THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has excluded the opposition MDC Alliance from its provisional consultations in provinces meant to discuss electoral developments at the behest of “powers that be”, a development critics say exposes its lack of independence.
The commission is rolling out programmes to discuss, among other issues, the electoral concerns, the legal framework, the electoral cycle, voter registration, delimitation and the polling process in preparation for future elections.
It has invited other political parties, including the Douglas Mwonzora-led MDC-T.
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An internal memo indicated that Zec was waiting for instructions from unnamed authorities regarding the MDC Alliance issue.
Zec spokesperson commissioner Joyce Kazembe confirmed to NewsDay yesterday that the MDC Alliance was not invited to the critical meetings because the matter over the ownesrhip of the name MDC Alliance was still to be resolved at the courts.
“We did not extend our invitation to MDC Alliance to be part of a stakeholder meeting because the matter regarding the name MDC Alliance is still before the courts,” she said.
“Now we don’t know who MDC Alliance is before the court’s final judgment, hence we could not invite MDC Alliance. We can’t acknowledge it until the court judgment. As it stands, we await the court judgment to be able to work with MDC Alliance, just like other political parties in Zimbabwe.”
Ironically, there is no legal wrangle before the courts over the MDC Alliance name.
Cases pending before the courts only concern the leadership of the MDC Alliance as well as the recalls of the party’s MPs and councillors by the rival MDC-T faction.
Zec did not, however, explain why it singled out the MDC Alliance for exclusion when cases before the courts are between the MDC formations.
Kazembe said the electoral management body was not responsible for registering political parties, but only acknowledged their existence.
In the leaked internal Zec memo, the commission said it was awaiting instructions from “powers that be” to come up with a position on whether to invite the MDC Alliance.
“Now that we have started planning for stakeholder engagements, what is our position on MDC Alliance? We are aware that they have taken us to court and the courts do not recognise them,” the letter, addressed to the acting chief executive officer Jane Chigidji by an official on Sundudza TM, read in part.
“However, in the absence of a prompt response from the powers that be, we will not invite MDC Alliance to our provincial stakeholder meetings.”
Asked about the leaked document, Kazembe said she was yet to see it, and refused to comment on whom the commission referred to when they said “powers that be”.
“I haven’t seen the leaked document that you are talking about, but people must not be concerned about the ‘powers that be’; the powers that be are the ‘powers’.”
Pre-empting speculation that the powers that be referred to Zanu PF, Kazembe said: “Please take note, we don’t take directives from any political party, be it the ruling Zanu PF or whichever party.”
Zec, in a letter to the MDC-T dated September 22, 2021, described the indaba as “an important stakeholder meeting to be held at the Zec Harare provincial office”.
MDC-T secretary-general Paurina Mpariwa confirmed that her party was invited for the stakeholder meeting today.
“The meeting is there Thursday (today) and we will be sending one person from the province,” Mpariwa said.
The MDC Alliance said the latest development was confirmation of the lack of independence on the part of Zec and the need for electoral reform.
“We decry partisan conduct that serves the interests of the regime in Harare. The MDC Alliance is the biggest political party in the nation. There is no lawful excuse for barring it from stakeholder engagement,” MDC Alliance spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere said.
“We are the only political party that has put forward an alternative Electoral Bill. In line with our reform agenda, we have published our principles for reliable, inclusive and credible elections in Zimbabwe as an alternative to the present electoral policies that do not bode well for democracy.”
She added: “The only explanation for this unusual conduct by Zec is that they (officials) are being unconstitutionally influenced to try and decimate the main opposition to serve the interests of a few elites. The people will not allow this to happen.
“The citizens are converging for change and a resounding six million strong victory for the people’s president, advocate Nelson Chamisa.”
Political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said the snubbing of Chamisa’s party confirmed the allegations that Zec was partisan.
“It is not for Zec to determine who is and who is not a political party,” he said.
“Their responsibility is to invite political parties to their stakeholder meetings, regardless of the factions or divisions those parties may be having. Essentially, barring the MDC Alliance makes Zec an interested party in the fights in the mainstream opposition.”
He added: “They consolidate the known position that Zec is a captured institution abused for political ends by the ruling party and government.”
He said the latest gaffe exposed Zec as unqualified to run elections in Zimbabwe, and called for its disbandment.