By Maxwell Sibanda
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Zanu PF has sparked outrage after rejecting opposition demands for an open tender for the procurement of ballot papers to be used in this years’ harmonised election.
Amid fears of vote manipulation, opposition parties had proposed amendments to the Electoral Act that ensures all stakeholders are up to speed with the procurement of voting material, including the company that prints the ballot papers as well as providing the indelible ink.
However, the proposals which were brought into Parliament by MDC chief whip Innocent Gonese were shot down by Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, who is leader of government business in Parliament, much to the chagrin of the opposition bench.
Gonese had said there was need for an open tender for procurement of ballot papers and other related material to diffuse suspicion that has been around the electoral process.
In his rejection Ziyambi said the amendments on printing of ballot papers could not be accommodated through amendments to the Electoral Act, since the matter is covered by separate legislation.
“I reject that. It is covered by the Procurement Act. We cannot talk of another law that deviates from an existing law. This provision is problematic to accept,” said Ziyambi.
But political analysts said as provided for in Section 52A of the Electoral Act, Zimbabwe Election Commission (Zec) must “without delay provide information to all electoral stakeholders on where and by whom the ballot papers for the election are being printed”.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition spokesperson Tabani Moyo said this development should trigger eyeballs to the regional and international community who have all along been assured of free and fair elections.
“Electoral processes are not a secret affair, they are meant for the public and should be done in public for the public good. This is clear testimony that the ruling party is acting in bad faith.
“The management of the electoral process, if disputed, renders the whole process a sham. This together with a litany of laws which require repeal and extensive review; the capture of State institutions and conflation of State with party affairs cast a dark shadow on the credibility of the 2018 election,” Moyo told the Daily News.
Political analyst Vivid Gwede said the refusal to ensure transparency in any election-related issue is a clear case of rigging at play.
“Why would tender of ballot papers be made a guarded secret when that is at the heart of accountability and transparency of the election process? We have also seen the use of State resources in Zanu PF primary election which is in itself rigging of the elections given that the opposition parties are not availed the same assistance.
“The State media continues to act like an information department of the ruling party and the Zanu PF information secretariat must be green with envy. With all these indicators of rigging at play, how does the government claim it’s committed to free and fair elections? The talk by the authorities is clearly divorced from the walk because they are becoming as different as day and night.”
Analyst Rejoice Ngwenya said Zanu PF is actually spoiling for a fight with opposition parties. “There can never be a ‘free, fair and credible’ election if some key electoral processes are opaque. Besides, Zanu PF is a contestant, so they should allow Zec to moderate this ballot paper issue.
“Why would they be so idiotic as to reject something that makes the plebiscite transparently credible? My take is that it will be suicidal to get into an election that is managed by Zanu PF. In fact, there should now be nationwide demonstrations for electoral reforms.”
ZimRights director Okay Machisa said it should be noted that Zimbabwe has been running disputed elections for years.
“Anything to do with Zimbabwean elections should be transparent and rejection for an open tender for procurement of ballot papers is unacceptable since it violates the principle of transparency.
“If Zanu PF is smart and would want to tell the whole world that they are different from (Robert) Mugabe, then this is the time to do it.”
Machisa added that there is need to allow transparency to unfold within the electoral process. “In my view, rigging starts with such moves and already Zimbabweans are suspicious on why a simple principle cannot be allowed. Let us not allow such daylight theft to happen,” said the ZimRights director.
Media and political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said while Zanu PF’s argument on following the policy on procurement may look reasonable within bare minimum basics of policy, nothing stops Parliament from enhancing electoral transparency by making sure that there is more openness on the printing of ballot papers.
“It is for Zec which is mandated with managing elections to propose how ballot paper procurement could be done more transparently and to the satisfaction of all contesting political parties.
“It does not help Zanu PF’s mantra that this election is going to be free and fair when they seem to be fighting transparency on this issue,” Mukundu said.
He added that the assessment of the freeness and fairness of this election will benefit from transparency on the practicalities of the electoral process, this including who prints ballot papers, where, how many etc.
“If this is not resolved, then the opposition has a legitimate reason to accuse both Zec and Zanu PF of lacking transparency.
“Let us remember we are coming from a history of contested electoral outcomes and everything possible must be done to make the coming election more transparent,” Mukundu said. Daily News