By Moses Matenga and Evans Mathanda
A Leaked audio between the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chief elections officer Utoile Silaigwana and MDC Alliance secretary for elections Ian Makone has shown that the commission had been running stakeholder consultations since January this year without inviting Nelson Chamisa’s party.
Early this week, Zec spokesperson Joyce Kazembe admitted that Chamisa’s MDC Alliance was not invited to a Harare provincial stakeholder engagement meeting because the name of the party was under contention.
But 48 hours later, Silaigwana issued a statement contradicting his boss, claiming no political party had been excluded from the consultations, exposing the “deliberate” lack of co-ordination within the commission.
In the leaked audio, Silaigwana struggled to explain that he had invited the MDC Alliance to the engagement meetings.
He accused the MDC Alliance of wanting to control the “independent” electoral body.
“We seek not to control, please hear me right, but we seek to be notified,” Makone could be heard saying.
Silaigwana retorted: “We cherish our independence, Mr Makone, and our independence and our obligation to consult stakeholders. It does not mean that we need to be controlled, no!”
Makone said he agreed with Silaigwana that the commission should be independent, but where stakeholders were being invited, the information should be generally shared so that everyone knew what would be happening, claiming he called because he lacked the information.
“Aaa aaa, Mr Makone, this is not the first time we are consulting. We started at the beginning of the year, at the beginning of the year. We had been consulting and we had stakeholder meetings, we had meetings with the media, Parliament, etc,” Silaigwana said.
To which Makone said he had written to Silaigwana asking about the consultations and no satisfactory answer was given to him.
Silaigwana said the commission could not consult parties on individual capacity, to which Makone said he never made such a request, insisting he said stakeholders.
“We started meeting political parties at Parliament, which I am sure your political party is also part of. We met in Chinhoyi, we met in Darwendale, we met each other and this is a continuation of the stakeholder engagements,” Silaigwana said.
Makone said his party had never been invited to all the meetings Silaigwana claimed to have convened.
“You invited political parties in Parliament, and I don’t know who was representing the MDC Alliance in those discussions,” Makone said.
In his statement released yesterday, Silaigwana claimed he invited all political parties, including civic organisations to the meetings.
However, election watchdog Election Resource Centre (ERC), which had been agitating for electoral reforms, denied being invited to the meetings.
“As Election Resource Centre, we have not received an invitation to the stakeholders meeting. We hear that Zec is inviting stakeholders on a rotational basis and we are not sure what criteria were used to not include us among the invited stakeholders,” ERC board chairperson Trust Maanda.
“Our calls for legal, election management and administration reforms are well documented. We advocate for reforms in many areas, including but not limited to: access to the media which should be equal, and enhancement the role of Zec in monitoring adherence to this principle, adherence to the constitutional requirement for the security services sector and traditional leaders to be nonpartisan, removal of any laws that hinder freedom of association and other constitutional means of expression and clear dispute resolution mechanisms at all the stages of the electoral cycle.”
Silaigwana, however, said: “The commission will ensure that all stakeholders get an opportunity to be invited at the round table, whose purpose is to share information and discuss topical electoral issues.
“It is the commission’s mandate to interact with all its stakeholders in an impartial manner.
“All political parties and other stakeholders, including civil society organisations, will be invited to attend the provincial stakeholders’ engagements on a rotational basis once every month.
“Contrary to some Press reports, no political party has been barred from attending these meetings, which are currently in progress throughout the country.”
On Wednesday, Kazembe confirmed to NewsDay that the MDC Alliance was not invited to the critical meeting because of the ongoing fights over the party name.
“We did not extend our invitation to MDC Alliance to be part of a stakeholder meeting because the matter regarding the name MDC Alliance is still before the courts,” Kazembe said then.
“Now we don’t know who MDC Alliance is before the court’s final judgment, hence we could not invite MDC Alliance. We can’t acknowledge it until the court judgment. As it stands, we await the court judgment to be able to work with MDC Alliance, just like other political parties in Zimbabwe.”
An internal memo also exposed that Zec was taking orders from “powers that be” in rebuffing the Chamisa-led party. NewsDay