THE chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), Justice Priscilla Chigumba, has said the appointment of retired army Major Utoile Silaigwana as the commission’s chief elections officer is above board and the country’s electoral management body is committed to inclusive electoral reforms.
In a statement yesterday, Justice Chigumba said Mr Silaigwana has 17 years in election management systems and was the most suitable candidate following the commission’s interviews.
She said her statement was prompted by misleading articles on various media platforms aimed at eroding public trust in the commission and creating alarm and despondency.
Justice Chigumba said Zec has been accused of un-procedurally appointing Mr Silaigwana to the electoral management body top post, claims that are unfounded.
“Questions have been raised on the appointment procedures of the Zec Chief Elections Officer (CEO). It should be noted that the appointment was done after interviews were conducted by the full commission which sat as an interview panel and vetted several applications before the appointment of the current CEO was effected,” said Justice Chigumba.
“For the record, the current CEO was appointed on merit as he is a qualified elections administrator with 17 years experience in that field. He is a holder of a Master’s Degree in Elections Administration from an internationally recognised university as well as being an accredited facilitator for Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections, a modular professional development programme on electoral processes.”
She said Zec has adopted an inclusive policy on electoral reforms hence it’s convening of an all stakeholder conference after the 2018 harmonised elections to receive their views.
“Zec has since consolidated proposals arising from the conference and included them in the electoral reforms package for consideration by the Legislature. The issue of electoral reforms is therefore work in progress by the commission. The Zec is appealing to any stakeholder with a grievance or concern to approach it for redress through any of its structures including multiparty liaison committees,” said Justice Chigumba.
“It should be borne in mind that electoral processes are not a preserve of Zec alone but a responsibility of every citizen and the nation hence Zec calls upon all stakeholders to positively play their part. The commission urges all Zimbabweans to come together and implement reforms that will banish the spectre of polarisation and destructive tendencies that are retrogressive to nation building. In this regard, Zec assures all stakeholders that it will maintain an open door policy in all its programmes, including the impending delimitation process.”
She said individuals who want to report allegations of electoral malpractice must approach the police and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission who are empowered to investigate the cases in line with the country’s laws.
Justice Chigumba said Zec has not received any official complaints regarding alleged vote buying as claimed by social media proponents.
“There have been unsubstantiated allegations of vote buying that have been doing rounds on social media platforms and have since been taken up by some sections of the mainstream media. The commission would like to state that it has not received a formal complaint from any stakeholder regarding this allegation. It is also not prudent for Zec to always respond to unsubstantiated allegations that appear on social media platforms, given the current informal and unregulated nature of this type of media in Zimbabwe,” she said.
Meanwhile, MDC Deputy National Spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka said Silaigwana has a tainted history on Zimbabwe elections.
Silaigwana was part of the ZEC secretariat which oversaw the running of the disputed elections which led to the formation of the inclusive government.
“The MDC is worried that Utoile Silaigwana, a former army Major who joined ZEC as a serving military officer, has now been confirmed as the electoral body’s substantive chief elections officer,” said Tamborinyoka.
“Put simply, the appointment vindicates the fact that Zimbabwe is the true home of command elections which have resulted in losers occupying the seat of government while the winners are locked out.
“It is pertinent to note that as a serving soldier, Silaigwana was part of the tainted ZEC secretariat that withheld election results for five weeks in 2008 in a plebiscite that SADC and the AU emphatically rejected as not reflective of the will of the people of Zimbabwe,” he added.