Tinomuda Chakanyuka, Senior Reporter
THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has dismissed as unfounded continued claims by opposition political parties that the commission had employed serving military and intelligence personnel who are working hand in glove with Zanu-PF to influence the outcome of next month’s election demanding proof from those that are saying so.
MDC Alliance spokesperson Professor Welshman Ncube recently claimed, in an interview, that the forthcoming harmonised elections would not be free and fair as Zec was “militarised”.
Prof Ncube told Sunday News that demilitarisation of Zec was one of his party’s electoral reforms demands “to ensure a credible election”.
However, Zec Chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba last week challenged anyone with evidence of serving military personnel working at Zec to come forward with the proof.
In a telephone interview, Justice Chigumba said employees at Zec with a military background had retired from the army over seven years ago and were employed by the commission on merit.
She said Zec, whose staff complement consists of less than 15 percent of former military personnel, had not recruited anyone in past five years.
“I have been on record on many occasions that the former military personnel at Zec are no longer serving members of the military. They retired from service a long time ago. They applied for posts at Zec and they were interviewed for these jobs. All of these joined some seven year ago and Zec has not recruited for the past five years or so,” she said.
She added, “We have called upon anyone with evidence that a serving military person is working at Zec to come forward with that information and we act on it. I have challenged people to bring the evidence so that we kill the matter but no one has been able to bring forward such evidence.”
Justice Chigumba said the employment of former military personnel at Zec was done above board as they possessed the requisite qualifications and met the selection criteria.
She said the said employees were Zimbabweans and entitled to apply for any job anywhere in the country after retiring from the army.
“These people are Zimbabweans and are entitled to find work elsewhere after leaving the military. There is no good reason why Zec should not hire them if they have the qualifications and meet the criteria. Why should we deprive our brothers and sisters of employment simply because they served in the military before,” she asked.
Prof Ncube, in his claims that Zec would not deliver credible elections also alleged that Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba was the only person who participated in the decision to select the printer and other Zec commissioners were not consulted.
“Why is it that only the chairperson participated in the decision to select the printer? Why are all the other commissioners we talk to even unaware who the printer is, how the printer was selected?” he quizzed.
Justice Chigumba, however, again quashed the claim as unsubstantiated.
“I don’t want to comment directly on who said what or who did not say what, but selection was done in line with the Procurement Act, whose provisions are very clear. This was all done through the Procurement Authority of Zimbabwe, so no one person participated in the process,” she said.
Despite claims of lack of transparency at Zec, the commission has invited political parties to observe the printing of ballot papers.
Justice Chigumba said the decision to have political parties observe the printing process was meant to foster transparency.
“Zec has sat down and decided that in order to build consensus and foster principles of transparency, we saw no prejudice in coming up with modalities that provide for the monitoring of the printing of ballot papers,” she said.
Zec is, however, not obliged by the law to invite political parties to observe the printing of ballot papers.
Section 52A of the Electoral Act (Chapter 2:13) compels Zec to provide political parties, candidates and observers information regarding where and by whom ballot papers are being printed or have been printed, the total number of ballot papers printed, and the number of ballot papers distributed to each polling station.