THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) is yet to set up the statutory election observation and monitoring committee despite indications make-or-break polls are likely to be held this year.
Justice deputy minister Obert Gutu confirmed recently the committee has not yet been set up and his party was worried about impartiality considering the current composition of Zec and that the executive would have a significant say in nominating officials.
"Zec has not yet established the election observation and monitoring committee," said Gutu. "Of course, the idea of having the said committee is a noble one provided our partners in the GNU (Government of National Unity) are honest and sincere."
Gutu added that "past experience has taught us that you can only trust Zanu PF at your peril". Section 40H (1) of the Electoral Act spells out the composition of the committee.
"The chairperson of the commission, who shall be the chairperson of the committee, deputy chairperson of the commission, one member of the commission designated by the commission, one person nominated by the Office of the President and Cabinet, one nominated by the minister (Justice and Legal Affairs), one person nominated by the minister responsible for foreign affairs and one person nominated by the minister responsible for immigration (Home Affairs)," the Act reads.
In the current set up, President Robert Mugabe, Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi and Home Affairs co-ministers Kembo Mohadi and Theresa Makone would be responsible for nominating the committee's officials. Gutu further bemoaned the prolonged absence of the Zec chairperson from duty at a critical point.
"Simpson Mtambanengwe is presently not available at this very crucial juncture of the referendum and election preparations. To me, his continued absence raises more questions than answers," Gutu said.
Observers to the Zimbabwean elections since 2000 have been limited to selected local, regional and continental organisations who usually endorsed the polls as free and fair even when political violence was rife.
The previous Zanu PF government declared it would not invite poll observers from the European Union and United States as they had imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe.
The Act was amended in fulfillment of the 2008 Global Political Agreement that called for reforms to include the setting up of independent bodies to run the country's elections, and uphold human rights as well as investigate graft.
The government has since set up four commissions: The Human Rights,Media, Electoral and Anti-Corruption Commissions.