Harare, February 20, 2015 – Scores of anti-government protesters on Friday took to the streets of Harare to pressure the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to implement significant electoral reforms as a pre-condition for holding any elections in the country.
In January, President Robert Mugabe proclaimed that the Mount Darwin West and Chirimanzu-Zibagwe by-elections will be held at the end of next month after the two seats fell vacant following the appointment of Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and former Vice-President Joice Mujuru to the ZANU PF presidium while several vacancies will be filled in local government elections to be held across the country.
The pro-democracy activists led by the National Youth Alliance (NYAA) and who were joined by former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T supporters, among them former legislator Job Sikhala marched on the ZEC offices were they handed over a petition addressed to ZEC chairperson Justice Rita Makarau demanding that she steps down from leading the elections management body together with the body’s commissioners and pave way for the appointment of a “truly independent electoral commission.”
The protesters who also included some leaders of the country’s students’ body, the Zimbabwe National Students Union waved placards denouncing ZEC for rigging elections in favour of President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU PF party.
Some of the placards read; “We demand electronic voters’ roll”, “Makarau, ZEC gang must go now”, “SADC, AU stop backing rigging” and “Tired of Nikuv, ZEC rigging”.
From the ZEC offices, the demonstrators who broke into song and dance as they marched through the streets of Harare moved to Parliament building where dozens of police officers broke their march after they left copies of their petitions outside the offices of the law making institution.
Already, Tsvangirai’s MDC-T party has petitioned the Constitutional Court seeking an order allowing it access to both print and electronic copies of the voters’ roll which ZEC has dithered to furnish any interested Zimbabweans.
ZAPU leader Dumiso Dabengwa has also resorted to litigation to demand copies of the voters’ roll.
Critics have for several years raised concern over the electoral management body’s failure to avail the voters roll to interested parties for auditing well ahead of elections.