13 May 2018

Zimbabwe: ZEC Put On the Spot Over Soldiers

A lobby group advocating for free and fair elections has approached the High Court seeking an order to compel the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to disclose the names of officials who were recruited to carry out the biometric voter registration (BVR) exercise.

In a court application filed last week, Election Resource Centre [ERC] chairperson Trust Maanda said the litigation had been brought about as a result of "unlawful and unconstitutional" remarks previously made by the electoral body.

Maanda said there were fears that the personnel were from the military, which could compromise the elections.

"This is an application for a final interdict against the first and second respondents (Zec and its chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba) to release the list of names of the recruited registration officials for public scrutiny to allow any objections of the same," Maanda said.

"It is on record that on or about February 26, 2018, the first respondent [Justice Chigumba] appeared to give evidence before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.

"In her evidence, the first respondent stated that not more than 15% of Zec staff is retired military personnel."

Maanda said it was a matter of public record that sometime in 2002, on the eve of the presidential election, the generals, then led by the late commander Vitalis Zvinavashe, issued a statement to the effect that the military would not accept the result of an election that returned a civilian as president of the republic.

"Furthermore, again it is a matter of public record that the current vice-president of the country (Constantino Chiwenga), who was a general then, issued a press statement on November 13, 2017 that the military was intervening in Zanu PF internal fights in order to correct what they thought was wrong in the party," he said.

"What happened thereafter is a matter of public record, but I bring all these matters to the table in an effort to show why it is necessary for Zec to be transparent and provide the public with information on the calibre of the staff that have been recruited to manage the 2018 general elections."

Maanda said transparency in the system, which is required by the constitution of Zimbabwe, would allay any fears of not only militarisation of the Zec, such as the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs had heard, but would also instil confidence in and bring legitimacy to the country's electoral system.

The matter is yet to be set down for hearing.

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