Opposition political parties are teaming up against the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) ahead of next week’s demonstration to demand reforms critical for a credible, free and fair vote on July 30.
The Daily News reported that five fringe opposition parties have so far thrown their weight behind the MDC Alliance’s demonstration, set for Wednesday next week.
These are the National People’s Party (NPP), the MDC led by Thokozani Khupe, the New Patriotic Front, Build Zimbabwe and MAAT Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe heads for crucial polls later this month to pick a new president, Members of Parliament and councillors in the first election since Robert Mugabe, aged 94, was forced to resign after a de-facto military coup.
With the make-or-break polls drawing closer, opposition political parties are kicking and screaming – accusing Zec of attempting to rig the poll in favour of the ruling Zanu-PF party, which has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Zanu-PF leader who ascended to the top office last November riding on the military’s coattails, is facing a strong challenge from MDC Alliance leader, Nelson Chamisa, who is 35 years younger than him.
Citing the urgent need to level the electoral playing field, the alliance – comprising seven opposition parties – has set Wednesday next week as the date for another demonstration to register its displeasure with the manner Zec is running the polls.
Yesterday, the planned demonstration received the thumbs up from five other parties, which have started mobilising their members to come out in their numbers to support the mass protest which has the backing of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, vendors and college students.
Gift Nyandoro, spokesperson for the NPP, led by former vice president Joice Mujuru, told the Daily News yesterday that they were fully behind the MDC Alliance’s call for a demonstration against Zec.
“It is clear that Zec is not committed to delivering a free, fair and credible election because they know that that would be (tantamount to signing) Zanu-PF’s death certificate; so as parties we need to unite against Zec to force them to ensure there is transparency in the manner the election is run. Hence, we back the efforts by our colleagues in the MDC Alliance as well as any other efforts by other players to achieve the same,” Nyandoro said.
Nyandoro, however, said Mujuru, who is also leading the People’s Rainbow Coalition, was not considering boycotting the elections in the event that their demands are not met.
“Boycotting is not an option, but we will continue knocking (on Zec’s doors). I am not at liberty to discuss our strategy but I can tell you that we are going to expose Zec in a big way,” he said.
Tendai Munyanduri of the New Patriotic Front yesterday called on his party supporters to join the demonstration “to stop the lawyers at Zec from rigging in Mnangagwa’s favour”.
Spokesperson for Khupe’s party, Linda Masarira, weighed in saying the electoral management body has failed the test.
“The election is around the corner and we need to push for minimum reforms and implementation of existing laws so that this year’s harmonised elections can have some modicum of credibility,” Masarira said.
“The fact that the ballot papers are being printed at a government facility and that there is a veil of secrecy on the source of the ballot paper (is a cause for major concern); so we are saying why is there so much secrecy?” she asked rhetorically.
MAAT Zimbabwe’s secretary for information and publicity, Pepukai Begede, said his party was already mobilising supporters for the anti Zec protest.
“We are mobilising our supporters to demonstrate so that we stop this election if Zec continues on this path where it is choosing to be arrogant,” said Begede.
“We are saying we cannot go ahead like this. Why do we rush to elections when we have not put in place mechanisms for a free, fair and transparent election?” Begede said.
Build Zimbabwe president, Noah Manyika, told the Daily News of his unhappiness with Zec yesterday, saying they will take advantage of the demonstration to push for the release of a specimen copy of the actual ballot to be used at the forthcoming polls.
Opposition parties are accusing Zec of working with Zanu-PF to steal the upcoming ballot.
They have therefore tabled a number of demands, among them an independent audit of the ballot papers; a clean voters’ roll and that Zec should do away with military elements within its ranks.
It is also being claimed that a random audit of the voters’ roll has unearthed scandalous shortcomings, among them the existence of people aged around 150 years; many houses that have tens of people registered and yet the properties do not exist and people with the same IDs.
Last week, Chamisa’s chief election agent, Jameson Timba, also pointed out that the design of the presidential ballot paper had been designed to benefit Mnangagwa.
Timba said despite assurances by Zec that political parties were going to be allowed to observe the printing of ballot papers, parties were only invited to the printers three days after the printing had already commenced.
Further, no observation was allowed but instead representatives of political parties were made to watch the printing machines rolling from a distance.
This week, Chamisa said unless their concerns are addressed, they will soon be approaching the Southern African Development Community and the African Union to voice their concerns.
Zec chairperson, Priscilla Chigumba told the State TV this week that all the 65 political parties must dialogue and come up with a common position on their issues which would be dealt with by the commission.
She said demands by political parties concerning the elections would be resolved through a multiparty liaison committee, adding that the perception that Zec was a conduit for rigging polls were misplaced as the elections mother body was simply following legal provisions in handling elections.
Chigumba rejected the push to have opposition parties involved in the designing, printing, and distribution of the ballot paper, saying it was Zec’s sole responsibility to do so in terms of the Constitution.
She said anyone else other than Zec demanding to be involved in designing, printing and distribution of the ballot paper would be deemed to be attempting to usurp the powers and independence of the electoral management body.
Zimbabwe’s previous polls have all been dogged by allegations of massive ballot manipulation.
Despite the odds being heavily stacked against the opposition, the MDC came close to condemning Zanu-PF to the opposition in 2008.
In that election, Zec could not release the presidential results for six weeks, amid speculation that it was busy manipulating the ballot during that period.
When the results were finally announced, Mugabe had lost to the late MDC founding president, Morgan Tsvangirai, who could not be declared the winner after he failed to reach the required threshold.
A run-off that followed was characterised by ugly incidents of violence in which over 200 MDC supporters and officials were murdered in cold blood, forcing Tsvangirai to pull out of the race to hand an easy victory to Mugabe.
The poll outcome failed to get endorsements from the region and the international community, forcing Mugabe to accept to work with his nemesis in an uneasy unity government, between 2009 and 2013.