Electoral amendments – Zanu plot to sidestep Zuma

HARARE – The proposed Electoral Act amendments are a ploy by Zanu (PF) to preempt an election roadmap currently being developed by South African President Jacob Zuma and that could include drastic changes unpalatable to President Robert Mugabe’s party, analysts have warned.

Zanu (PF) legal running dog Patrick Chinamasa – who is also Zimbabwe’s Justice Minister – has proposed to ban civic participation in voter education as well as punish anyone announcing election results before they are released by an election officer. The Electoral Amendment Bill of 2010 also proposes to give the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) more responsibilities on voter education.

It seeks to ban foreign organisations from providing any voter education while local organisations would be required to have their material vetted by ZEC. Organisations such as the Zimbabwe Election Support Network would also be required to disclose their sources of funding. “Offensive” or “misleading” election education material would be banned.

Other proposals include the appointment of special police liaison officers and special investigation committees in provincial centres to handle cases of politically-motivated violence or intimidation in each province. The special liaison officers would be senior police officers, to be appointed by Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri, who would work closely with the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and a multi-party liaison committee during the election period.

Analysts however said the proposed amendments are meant to sidestep Zuma and his team of Southern African Development Community (SADC) mediators who are currently working on a roadmap for future polls in Zimbabwe. “The amendments are meant to counter any proposals that Zuma may come up with that Zanu fears may work against the party.

They want to make sure they don’t leave their fate in the hands of the SADC team,” political analyst Donald Porusingazi told The Zimbabwean On Sunday.

The analysts said Chihuri was an interested party and would not be expected to be impartial when dealing with cases of political violence or intimidation. “We surely would not expect someone who has openly stated his allegiance to one of the parties to then be an impartial referee in the event there is a repeat of the events of 2008 when hundreds of opposition supporters were murdered by Zanu (PF) militias,” said an investment banker who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Tsvangirai’s MDC-T party says more than 500 of its supporters were killed in the violence that accompanied a disputed presidential election run-off between the former opposition leader and Mugabe in June 2008. Thousands other MDC-T supporters were displaced in the ensuing violence allegedly perpetrated by Zanu (PF) youths, soldiers and so-called veterans of the country’s 1970s war of independence.

Zuma is the SADC’s official mediator between President Robert Mugabe and arch-rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai who came together in a unity government under immense pressure from the regional body keen to contain a political crisis that followed Zimbabwe’s inconclusive elections in 2008.

The proposed SADC election roadmap includes adopting a new
Constitution, drawing up a fresh voters’ roll, ending political violence and passing of new electoral rules by Parliament. The SADC election roadmap for Zimbabwe will be modelled along the lines of the regional bloc’s Principles and Guidelines Governing Elections which were adopted in Mauritius in 2004.

The guidelines stipulate that SADC member states should uphold the full participation of citizens in political processes as well as freedom of association, political tolerance, equal access to state media for all political parties, equal opportunity to vote and be voted for, and voter education.

Zuma is understood to be working on a document that will lay the basis for establishing impartial, all-inclusive, competent and accountable national electoral bodies staffed by qualified personnel.

Talk of new elections next year by Mugabe and Tsvangirai to end their marriage of convenience that insiders say is increasingly becoming a hostile affair has further stoked up tensions in Zimbabwe in recent months.

Civil society groups say the country is not ready for new elections because political violence is still taking place, while several electoral reforms and a proposed new Constitution still need to be implemented and given time to take root to ensure the next vote is free and fair.