THE ZIMBABWE Electoral Commission (Zec)’s top brass is meeting in Harare today to, among other things, try and find ways to address ballot security concerns raised by opposition MDC Alliance presidential candidate, Nelson Chamisa, to avoid disputed election results.
Tomorrow, Chamisa is expected to meet with other political party leaders under the auspices of the multi-party liaison committee where he would also pile pressure for transparency in the electoral roadmap, failing which he would mobilise his supporters to immediately picket at the Zec offices until elections day, next Monday.
Zec deputy chairperson Emmanuel Magade yesterday confirmed the commissioners’ meeting.
“We are meeting and obviously we will discuss a variety of issues that relate to the smooth and productive running of the elections. What I can assure the nation is that our ambition is to be transparent, hold free, fair and verifiable elections in a very objective and non-partisan way,” he said.
Asked to specifically comment on the demands by the MDC Alliance, Magade said: “I cannot say (that we are specifically meeting for MDC Alliance demands). We will discuss everything that is pertinent to the running of elections. I would not say we are convening to discuss the demands from whatever quarter. This is a routine meeting and not an ad-hoc. This is a meeting of Zec commissioners.”
Tomorrow’s multi-party liaison committee meeting follows another one held on Friday where the MDC Alliance narrowed down its demands to two key issues — security and authenticity of the ballot papers. The Friday meeting came after Chamisa met with the Elders Council led by former United Nations secretary-general, Kofi Annan’s team, which was on a fact-finding mission ahead of the polls.
MDC secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora yesterday said the MDC Alliance will tomorrow give dialogue a chance and mobilise to picket at the Zec offices on Wednesday if there is no breakthrough.
“We have heeded the call by the Elders for dialogue. We are going to do it on Tuesday and proceed to demonstrate if the meeting does not yield positive results. We have been the first political party to call for dialogue and we maintain that. If it fails, we can do anything within the law that we think can yield results,” he said.
The MDC Alliance has twice petitioned Zec over electoral reforms. On Friday, the MDC Alliance met Zec soon after meeting the Elders and demanded authenticity and security of the ballot paper.
Mwonzora said Zec assured them that it was considering the issues and would dialogue with the opposition parties on Tuesday.
“In terms of Section 59 of the Constitution, we are allowed to demonstrate and present a petition. The demonstration will go ahead on Wednesday if we do not find common ground through dialogue on Tuesday when we meet Zec,” Mwonzora said.
He said the MDC Alliance advised the Annan team of its commitment to dialogue and lawful means of resolving electoral disputes. “We are saying we need to be satisfied that the ballot paper is of the same quality with the one they gave us. We must be allowed to randomly sample from batches and test them. Zec said we should test the ballot paper at the polling stations on polling day and we are saying, no, we should do it now,” Mwonzora said.
“To test the authenticity of the ballot paper is not something unachievable in the remaining days. On the security of the ballot, we don’t want to keep the ballot papers. What we are saying is that we must be where it is kept. We are told the ballot papers are kept at the provincial centres. We want our election agents to be part of the team escorting them and be allowed to observe the keeping of the ballot paper. What is important is that the Elders called for dialogue. Zec must be involved in dialogue, not dictate things on us.”
Zanu PF secretary for legal affairs Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana confirmed the meeting, but said Zec would have a final say on the MDC Alliance’s demands.
“We (Zanu PF) don’t see the reason behind the demands and we have said to them we are not the final arbiter and we are saying make your demands and Zec will make a decision. However, we are saying Zec is staffed with men and women of integrity,” Mangwana said.
He described some of the demands by the MDC Alliance as “absurd”.
“When we met on Friday, this was not on the table and is coming to us as a surprise. I am not sure what they are going to demand more but the bottom line is that the Constitution provides for Zec to run and manage the elections and not political parties. If tomorrow they decide that they no longer want to participate in elections, its well and good and they can go and play soccer, no one will stop them,” Mangwana said.
Alliance for People’s Agenda leader and presidential candidate, Nkosana Moyo, has thrown his weight behind Chamisa’s call for transparency in the electoral management system.
“I have already said Zec are not doing the right thing so all manner of protest to show our displeasure on what Zec is doing is justified and lets all unite as a nation, not as opposition political parties to register our concerns,” Moyo told journalists last week.
“There are a lot of people who do not belong to political parties like what we saw when (Former President Robert) Mugabe was ousted, it was Zimbabweans (and) not a political party. Zimbabweans everybody who is registered to vote must look at Zec’s behaviour and say this is not acceptable and make their voice known.”
Moyo said parties should continue to pressurise Zec to do the right thing.
“We absolutely condemn what Zec is doing. The chair of Zec (Priscilla Chigumba) does not understand the importance of building trust in our country, where that trust did not exist before. She keeps hiding behind the legalistic positions which do not help us at all. She should create total transparency in order for us all the political parties involved to have confidence in the processes that she is using.”