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Zec commissioners' revolt intensifies?

by Staff reporter
12 Feb 2023 at 11:12hrs | Views
THE revolt by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec)'s seven commissioners who have refused to append their signatures on both the draft preliminary delimitation report submitted to Parliament and the final document handed over to President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Friday last week has put the capacity of the body to hold credible general elections at stake.

Constituency boundaries for the upcoming elections — likely in August — will be determined by the delimitation report which the commissioners have rejected, putting themselves in an invidious and untenable position.

Precedents in other countries, particularly Kenya, show that when commissioners disagree with leaders of the electoral agency, they resign.

Alternatively, they are subjected to an internal disciplinary process or investigation by the executive. This happened in Kenya in 2017 and 2022.

Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba is only supported by her deputy Rodney Simukai Kiwa in the battle over the delimitation report. Last week, she said he wants to fix the crisis, but the rebellious commissioners cannot run polls on the basis of a report they do not want and support, analysts say.

The Zec commissioners are said to be working with senior government officials who are trying to brazenly subvert the constitution and scuttle the delimitation process.

Sources say some of the officials supporting the rebellious Zec commissioners, include Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, his secretary Virginia Mabhiza, government spokesperson Nick Mangwana and by dint of lucky President Emmerson, among others.

Zec spokesperson Commissoner Jasper Mangwana asked for written questions when contacted by The NewsHawks for comment on the issue and also requested time to respond to them.

However, in his brief response issued later on, he said: "Speak to the chair (Chigumba)".

When contacted for comment by The NewsHawks, Chigumba refused to answer the question on how Zec will run an election whose processes are disputed by the majority of its commissioners.

"You are a local journalist . . . our communication policy says that you need to put media questions before Mr Salaigwana, our chief executive officer. However, perhaps let me hear the question. Let's do it," she said.

When asked whether Zec would be able to hold credible elections without the support of seven out of nine commissioners who are against the delimitation report, Chigumba dithered.

"You will need to direct the question to Mr Silaigwana even though the question involves me and I am sure you will get your response within 72 hours," said the Zec chairperson.

Silaigwana was non-committal when contacted for comment on the same issue.

"I am currently driving to Bulawayo so I cannot speak right now. Did you speak to our spokesperson?" he asked.

When told that the Zec spokesperson Mangwana had referred questions to Chigumba who, in turn, requested that he respond to the matter himself, Silaigwana directed the question to another staff member at Zec.

"Speak to our director of public relations," he said.

Efforts to reach out to the said staff member did not succeed, but it was clear the top brass of Zec did not want to reveal how they will run a credible election with discord in their cockpit.

According to an affidavit by commissioner Catherine Mpofu filed in support of a court application by Tonderai Chidawa against the delimitation report, the seven Zec commissioners rejected the report because Chigumba "insisted that the report would still be presented to the President for tabling in Parliament and was not bound by the position adopted by the overwhelming majority of the members of the commission."

Jacob Mudenda, the Speaker of Parliament, filed a notice of opposition on Monday at the High Court, arguing that "what the applicant (Chidawa) is asking Parliament to do is unconstitutional."

Mudenda says in an affidavit that Parliament "did not breach its constitutional obligations" by "failing to determine whether or not the preliminary delimitation report tabled in Parliament by the President of Zimbabwe was an act of ZEC as a body corporate as required by the constitution, or was a report by one or two members of ZEC and thus contrary to the constitution" as alleged by Chidawa and his legal team led by Professor Lovemore Madhuku.

Mudenda argues that once Parliament received a report from Mnangagwa's office, the legislature's obligation was to debate the document and make recommendations.

The war at Zec has brought to the fore internecine Zanu-PF fights.

Emerging revelations are that Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga and spy boss Isaac Moyo are backing Chigumba, while Mnangagwa and his lieutenants would like to kill the delimitation report and hold elections using old constituency boundaries.

Mnangagwa loyalists claim that Zec re-drew ward and constituency boundaries in a manner that could hand the opposition more seats, and deny Mnangagwa a two-thirds majority.

This, they say, was done by strategically moving voters from urban opposition hotbeds into neighbouring rural seats controlled by pro-Mnangagwa MPs in order to scuttle Zanu-PF dominance.

In the preliminary draft presented to Parliament, Zec collapsed seven constituencies held by Mnangagwa loyalists, among them Tourism minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu and Zanu-PF chief whip Pupurai Togarepi.

Source - thenewshawks