REPORTS by representatives of two international observer groups that from their pre-election assessment observations to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) holding free, fair and credible elections on July 30 are still remote unless key outstanding reforms are effected must not be ignored, if the polls are to be legitimate.
While it is important for visiting advance foreign observer missions to familiarise themselves with Zimbabwe’s electoral laws and political environment to avoid producing biased assessment reports, it is important for President Emmerson Mnangagwa to allow Zec to urgently implement the electoral reforms demanded by the opposition to guarantee credibility of the July 30 elections.
It is our hope that the foreign observer missions are coming to Zimbabwe with no predetermined conclusions on the elections. But, the fact is that Zec has either or not ignored calls to implement outstanding key electoral reforms demanded by the stakeholders in this election.
For instance, the MDC Alliance last week petitioned Zec and Mnangagwa to implement a raft of reforms including transparency in the printing and storage of ballot material, demilitarisation of the electoral management body and equal access to public media.
It boggles the mind why Mnangagwa would refuse to implement the reforms if he is confident of winning this election. We believe observer missions are there to point out areas that may be contestable and Zec must have a listening ear.
Indeed, no new laws can be effected especially after the election date has been pronounced, but the fact that Mnangagwa, who knew of the opposition demands and the requirements of the law, decided to call for the polls without reforms had sinister motives to give himself an unfair advantage over others.
In that case, there can never be a free, fair and credible election as he would want the world to believe. Clearly, Mnangagwa’s legitimacy can only come through the ballot box, and there has to be fair play. Zimbabweans expect all players in the July 30 polls to accept the results and congratulate the winner only and if the polls are adjudged to be free, fair and credible by observer missions.
Therefore, we do not believe that the report by the delegation from the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute consisting of former US congressman David Drier and former chairperson of the South African election commission, Brigalia Bam, is not without substance.
The call to Zec chairperson Priscilla Chigumba, that the military should publicly commit to recognise a winning presidential candidate, despite their political affiliation, speaks to the conflicted position of the electoral management’s heavily militarised position.
No doubt that Zec can make some reforms between now and the election day to ensure that Zimbabwe does not produce a disputed poll, which may dash all hopes of a bright future for the country.
Is it difficult for Zec to promptly distribute an analysable final voter’s roll? If Mnangagwa, who came to power after ousting former President Robert Mugabe last November, has genuinely opened the doors for foreign observer missions to observe the elections, why would he refuse to fully comply with all electoral demands.
We agree with Mnangagwa that Zimbabwe is in a new era characterised by democracy and holding of free and fair elections, but he must demonstrate that by his actions, and not just rhetoric. Electoral reforms are key, Mr President!