Lincoln Towindo, Harare Bureau
OPPOSITION political parties should stop making “unreasonable” demands to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) as they risk inciting public unrest, which has the potential to spawn grave and unintended consequences, former United Nation secretary-general Mr Kofi Annan has said.
The team also took great except to the attacks of Zec’s female commissioners, especially on social media. Mr Annan, who was leading the visiting delegation of The Elders on a two-day visit to assess the pre-election environment in the country, said parties who feel aggrieved by the conduct of the elections management body should seek legal recourse.
The Elders are an independent group of global leaders that work together for peace and human rights. Addressing journalists in Harare at the end of their tour, Mr Annan — who is also chair of The Elders and a Nobel Peace Laureate — said making unreasonable demands will only help to muddy the electoral process.
“Politics is a tricky business. There are demands and there are demands. What is important is that we all play by the rules and we make reasonable demands; if we make demands which are unreasonable and which cannot be fulfilled, we are complicating the process. So, I would urge everyone to be reasonable and operate within the rules. Question where there is need for questions and if they feel aggrieved, use the legal mechanisms to get redress.
“But we should be careful of what we say and what we demand, because the main thing is not to incite. If you incite the population, you never know what happens and this is the last thing that the nation and the people of Zimbabwe need. No incitement! And I think they should stay within the code of conduct, but reasonable demands they should be able to make,” he said.
The pre-election environment, Mr Annan added, has been generally free, with all parties being able to exercise their rights to campaign freely. He said it was the duty of every Zimbabwean, and not just Zec, to ensure that the election is free, fair and credible.
“I think there is some improvement on the ground. Parties are generally able to campaign peacefully even though there have been complaints of intimidation and violence. But, generally, they have been able to get their work done. I think you, the citizens, also have a role to play on whether we have a credible election. I sense that sometimes there is a tendency for us to think that the elections commission should deliver the election.
“They cannot do it alone — they need you, they need the political parties and they need civil society. They need the cooperation of all stakeholders. I think given the limited time available, if you all work together and co-operate, you are likely to get a better election than you would otherwise have, and I think the results will be appreciated by everyone.”
He said progress has been made through the National Multi-party Liaison Committee to settle disputes between some parties and the commission. The committee is convened by Zec to listen to concerns from political parties contesting in the election.
Said Mr Annan: “We have had an opportunity to speak to quite a lot of people, from the President, to the political leaders, to the chair of the electoral commission (Justice Priscilla Chigumba) and from what we understand, in the last few days, some positive progress is being made and there is genuine discussion and hopefully a genuine give-and-take to try and resolve some of the outstanding issues before the election.”