By Dylan Murambgi
Harare, September 13, 2016 – OPPOSITION parties were Monday left fuming after the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) allegedly allowed suspected state agents pretending to be politicians to join a meeting it had called for political parties.
The parties were also up in arms after police allegedly blocked genuine opposition party representatives from joining the tense meeting.
Soon after the meeting, African Democratic Party leader Marcelina Chikasha told a press briefing the meeting had suspicious characters they have never heard about among opposition parties.
“They brought in CIO officers who were masquerading as political parties and put everything to a vote knowing that we would be outnumbered,” Chikasha said.
She said the parties were further irked by that ZEC chair, Justice Rita Makarau led the deliberations when she was chief culprit in the current poor handling of the country’s polls.
Parties also complained that the meeting was choreographed to suit ZEC’s agenda while questions were also supposed to be in writing.
As a result, Chikasha said, the meeting chewed a lot of time on “peripheral issues” at the expense of clear concerns by the opposition around the manner in which successive polls have been handled by the Robert Mugabe led government in Zimbabwe.
“…We spent time discussing things that do not matter at all,” Chikasha said.
Meanwhile, Makarau has admitted the commission’s shortcomings on some issues that fall within ZEC’s purview.
They include failure by ZEC to ensure all competing parties had equal access on public media, guarding against hate speech and putting in place voter education systems.
She was however quick to point out some political parties unknowingly point fingers at her organisation accusing it of acts of omission on things they had no legal control over.
“But I think people will always misconstrue it; there are certain things that are outside our mandate, even though we may listen,” she said.
“For instance if they deal with the role and powers of traditional leaders, we will listen. We will take down notes and refer it to relevant authorities but you need to involve the traditional leaders themselves because…we encourage political parties to create a similar platform with traditional leaders where they can have the same dialogue and debate like they have been having with us.”
The ZEC indaba comes when opposition political parties coalescing under the banner of the National Electoral Reform Agenda have upped the pressure against the current government demanding electoral reforms.
They are adamant the current law and environmental set-up suited the ruling party.
Three government ministers have, on separate occasions insisted reforms will not be effected as was being demanded by the opposition, claiming the current set up was reached by consensus between Zanu PF and some mainstream parties during the now defunct government of national unity.