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Mnangagwa should come out clear about the ballot printing

The debate over where ballot papers are printed and by whom continues to hog the limelight, as Zanu PF and the opposition have predictably taken diametrically opposing stances on the matter.

The government’s arguments have been that the printing of ballot papers is a security issue and the opposition’s demands are ludicrous.

On the other hand, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) insists the printing of ballot papers will be done via a direct procurement process, something that has obviously riled the opposition.

The opposition wants to be in the loop about when ballot papers are printed, who prints them and how many are printed.

They argue that ballot papers have been at the centre of Zanu PF’s rigging machinery for years and by overseeing the handling of the ballot papers, they can thwart any chicanery.

An impasse is developing here and it would not be surprising if the matter ends up in court.

But we feel there is a simpler way of doing things and if the government is honest about holding a credible poll, there is no reason why they are shutting the opposition out of the ballot printing process.

There is nothing to lose by involving opposition players in the procurement process right up to when the ballots are printed, as this reinforces the idea that the government is being true to its promise to hold free and fair elections.

Being obstinate about the issue arms sceptics, who will use this as justification to show that the government is insincere about holding fair polls.

While the government has been promising anyone who cares to listen that the polls will be free and fair, they have not done much on the ground to back this assertion.

So far, all that has been there is empty rhetoric that is not backed by any action.

This is a perfect opportunity for President Emmerson Mnangagwa to go beyond the rhetoric and show that he is committed to holding fair polls by implementing far reaching reforms.

Allowing the opposition to be part of the procurement process will go a long way to show that Mnangagwa is transparent and is committed to holding free polls.

If the government insist on being secretive, with the printing of ballots being a cloak and dagger affair, then rest assured the credibility of the next election will be questioned and the hope of removing the pariah status for Zimbabwe will have to be deferred for a few more years.

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