Can Government guarantee independence of ZEC?

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There have been a number of questions raised against election administration by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission with regards to July 20, 2018 Harmonised Elections.

Stakeholders were left in awe after reports that ZEC chairperson Priscilla Chigumba had been involved with a Government minister.

While that is debatable and a story for another day what is known though is that one of the key issues raised, which is in fact on Zimbabwe Election Support Network agenda, is ZEC’s independence.

According to a document titled: Key Considerations for Delimitation in 2023 by ZESN, it appears the majority of citizens which is 62.43 percent believe that ZEC is an impartial body to conduct delimitation.

However from a gender perspective, those who said ZEC is an impartial body to conduct delimitation, slightly more females 32.05 percent compared to 30.38 percent males believe that ZEC is an impartial body to conduct delimitation.

When further analyzed by place of residence, a majority 68.30 of those who believe that the commission is impartial live in the rural areas.

And also a majority 50.22 percent who said ZEC is not impartial to conduct delimitation live in the urban areas.

According to the report, this could be because trust in the ZEC might be higher in the rural areas and lower in the urban areas.

Delimitation is an important process for any electoral outcome and is important for demarcating electoral boundaries and voting areas.

And consequently the Compendium of Election Observers Recommendations by ZESN, reveal that ZEC as a fully independent commission should be strengthened, including through amending the Electoral Act.

This means that ZEC is fully aligned with Section 235 of the constitution, with the effect that the ZEC reports directly to the National Assembly and secures its own funding from the Consolidated Fund.

It also calls for ZEC to represent itself before Parliament father than the Minister for Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and the requirement for Government approval of ZEC regulations is removed and the ZEC has an expanded responsibility for regulating voter registration and the accreditation of election observers.

Outside of election administration the Compendium also recommend that the Multi-Party Liason committees should be made permanent feature in Zimbabwe’s electoral processes.

Interestingly, access to information (transparency) gives Civic Society Organisations a critical role in ensuring a credible election.

“Their contribution to promoting a culture of democratic governance in Zimbabwe is historical.

“The group encourages the ZEC to provide these organisations with greater access to electoral information to enable them to fully perform their functions.

“ZEC should offer effective information on all steps fo the electoral preparations with full transparency, making all information of public interest immediately and easily accessible,” the report says.

These include ZEC resolutions, data on the process of removing duplicates from the Voters Roll, All polling station results in a tabulated format, including the original V11 and V23a/b returns.

It was also recommended that parties’ and candidates’ asset statements and financial reports on their election income and spending.

Last and not least data on participation of marginalized groups (women, youth, PWD) in electoral processes (as candidates, registered voters, voters, polling officials, party agents and observers.

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