Hurungwe West Debacle Exposes ZEC

By Sij Ncube

HARARE JUNE 23, 2015 – THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), the country’s electoral body charged with running all polls in the country, has come out guns blazing defending the controversial election of new Hurungwe West legislator, Keith Guzah, but critics say the episode proves the institution is a sham and vindicates the opposition.

In a statement on Monday ZEC absolved Guzah of any wrong doing, stating his election was above board despite his name not appearing on the voters roll in the constituency and failing to cast a vote for himself in an election in which he narrowly beat his nemesis Temba Mliswa.

The electoral rules require that a candidate must be a registered voter in the relevant constituency. Section 125 of the Constitution demands that a member of parliament must be at least 21 years old and be a registered voter.

The Fourth Schedule sets out the qualifications for registration, which are further elaborated in the electoral legislation and regulations. These require a candidate to be a registered voter in the constituency.

The MDC formations boycotted the by-elections citing lack of reforms, among them a clean, updated voters’ roll.

The opposition parties have for long complained that the ZEC secretariat is packed with members of the military and the Central Intelligence Office which is directly controlled by President Robert Mugabe.

Analysts believe if Mliswa, the former legislator of the area, goes to court to challenge the outcome of the polls in the wake of the latest revelations ZEC would be in a fix.

The analysts add that ZEC’s blundering gives credence to demands of wide-sweeping reforms, including tinkering with the composition of the ZEC secretariat.

Obert Gutu, the spokesperson for MDC-T told VOP that ZEC should simply abide by the relevant provisions of the Electoral Act.

“Keith Guzha was not a registered voter in Hurungwe West constituency both on nomination day and also on election day. His purported nomination as a candidate was null and void. It therefore follows that his purported election as MP was also null and void,” said Gutu.

“Since there were only two candidates vying to become MPs in Hurungwe West, it logically follows that Temba Mliswa should be declared the duly elected MP for that constituency.”

Jack Zaba, a programme officer with the Election Resources Centre, says the Hurungwe West debacle is a clear reflection of how ZEC continuously insulates ruling party elites from desired administrative scrutiny.

“The latest case further deteriorates the little confidence Zimbabwe still had for the bungling election management body. ZEC`s continued treatment of ZANU PF functionaries as “sacred cows” plainly confirms the often discredited recruitment policy of the commission which is suspected of fishing from the pool of pro-ZANU PF election workers. This creates an electoral environment which favours a single political party,” said Zaba.

In its report on the Hurungwe West by-election released on Monday the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute makes reference to the “partisan” ZEC secretariat pointing out the recent appointment of new chief elections officer Alice Chigwamba does not inspire confidence, saying she was a long serving member of Mugabe’s executive.

“The independence of ZEC is questionable given the appointment of such high ranking former government officials in a country where there is clear conflation between the party and the state,” reads part of the ZDI report.

It said ZEC’s conduct of the Hurungwe West by‚Äźelection points to the duplicity and complicity of the electoral management body and ZANU PF in the conduct of elections in Zimbabwe.

“The inconsistencies and controversies mainly on ZEC’s explanation of how Zanu PF’s candidate Mr Guzha is a microcosm of a bigger and deeper credibility and lack of transparency associated with ZEC’s management of elections in Zimbabwe. The inconsistencies that marred the by-election suggest that elections in Zimbabwe could be devoid of any meaning and reduced to mere contests whose outcome is predetermined.”

Madock Chivasa, the spokesperson for the National Constitutional Assembly which fielded candidates in the June 10 polls, said the latest scandal shows that ZEC is protecting Zanu PF interests.

“In fact it confirms that the body is an extension of Zanu PF in assisting the discredited party to cling to power through fraudulent means,” said Chivasa.

Jacob Mafume, the spokesperson for MDC Renewal Team, added his voice to the issue, pointing out that the lack of professionalism is reaching new heights at ZEC.

“They have admitted that the person was not on the voters roll and that should be the end of the matter. It is like playing a game of soccer whose rules change for other players,” said Mafume.

He gave an example of former RBZ governor Gideon Gono was denied the chance to represent Buhera as a senator after his application to move from Harare to the area was declined by ZEC, ostensibly because he was not on the voters’ roll for Buhera.

“Why are they bending over back-wards,” asked Mafume, a lawyer by profession. “The saga exposes ZEC to be the sham that it is. They are partisan to a particular faction. We had hoped by moving the voter roll from the registrars’ office to ZEC things will improve but it appears it is like falling from the frying pan into the fire.”