WITH eight days to go before Zimbabwe holds its harmonised elections, all eyes will shift to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), the legal body that is mandated to run the polls.
There have been a lot of issues that political parties and individuals have raised concerning Zec and its staff.
Last week, Sunday News, News Editor Gabriel Masvora (GM) sat down with Zec Commissioner Dr Qhubani Moyo (QM) to get an insight into the preparations and other issues surrounding the running and preparations for elections. Dr Moyo is also the chairman of the National Multiparty Liaison Committee meant to allow political parties to discuss issues around the elections. Below is the full interview.
GM: It is a few days before the elections. As Zec, you are mandated to run this election, can you run down the preparations so far?
QM: The mandate of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is well spelt out in the Zimbabwean Constitution as well as the Electoral Act. In implementation of its mandate the Commission is guided by the values of transparency and fairness within the confines of the law and embraces diversity of views as a way of being inclusive and working with all Zimbabweans. Talking of the elections that will be held in a few days, the Commission is in full swing on the logistics and final preparations and we are well above the game.
GM: How many observers and from which organisations have you accredited so far. You can also include journalists.
QM: There has been accreditation of observers from local organisations, African Union, Sadc, European Union, Sadc Parliamentary Forum, National Democratic Institute and Commonwealth just to name but a few. This is over and above any local and foreign journalists. The importance of accreditation of so many observers from diverse institutions is to make sure that we hear multiple views on the assessment of our elections but most importantly it is a clear indicator that the country wants to hold its elections in an open environment where the Commission will be judged according to its deeds by a cross section of observer missions.
GM: Let’s go to the issue of ballot papers. What is the position so far? Are you done printing all the papers for presidential, parliamentary and council elections? There have also been a number of issues that political parties especially MDC Alliance have raised over the manner Zec handled the printing of ballot papers. What is your comment on the issues that were raised concerning this matter?
QM: The Commission can confirm that the printing of the ballot papers for the Presidential, Local Government as well as National Assembly elections has been completed. Political parties that are contesting elections have been furnished with copies of the sample ballot papers for each election. The spirit behind giving them the ballot papers was to make them ascertain certain allegations and rumours of chromatography as some political stakeholders were making claims of a possibility of a ballot paper that migrates with its marked X from one candidate to another. The Commission will in the course of the week publicise the numbers of the ballot papers printed. The printing for the Presidential and National Assembly ballot was done at Fidelity Printers in Harare while the local Government ballot paper was printed at Printflow in Harare as well.
GM: Some parties were especially concerned over the design of the ballot paper, accusing Zec of favouring certain candidates?
QM: The ballot is designed in alphabetical order and candidates are ranked using their surnames. The position that a party sits in on the ballot paper changes from constituency to constituency and from ward to ward depending on the number of candidates and their surnames. Zimbabweans are very literate and the listing of candidates using alphabetical order will not prejudice anyone. Voters go to polling stations having made up their minds and they cannot be confused by alphabetical rankings. The ballot was done in terms of the electoral law and with no intention of favouring any particular candidate. Zec believes every candidate has an equal chance of winning elections and we treat them with equal respect and give them the same weight in our interaction with them.
GM: The same parties also raised the issue that they wanted to view the printing of ballot papers. We have heard Zec saying the parties were invited but some still complain that they were not allowed. What really happened?
QM: The Commission is mandated in terms of the law to design and print the ballot paper and does not need the involvement of political parties. However, as a confidence building measure the Commission decided to invite the political parties to view the printing of the presidential ballot and also get the paper on which the ballot will be printed. The visit was also meant to assist deal with the misconception that the ballot was being printed outside the country with some saying in Russia while others were claiming it was in Israel. Some of the political parties who visited were not satisfied with the amount of access given to them in the viewing process and wanted to get as closest as possible to the printing Press which would have constituted a security breach with the printers as there were also other confidential material including examination papers that were being printed at the same place. We have, however, given the political parties copies of the ballot papers and they are all happy now.
GM: Even after the issue of printing was done, some of the parties now want to be involved in the storage and distribution of the ballot paper. What is Zec’s position on this?
QM: The storage and distribution of the ballot paper is the function of the Commission. However, when we do the distribution at Provincial Command Centres the Commission will make sure that all the parties’ agents get information on the ballot papers and serial numbers sent out to each polling station. There is still some discussion regarding a request by some of the parties to be part of the team that is involved in storage. We will be making deliberations on that as a Commission tomorrow on how to deal with that.
GM: Now let us talk about the issue of postal voting. Zec came under the spotlight after the Ross Camp incident. Can you take us through what happened on the day considering there were different statements on the same issue, the same day from Zec and even from the police?
QM: The accusations regarding the forced voting of police officers in front of their station commanders at Ross Camp during the postal ballots voting is now water under the bridge. The High Court has made pronouncements and vindicated the Commission from any accusations of collusion to assist one political establishment. The Commission believes in embracive and participative decision making hence our continued involvement of stakeholders at every part of our electoral processes.
We are as transparent within the confines of the electoral laws of the country. Our observation regarding the postal votes problems at Ross Camp point at inadequate voter education on how postal ballot is applied for and sent to security forces on duty during elections day. The Commission will improve on that for the future elections.
GM: As chairman of the Multi-Party Liaison Committee, can you say there is progress in dealing with problematic issues?
QM: The Committee is designed and constructed to deal with conflictual issues through consensus. It’s not been a very easy committee to chair but I am glad that it has played its role well to contain simmering tensions and ensure there is no violence and also reach consensus on key issues that were threatening to derail the elections. Through this committee I have learnt and would like to commend political parties for being true to the spirit of being constructive and putting the country ahead of their party interests. Through discussion we have some points of convergence and consensus which will make our elections run smoothly.
GM: There are accusations that the Commission is abrasive and arrogant.
QM: That cannot be true because the Commission is a listening Commission, it is an embracive Commission, it is an inclusive Commission, it reaches its decisions after exhaustive involvement and deliberation with stakeholders. However, in its operations it remains guided by the law and will not deviate. If you want a disaster and nullification of elections, deviate from running it according to the law. You are better off enduring insults and abuse but standing firmly on the requirements of the law and also firmly of the oath of loyalty to the Constitution. If you do so, the same people that will be insulting you will be the first to come to you and commend you for being reliable and carrying yourself with integrity. However, if there are any who feel that we have not dealt with them fairly, we will not hold back from saying, we are sorry, it is never intentional, it could be pressure which comes with the job.
GM: This question is specifically aimed at you as an individual. There are allegations that you lied when you commented on the issue about Zec chairperson Justice Chigumba wearing the “ED scarf” when you said it was photoshopped but later Justice Chigumba said the picture was real albeit with explanations. What is your comment?
QM: The Zec chairperson has explained herself that the scarf she was wearing was given to her as an exhibit and for advertising of the need for national consciousness among Zimbabweans. This was done by the designers of the scarf before she became Zec chairperson and before the scarf had come to be identified as a Zanu-PF brand more that what it really is, the national identity colours as it our national colours on the scarf and not party political colours. I have no doubt that those who threw the issue into public arena knew the factual position on when and why she was wearing that scarf because after I played mind games with them that it was photoshopped they came back with information that revealed the designer of the scarf acknowledging giving it to Justice Chigumba for purposes of building national consciousness and building of a Zimbabwean identity that we all identify with. So clearly they knew she was not wearing it for any political party promotion.
GM: Your last words.
QM: Zimbabwe is for all of us and we need to keep it well and intact for generations to come. We need to work as collective to achieve the Zimbabwean dream. Let us not have elections being a divisive event in our country.
Let us allow the Commission to do its job within the law and allow Zimbabweans to vote in a peaceful and tranquil environment. So much has happened in terms of improvements of our electoral processes, we need to amplify the gains made, narrow down the negative things and keep on promoting what brings us together to be a prosperous nation. There is still more that can be done to improve our election spaces and everyone must play their part.
It may take longer than we expect but remember Rome was not built in one day. Each Commission will play its part to improve the process. The following generations will take it to a level higher. Brick by brick we will get there. For now we wish everyone a peaceful election punctuated by the spirit of melodious sound of peace and respect of our diverse views!
GM: Thank you and good luck in the running of the elections. I hope we will talk again soon after Zec is done with the elections
QM: (laughs) You are welcome.