EDITORIAL COMMENT: ZEC must ensure voters’ roll is read only

MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa recently swore to his supporters in Chiredzi that he was sure to win the forthcoming presidential election. “It’s now or never,” he declared in his trademark excitable fashion.

If his wish; not that of the people; does not prevail in the elections, scheduled for July 30, Chamisa has threatened violence. More offensively, on several occasions he has threatened to block the holding of the harmonised elections if his “electoral demands” are not met. He doesn’t care how many other people, the other 22 presidential aspirants included, want them to go ahead.

Two weeks ago, Chamisa and his Alliance staged a demonstration in Harare, to press for the so-called electoral reforms. Wisely, the Government let the alliance enjoy its moment of triumph, strutting on the stage and making all sorts of dire threats before handing over to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission their petition. (We hope election observers and other visitors to our beautiful and peaceful country will quickly realise that Chamisa’s threats belong to a previous era, another dispensation which Zimbabweans broadly consigned to history in November 2017. He inherited its methods without the tools of State and power, and is deploying its language at every turn.)

Last week, ZEC chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba responded to the petition, indicating some of the demands were outside the ZEC remit while others reeked of “mischief”.

We don’t need to remind anybody that Zimbabwe is enjoying its most peaceful ever pre-election period. That President Mnangagwa has allowed all political players to enjoy the freedoms enshrined in the Constitution. He has also declared his commitment for the country to hold peaceful, free, fair, transparent and credible elections.

This last week he went out of his way, offering to fulfil his pledge to meet the other 22 presidential contestants before elections so that they speak to their respective supporters the same message of peace, love, unity and hope. This has not been reciprocated by his challengers.

Tellingly, it is only Chamisa and his party who have insisted on the language of violence. Without ever promising to respect the outcome of the elections, Chamisa has instead sought to drag the military into the mud, demanding that they make a public declaration to respect his presumed victory.

Lately, the MDC Alliance has ganged up with foreign-funded NGOs, in particular Veritas, to try to cripple ZEC’s operations through a torrent of court cases. They want access to servers for the biometric voters’ roll. They want to be involved in the selection of the supplier of material for the ballot papers, to be involved in the selection of the printer, to be involved in the printing and storage of the papers.

Last week they escalated their demands, asking ZEC not only for both the hard copy and electronic version of the voters’ roll. They want what they describe as “analysable” voters’ roll.

Justice Chigumba would know better which section of the law allows for what appear to be petty, vexatious and preposterous demands. But we sense something utterly sinister. These are people who have condemned the outcome of the elections more than a month before they are held. That tells us they want an analysable voters’ roll which they can manipulate by altering dates or names or deleting data, all to discredit Justice Chigumba in person and ZEC as an institution.

Their language tells us they are spoiling for a fight and will find every excuse to claim to have been cheated by ZEC. But before we even get that far, it is instructive that ZEC has become the sole focus of their attacks. The aim being to frustrate Justice Chigumba and force her to quit, to create maximum chaos a few weeks before election date. That would be another major victory for Chamisa who wants elections only on his own terms, not in accordance with the law.

Since the launch of Operation Restore Legacy Zimbabwe has enjoyed peace and unparalleled freedom by all political parties. A whole nation can’t be held to ransom by the vaulting ambition of one man who thinks he is God’s anointed. He can be tolerated, but he shouldn’t overstretch his luck.

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