Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter
Existing laws do not give the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission powers to resolve conflicts between and within political parties, the commission’s chairperson Justice Rita Makarau has said. Justice Makarau said this in her presentation on the topic “Zimbabwe Electoral Challenges, the new Constitution, Reforms, ZEC and the Elections Roadmap,” at the National Defence College on Thursday.
“Elections by their very nature generate conflicts,” she said.
“A robust, efficient and effective conflict resolution mechanism is essential in enhancing the integrity of any electoral system.
“The Zimbabwean electoral conflict resolution mechanism, whilst elaborate, is highly fragmented and does not give the commission adequate powers to police the political environment.”
Justice Makarau said ZEC had no role to play in intra-party conflicts, but continued to receive reports from political parties on the issue.
“The commission has no role or mandate to investigate and adjudicate over intra-party conflicts,” she said.
“Political parties, however, still lodge their reports and complaints with ZEC and when we decline to assist, we are labelled as biased or ineffective.
“ZEC has the constitutional mandate to ensure that the political environment is peaceful and conducive to the holding of a fair election. This broad constitutional mandate has created the impression that ZEC has the all-embracing powers to stop political violence and, where it occurs, to punish the political parties guilty of initiating political violence and to protect those at the receiving end of political violence.”
The ZEC boss said there were a number of bodies mandated to deal with cases of violence which they could not supervise.
She said these include the police, the courts, the prison services, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission.
“There are many players who all have a role to play in preventing and resolving conflicts and their fragmented mandates must feed into the mandate of ZEC which, however, has no authority over these other equally independent constitutional authorities,” said Justice Makarau.
“But more importantly, whilst there is a code of conduct that must govern the conduct of all political parties during an election and to which they dutifully subscribe, this is more of a code of ethics than a code of conduct, as there are no sanctions for breaching the code.”