By Nkosana Dlamini
ELECTION Resource Centre (ERC) executive director Tawanda Chimhini (pictured) Monday took the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ERC) to task over the latter’s continued failure to rein in political parties whose followers have been linked to continued acts of intimidation on prospective voters.
Since the start of the Biometric Voter Registration exercise September this year, Zanu PF supporters have been singled out in cases in which they allegedly demand ZEC registration slip serial numbers from those who would have registered.
Traditional leaders have also been fingered in the practice which Zanu PF opponents say was an old tactic used by their common rival to instill fear in those with no intentions to vote for their party.
Despite continued reports of the practice persisting mostly in the rural areas, ZEC has failed to come up with any decisive action to stop the rot.
Speaking during a live radio discussion on elections sponsored by ERC, ZEC Commissioner Qhubani Moyo admitted the country’s elections authority was aware of the reports but said they were hamstrung in dealing with the practice.
Asked to explain why this was the case, Moyo told the private station’s evening listenership that ZEC could only go as far as to continuously discourage those involved in the acts.
He went philosophical about the practice insisting this was inevitable in a game of politics in which opponents resort to the unorthodox to get the better of one another.
“The commission can only go so far in terms of educating people but political parties will not stop that…We have condemned the actions and we have engaged the political parties and have also come up with a Code of Conduct,” Moyo said.
“What you build when you allow people to get away with a lot of these violations is a lack of public confidence in the process people resign and say ‘we have no one to protect us’.
However, Chimhini would not allow the ZEC commissioner to get away with his comments insisting the country’s electoral authority had enough teeth in terms of the constitution to censure those involved.
“The bad part about any form of intimidation that has been associated with our election is the fact that people get away with it,” Chimhini said.
“What you build when you allow people to get away with a lot of these violations is a lack of public confidence in the process; people resign and say ‘we have no one to protect us’.
“It is not enough for the commission to simply question these political parties when clearly the behaviour of some of these political parties is undermining the freeness and fairness of the election.
“If someone violates the Code of Conduct for political parties, they must be reprimanded by the commission and this is beyond simply saying ‘we are talking to the political parties’. This is not enough!”
The opposition has often accused ZEC of being Zanu PF appendages, claims which have repeatedly been dismissed by the country’s poll authority.