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We strive for a credible, transparent election - ZEC

by Staff reporter
11 Nov 2022 at 05:01hrs | Views
Ahead of the harmonised elections next year, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is involved in various preparatory activities to ensure a transparency and credible election. Currently, the commission is undertaking a delimitation exercise meant to remap the boundaries of constituencies and wards. Zimpapers Group Political Editor Ranga Mataire (RM) sat down with ZEC spokesperson Mr Jasper Mangwana (JM) to get an appreciation of the electoral body's preparedness ahead of the 2023 elections.

RM: Zimbabwe will be holding elections next year. How adequately prepared is ZEC to organise the elections given the mammoth financial and logistical requirements needed?

JM: The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is already looking at the preparations for holding 2023 harmonised elections. Delimitation is one of the major key activities that we are undertaking as we move towards the harmonised elections.

As a commission, we are already planning and will be availing to the public in terms of the roadmap that we have on how we are going to be conducting 2023 harmonised elections.

However, we are already preparing the budgets as well as logistical issues. On the issue of legal changes, we have always raised concerns that the legislator should also consider not making huge changes to the electoral act for us to experiment on harmonised elections.

It is prudent that if they can make these changes when we have time to operationalise the legal changes. This is one key issue we have been raising as ZEC because for us to experiment on a major election at times people might be sceptical on activities that we do.

So it will be best to do that during by-elections. We always engage and say that the legislator should not just change the law a minute before we get to harmonised elections as we would need to have tried and tested and operationalise some of the changes. We, however, wait to see if anything is going to change.

RM: ZEC is currently undertaking a delimitation exercise in all constituencies and wards. In simple terms kindly explain what is meant by delimitation?

JM: We are working on the delimitation of electoral boundaries, which are wards and constituencies. The commission has some field work, consultations with political parties, civic organisations, government institutions, traditional leaders, business people – all these to ensure that they share their views on how the commission is doing its work.

We have done a lot of voter education to update the people in communities on the implications of the delimitation exercise and how the delimitation will be done.

We are looking forward to present a preliminary report to His Excellency so that the report can be presented to His Excellency so that the report can be presented in parliament and if they are any concerns raised, they are brought back to the commission for consideration.

RM: Will the outcome of the current Delimitation Exercise be usable for the 2023 elections?

JM: Yes, if the electoral boundaries are proclaimed by His Excellency six months before the harmonised elections, they will be used for the 2023 elections, which is the target the commission is working on to ensure voter equity, distribution of voters and constituencies so that we normalise huge differences that currently exist on constituencies and wards.

RM: When is the exercise likely to be complete?

JM: The delimitation exercise should be complete by December because we should be able to provide the preliminary report to the President and then its presented to Parliament for debate and brought back to commission. However, the boundaries to be used need to be proclaimed by His Excellency six months before the elections.

RM: Some political parties are worried that the Delimitation Exercise may results or may lead to gerrymandering in favour of one political party or parties. What are you doing as ZEC to allay such concerns?

JM: The current legal framework that we have does not have any loopholes for any people to be able to gerrymander the boundaries of constituencies or wards because we are working using a formula that is already in the constitution and also the guidelines provided for in law.

If you look at the constituencies –  it's a voter population divided by 210 and that gives us what is called reference constituency voter population.

The commission can go 20 percent up or 20 percent down, that will take into consideration of other issues like community of interest, geographical interest, population, means of communication and previous boundaries. So, gerrymandering won't be an option considering that we are guided by the law and we also work with stakeholders who ensure that we are moving in the same direction and are aware of what we are doing.

RM: Some non-governmental organisations have in the past been accused of routing for certain political parties instead of focusing on voter education. What is ZEC doing to prevent such malpractices?

JM: In terms of voter education conducted by non-governmental organisations, these apply to the commission and checks are done to ensure compliance with the Electoral Act especially voter education conducted by other people not the commission.

The commission has the mandate to conduct voter education and outside the commission, political parties can also do so.

Civic organisations or NGOs have to seek approval from ZEC and have to meet the requirements stipulated in the Electoral Act.

Some of the key issues to be adhered to is the provision of a list of names of people who would be conducting the voter education, source of funding, material to be approved by ZEC because we don't have people to distribute messages that are misleading or misinform the electorate.

RM: The conduct of some political players in the last election had the effect of denting the standing of ZEC especially after the announcement of results. What is ZEC doing to ensure public stakeholder involvement in the whole election exercise?

JM: We have intensified our voter education for people to be aware of the electoral activities so that the public is not incited to act in a certain manner when results are announced. We have one of the most transparent electoral systems in the region.

You win or lose at the polling station and the V11 is the source document for all electoral activities. We also educate people about the Presidential election results.

The constitution gives ZEC five days to work on because we would have to transmit results physically from the polling station to the ward collection centre- and from there to the constituency centre – then province up to national especially Presidential. However, a councillor is declared winner at ward collection centre and a legislator is declared at a constituency collection centre.

But for Presidential elections – the original documents have to come to the command centre. If you look at the 2018 elections, Zimbabwe had close to 11 000 polling stations, which means that all the V11 had to come to the command centre so that ZEC announces the correct results.

So what we are educating the public is that they should follow and consult ZEC and check for correct information and not to be misled by people who might not have an idea of the electoral processes. We have seen a huge improvement in people's understanding in the by-elections held this year.

RM: Some international observers even from countries that were adversarial to Zimbabwe were invited to observe the elections. Are we likely to have the same scenario in the coming elections?

JM: When it comes to election observers, ZEC invites local and regional observers that have interest in our elections. As for international observers, it is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade that invites them. When observers come into the country, they are expected to observe the code of conduct of observers because our elections are observed according to the laws of the land.

The compliance or the verification of our electoral processes should in tandem with Zimbabwe's Electoral Act as well as other laws pertaining to such issues. So this is one key issue that all observers have to adhere to the code of conduct of observers.

You must, however, be aware of the fact that recommendations from observers are not legally binding because we have laws made by own legislators. We also comply with the SADC Guidelines and Principles on elections as well as continental instruments that are there on elections. We always want our process to be observed so that people can see the credibility and transparency of the processes.

Source - The Herald