the voters’ role has been audited, whether or not the processes that are supposed to be done in respect of the electoral amendment are respected.”
This came after Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi recently turned down proposals by MDC lawmakers for the floating of an open tender for the procurement of ballot papers, arguing that this was against provisions of the electoral law.
However, Section 52A of the Electoral Act mandates Zec to provide, without delay, the relevant information to all political parties and candidates contesting an election, and all observers.