By RadioVOP Correspondent
Harare, November 19, 2016 – LOCAL poll watchdog, Election Resource Centre (ERC), says the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) must stop blaming the existence of weak laws in the country to dodge some of its responsibilities which have a direct bearing on the country’s electoral trajectory.
ERC director Tawanda Chimhini said in a statement on Friday that ZEC must begin to act on irregularities which have a direct bearing on its constitutional mandate to ensure free, fair and credible elections.
ZEC recently publicly admitted that the laws that guide the conduct of electoral processes in Zimbabwe were weak and flawed thus hampering the ability of ZEC to effectively act on irregularities.
Though stakeholders like the ERC commends ZEC’s public acknowledgement of the existence of weak laws, they said the organisation must try to change the status quo using instruments that were at its disposal.
“The Electoral Commission must therefore not make excuses based on some sections of the Electoral Act that remain unaligned with the Constitution, as they are unconstitutional,” Chimhini said.
The think tank and advocacy institution on elections and democracy said measures must be taken in fulfilment of the constitutional mandate.
“ZEC must summon and caution political parties and candidates engaging in behaviour which compromises the freeness and fairness of elections,” Chimhini said.
He added: “ZEC must publicly condemn political parties and candidates engaging in behaviour which compromises the freeness and fairness of elections.
“ZEC must publicly instruct the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) to take action against perpetrators of election related violence and intimidation. Encourage the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to effect the functionality of the Special Investigative Committee in line with Section 133 (h) of the Electoral Act.”
The organisation said while Section 157(4) of the Constitution mandates ZEC to participate in law making by way of being consulted, “the same provision does not take away ZEC’s responsibility to publicly initiate electoral laws that reduce election related violence and intimidation.”
The ERC insisted that electoral laws must be aligned with the Constitution, adding that it is incumbent upon ZEC to ensure a free and fair election as mandated by Section 239 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
Chimhini also said Section 239 asserts that ZEC must give instruction to persons in the employment of the state or of a local authority for the purpose of ensuring the efficient, free, fair, proper and transparent conduct of any election or referendum.
ZEC is also mandated to receive and consider complaints from the public and to take such action in regard to the complaints as it considers appropriate.
In September 2015, the ERC and 14 other civil society organisations petitioned Parliament urging election authorities to take a serious approach towards electoral reform.