By Fungi Kwaramba
Opposition parties are upping the ante in their determined bid to force the government to institute much-needed electoral reforms ahead of the 2018 national elections, while demanding that Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson Rita Makarau cease to hold two roles which they claim could cost them in the event of an election dispute.
Makarau chairs Zec on a part-time basis while holding a full-time position of secretary to the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) — the appointing body for judiciary officials which also assigns and sets their conditions of service.
Opposition parties coalescing under the banner of the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera), who are pushing for a raft of electoral reforms, said yesterday that they also wanted Zec’s secretariat to be reconstituted, claiming that it was packed with Zanu PF apparatchiks.
The spokespersons for the MDC and the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) told the Daily News in separate interviews that Makarau had to cease holding the two key positions because if there was an election dispute, it would be difficult for them to have a fair hearing at the superior courts.
“It has always been an anomalous situation for Makarau to be a Supreme Court judge and secretary to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), whilst at the same time she is the Zec chairperson. She cannot and indeed, should not have her legs in two baskets.
“Election results can be challenged and election disputes might even end up in court, where she is a member of the bench. This is not just clumsy, it is in direct conflict with the basic tenets of good corporate governance and international best practice. She has to choose one of the two. She can’t have it both ways,” MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said.
On its part, ZPF said Makarau’s “untenable position” was akin to her being both the match referee and the match commissioner in the current situation.
“The JSC has the mandate to constitute an electoral court which presides over poll disputes and she can create her mess at Zec and when people complain she can be accused of working to clean that through the Electoral Court,” spokesperson Jealousy Mawarire said.
“What we are saying is that she has to choose between the two posts. That is one of the major issues we have with Zec. Our lawyers under the auspices of Nera are working on a court challenge. We are of the view that it is a winnable court challenge,” he added.
Opposition parties have consistently accused Zec of being sympathetic to President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF.
They also claim that the Zec secretariat, in its current form, is susceptible to manipulating the ballot as was claimed in 2008 when the national elections’ management body delayed announcing the results of the presidential poll by six weeks, after opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai beat Mugabe hands down.
Under the Nera platform, opposition parties have been holding several peaceful demonstrations until police recently invoked provisions of the draconian Public Order and Security Act which outlawed such protests in central Harare. Daily News