By Wallace Mawire
Preparations for Zimbabwe’s 2018 harmonized elections are at an advanced stage with 23 presidential and 1652 National Assembly Constituency candidates being successfully nominated, according to Justice Priscillah Chigumba, Zimbabwe Elections Commission (ZEC) Chairperson.
Chigumba said that a total of 55 political parties and 247 independent candidates will be contesting in the country’s 210 National Assembly constituencies.
According to ZEC, now that the nominations have been conducted, the law compels the Commission to set up Multi-Party Liaison Committees (MPLCs) in terms of Section 160B of the Electoral Act at national, constituency and local authority levels.
The committees comprise ZEC officials, representatives of political parties and independent candidates contesting in the election and other persons invited by the committees.
MPLCs’ main functions are to hear, resolve or mediate disputes arising from the electoral process. The law allows the national MPLCs to create sub committees at provincial level and delegate its functions to these structures. “It is thus in the interests of all political parties and stakeholders to ensure that these MPLCs are fully functional as the election period is already in full swing,” Chigumba said.
According to ZEC, all candidates and their representatives are given an equal opportunity to participate during the meetings regardless of their socio-politico and economic status.
“Despite this norm, the Commission is however disturbed to note that one member of a political party abused freedom of expression by disrupting the initial meeting organized by the Commission to launch the national MPLC and its sub committees. The Commission condemns the behavior displayed by the #1980 Freedom Movement Zimbabwe representative who disrupted the meeting’s proceedings much to the detriment of other political parties,” ZEC said.
ZEC added that these meetings are meant to benefit candidates and other stakeholders hence political parties should accommodate divergent views and respect one another’s opinions during the committees’ meetings. Political parties have also been urged to abide by the Code of Conduct for Political Parties, Candidates and other stakeholders which they are all signatory to.
The Commission also reports that it has decentralized the distribution of the voters’ roll to provinces. It says that this is meant to expedite access to the electronic voters’ roll by candidates for their constituencies, wards and polling stations. Copies for candidates will be provided by the commission for free. Other stakeholders intending to have copies of the roll will have to pay a nominal fee to access the document.
The Commission also says that it is disturbed by malicious allegations that the voters’ roll issued to stakeholders is fake.
“ZEC is of the view that such allegations are deliberately meant to cause alarm and despondency among the generality of the Zimbabwean populace. The public is being advised that the voters’ roll being distributed by the commission is authentic,” Justice Chigumba said.
ZEC also said that it is issuing a roll which is analyzable and searchable. The roll conforms to provisions of Section 20 (2) of the Electoral Act which stipulates that entries should have:
a) The voter’s first and last names, date of birth, national registration number and sex
b) The place where the voter ordinarily resides and
c) Such other information as may be prescribed or as the Commission considers appropriate
According to ZEC, following threats by some unscrupulous individuals to track down their victims door to door, the commission says that it will not issue the voters’ roll with photographs in an effort to protect voters.
The commission says that it will print voters’ rolls with photographs for every polling station. Section 20(5) of the Electoral Act states that in the event of any discrepancy between an electronic copy and a printed copy of a voters’ roll, the latter shall be deemed to be the authentic record of the voters’ roll.
“ZEC would therefore like to dismiss allegations that the consolidated voters’ roll is fake because it does not contain voters’ photographs.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission advises all stakeholders who are unable to navigate through the voters’ roll to contact the commission for assistance instead of casting aspersions on same,” ZEC said.
Withdrawal of candidature
The commission also said that it wishes to remind all successfully nominated candidates that the deadline for withdrawal of candidature for the harmonized elections was, Friday, 22 June, 2018 at 1600 hours and congratulated all candidates participating in the upcoming elections.
The commission has also urged all candidates to adhere to the code of conduct and ensure a peaceful electoral environment as they carry out their campaigns.
ZEC also said that the law allows them to administer postal voting to members of the disciplined force or electoral officers on duty on election day as well as government officials and their spouses on duty outside Zimbabwe on election day. “People who may take part in the postal voting should be registered voters on the roll for that constituency” ZEC said.
Applications for postal voting should be addressed to the Chief Elections Officer using a prescribed form signed by the applicant and accompanied by a certified copy of the voter’s national registration certificate.
According to ZEC, for those in the uniformed forces, a commanding officer may apply on behalf of a member of a disciplined force in terms of the Electoral Act. A head of Ministry, head of department or head of station or the head of Zimbabwe’s Embassy or diplomatic or consular mission in the foreign country may apply on behalf of their employees. The Commission has already held meetings with the affected stakeholders. A workshop to train those who will administer postal voting is currently underway. Postal voting applications will close on 28 June 2018.
“The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is committed to free, fair and credible elections and urges all stakeholders, to conduct themselves in a responsible manner,” ZEC said.