'Kereke, Mandipaka Need Schooling On The Constitution'

ELECTION Resource Centre (ERC) director Tawanda Chimhini (pictured) says Zanu PF MPs, Munyaradzi Kereke and Oliver Mandipaka need to be schooled on the country’s constitution, before they could start questioning his organisation’s programmes which are aimed at educating ordinary citizens about their electoral rights. 

This is after the two legislators were quoted in state media accusing the ERC of being a “regime change” agent.

The ERC has unsettled Zanu PF politicians through continuously pointing out flaws in the country’s electoral systems under the current government.

Last year in May, the ERC gave its candid view on the disputed 2013 elections when it appeared before parliament’s Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee.

Kereke and company have accused the organisation of being a regime change agent that is bent on discrediting local polls.

“Responses by the noted parliamentarians are a clear reflection that they have limited understanding of the Constitution of Zimbabwe and Parliament Standing Rules and Orders that allow for citizen engagement in the law making process,” Chimhini said.

Since its inception in 2010, the election watchdog has monitored and observed elections keeping an eye on the legislative, administrative and environmental framework that elections are supposed to be conducted.

Unfortunately, Zimbabwe has dismally failed to implement its own constitution on running elections let alone the SADC principles and guidelines on democratic elections to which the country is a signatory.

“The submission was based on ERC’s findings from observing the 2013 harmonised election and issues raised by local, regional and international election observation missions including the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the African Union (AU) on the same election.

“The submission was also as a result of widespread consultations with citizens and civil society on their observations and priorities for electoral reform,” Chimhini insisted.

Chimhini, an expert in elections and democracy, bewailed the snail pace that the country has adopted on the alignment of laws to the constitution adopted three years ago.

“The fruits of such a milestone are however dependent on alignment of the laws of the country with the Constitution, electoral laws included. The way stakeholders worked together in development of a new Constitution is the same way such stakeholders must work together in ensuring that the Constitution of Zimbabwe is implemented in letter and spirit,” Chimhini said.

The sad thing, he added, is that critical issues raised by civil society are brutally treated by some politicians that may have benefitted from practices that undermine the credibility of our electoral processes.

“While we appreciate the oversight role of Parliament, the noted legislators must be reminded that three years into their terms of office, they have not effected the same Constitution that was overwhelmingly voted for by Zimbabweans.

“Three years on, they have failed to take a serious approach towards electoral reform thereby failing to create a level electoral playing field that is in line with SADC, AU and international norms and standards guiding democratic elections,” Chimhini said.

Chimhini insisted civil society in general and ERC in particular, actually seek to ensure compliance with international norms and standards that the government of Zimbabwe voluntarily signed including SADC, AU and the United Nations.