‘Govt remains committed to free and fair elections’
Pamela Shumba, Senior Reporter
GOVERNMENT remains committed to creating a conducive environment for the holding of free and fair elections and referenda in the country as provided for by the Constitution, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa said yesterday.
In a speech read on his behalf by the Deputy Attorney General, Mr Kumbirai Hodzi, at a Bulawayo hotel during a stakeholders dialogue on the Election Resource Centre’s petition to Parliament, VP Mnangagwa said Government was also committed to adhering to regional and international guidelines and principles relating to the holding of free, fair, peaceful and credible elections.
His remarks were part of his response to the Election Resource Centre (ERC) petition to Parliament regarding the alignment of electoral laws to the Constitution.
A two-day stakeholders’ dialogue on the petition was held in Bulawayo over the weekend.
The petition, which was presented to Parliament in September 2015 expresses concern at the slow pace at which the legal reform process is being implemented since the promulgation of the supreme law in 2013.
The ERC, in the petition, implores the executive to uphold the Constitution by ensuring that the country’s electoral laws are reviewed in compliance with the provisions of the superior law.
The issues raised in the petition include the independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), political environment, voter registration and voters’ roll, voter education, the right to vote, the electoral court, election observers and delimitation.
VP Mnangagwa, who is also the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs said his ministry will look into the issues raised, with the view to coming up with a perfect electoral law going forward.
“The provisions of the law are common cause and it is the extent to which these are reflected in our legislation and implementation that is crucial for us as a ministry and the petitioners I believe.
“We have so far, as a way of giving effect to implement these provisions, enacted the Electoral Amendment Act of 2014, which incorporates the constitutional provisions pertaining to the Zec. This has led to financial autonomy of Zec in terms of receiving direct support from the Treasury in terms of Sections 11 and 12 of the Act and the Paris Principles of Institutional Independence,” said VP Mnangagwa.
The appointment of the Commissioners, he added, has been done with Parliamentary oversight.
He said if there is a need to expand the voting process to the Diaspora, the ministry will stand guided and maybe redefine what a constituency is in terms of that envisaged electoral law.
“As far as our laws are concerned and the extent to which this right is conferred by our legislation, we feel that our laws are adequate as they confer a right to every Zimbabwean who wishes to vote in a constituency defined by the Constitution.
“What we do as the administering ministry is merely to listen and channel the electoral laws along the law making value chain and wait if Parliament will approve it. If it does then some will celebrate and some will cry foul, and the same goes if it doesn’t win support by relevant law making authorities,” said VP Mnangagwa.
On voter education, the VP said there is no provision that militates against voter education by civic society.
“This is notwithstanding that there is no express provision that arises from the Constitution that directly gives such other players space for voter education other than Zec, except of the Chapter 4 provisions which confer the right to participate in political and civic (for example Section 67 of the Constitution) processes,” said the VP.
He commended the civic society for their continuous monitoring of the constitutional, legislative and administrative measures pertaining to the implementation of electoral processes.
“We surely cherish their democratic foot print in research, advocacy, and monitoring, lobbying, whistle blowing and in extreme cases demonstrating, picketing and petitioning as it is within their right,” he said.
He said the law clearly states that the invitation of election observers is an exclusive function of Zec.
“Section 239 (i) confers this mandate to the Zec. The preamble, sections 5, and 40G-40J of the Electoral Act give effect to this right. When we crafted these provisions, we strongly believed that the involvement of other ministries and agencies of Government is to the extent to which they are indispensable in the diplomatic processes that automatically come to the fore in accrediting these observers.
“Thus, the Office of the President and Cabinet and that of Foreign Affairs naturally become part of the accreditation process. It is not true that the majority of the members are executive members. The opposite is true on the ratio of 5:4 in favour of non-executive members,” said VP Mnangagwa.
The two day workshop was attended by the Speaker of the National Assembly Advocate Jacob Mudenda, the president of the chief’s council Senator Chief Fortune Charumbira, the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Mr George Charamba, the chairperson of the University of Zimbabwe Department of Public Law Professor Lovemore Madhuku, committee members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and senior officials from various civic organisations.