Group Raps ZEC For Shutting Out Poll Observers
By Moses Chibaya
Harare, April 21, 2017 - POLL watchdog, the Election Resource Centre (ERC), has accused the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission's (ZEC) of erecting barricades between itself and non-state election stakeholders.
In a statement, ERC lamented an apparent break in communication channels between ZEC and the country’s election based civic groups as well as the country’s opposition.
"The ERC’s major concern is that ZEC is seemingly gagging observers by restricting them to merely watching and not saying anything which is a direct threat to transparency and inclusivity,” said the group.
"This creates unnecessary loss of trust on administration of critical electoral processes. Transparency relates to allowing stakeholders to scrutinise the process and can only be achieved by questioning the process for it to be fully understood."
The Commission, currently spearheading the procurement of Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) kits, this week invited election stakeholders for an observer briefing.
The event marked the beginning of the site validation test of Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) kits for shortlisted suppliers which will be done in the next week.
Zimbabwe’s broader opposition has pulled all the stops to force electoral reforms starting with the alignment of related laws with the country’s constitution.
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa was quoted recently as saying government will not give in to the opposition demands as reforms were incorporated during the GNU era.
ZEC chair, Rita Makarau also recently walked out of a consultative meeting with political parties accusing them of pursuing a smear campaign her organisation.
The opposition, currently coalescing under the umbrella National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera), says ZEC was opening its operations to manipulation by their common opponent, Zanu PF.
But ERC said the country had reached a crucial stage of its electoral cycle that good relations between ZEC and stakeholders were crucial for the opening up of space for oversight purposes.
The ERC warned that strained relations will only set the country towards another "disputed election, a development which we can ill afford as stakeholders”.
ERC said ZEC should open its processes to scrutiny by stakeholders if transparency is to be achieved.
"The ERC implores ZEC to open up space for the electorate, civil society, political parties, media and development agencies to effectively participate in the site validation test of BVR kits and all other critical electoral processes to follow,” said the group.
"This will not only rekindle the fledgling spirit of engagement through continued creation of platforms for engagement with key stakeholders but will go a long way in enhancing transparency, inclusivity and integrity of the electoral processes."
Zimbabwe has a painful history of disputed and often violent elections which the opposition says have robbed it of victory.
The Zanu PF led government has denied any vote fraud and rights abuses on citizens.