By Helen Kadirire
Zimbabwe will go for polls on July 30, in what is promising to be the toughest test for the ruling Zanu PF party, which has been in power for 38 years.
Yesterday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa ended months of anxiety when he proclaimed the polling date, and curiously set September 8, as a date for a run-off poll.
Analysts are predicting a tough electoral contest between Mnangagwa, 75, and Nelson Chamisa, 40, of the MDC.
There are over 120 fringe parties running in this poll, but the real contest will be between Mnangagwa and Chamisa, who took over from MDC founding president Morgan Tsvangirai, who succumbed to colon cancer on February 14, this year.
The poll date proclamation comes as the inspection of the voters’ roll, which was supposed to end yesterday, was extended by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to tomorrow.
According to Mnangagwa, the nomination courts for presidential candidates, members of the National Assembly and councillors shall sit on June 14.
Dates for elections of members of the Council of Chiefs has been set for July 11, followed by election of the president and deputy president of the council which will be conducted on July 18.
Mnangagwa told a conclave of his ruling party that the polls “will be free, fair and transparent, and the voice of the people will be heard”.
He also called on all candidates to campaign peacefully and focus on the issues that “really matter”.
Opposition parties canvassed by the Daily News yesterday said they were ready for the elections as they have been preparing for them since last year.
MDC Alliance spokesperson Welshman Ncube, however, doubted if institutions responsible for the general elections would be equal to the task at hand.
Ncube said Zec was still to finish the inspection of the voters’ roll and registration, giving new registrants little time to check if their details are correct. Zec is also still to produce the voters’ roll for political parties to inspect.
“From end of day today (yesterday) until the day of the nomination court, there will be 14 days. How do they expect prospective candidates to check if the people they want to be nominated by are registered voters? That is just one illustration that Zec is not prepared. People who registered during the last days of the exercise will not have an opportunity to inspect their names,” said Ncube.
“Another issue is that there were no electoral amendments that happened. The legal framework is not ready as well. How can you gazette electoral amendments and election dates on the same day? How do they expect the legal framework to function properly when it has not been given ample time to work? The playing field is simply not appropriate and adequate to hold elections,” Ncube said.
Constitutional law expert Lovemore Madhuku said Mnangagwa has done an irregular thing by announcing the election dates before Zec could finalise the voters’ roll.
He said according to the law, Mnangagwa had until August 22 to hold the elections but said he did a rushed job in proclaiming the poll date.
The University of Zimbabwe law professor said there was no time for voters and prospective candidates to properly inspect their names with Zec.
“The president should have waited until there was a voters’ roll for him to proclaim the election dates. The roll had to be gazetted first before anything else. At law, the last date of elections would have been August 22, so there was no need to rush the process. There, he has not complied with the Constitution.
“What he did was irregular. Ideally, what would have happened was wait for 14 days after the voters’ roll has been released, then make the announcement. Now, prospective candidates and their nominators do not know whether they are registered voters or not for them to participate in the elections,” Madhuku said.
Zec chairperson Priscilla Chigumba told a news conference yesterday that since the president has proclaimed election dates, the election road map was now available in both hard and soft copies for anyone who requires it.
She emphasised that since the inspection and registration has been extended, any registration after Friday will not be eligible for the 2018 elections but future elections.
“The final voters’ roll will be ready for inspection a few days before the nomination courts sit at Zec’s expense. After that, anyone requiring the voters’ roll will be able to get it from the secretariat at a stipulated fee,” she told reporters.
“So far, we have established 10 800 polling stations, with the provision for sub polling stations in areas that have more than 1 000 registered voters. The sub polling stations have been established to make the process smoother so that voters do not take too much time casting their votes.
“The budget for the elections can only be calculated once they have been conducted, however we submitted a budget of $190 million and government said they could avail $140 million while the remainder was carried by our funding partners.”
She clarified that voting will be conducted manually and not electronically and compilation and announcement of votes will also be done the traditional way. Daily News