All eyes on ZEC following voting day drama

Tichaona Zindoga

On Wednesday evening, opposition Citizens Coalition for Change leader Nelson Chamisa claimed that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission had “failed the test” after voting delays had been experienced mostly in Harare, Bulawayo and Mutare.

Chamisa, accompanied by some observer teams who witnessed his briefing of the media at a Harare hotel, claimed that the disruptions in urban strongholds were engineered.

“This is a clear case of voter suppression, a classic case of Stone Age, antiquated, analog rigging,” he said.

The opposition had other choice words for the less-than-smooth process.
He claimed that ZEC was being “handled” and that it had no real power.

“We have engaged ZEC to a point of nuisance but their hands are tied,” he said.

The cases in Harare, Mutare, Bulawayo – which authorities have since acknowledged with President Mnangagwa extending voting to today – shone a spotlight on ZEC, which itself has blamed “numerous legal challenges” for delays in printing ballot papers.

The sharp relief that ZEC finds itself in is not unexpected.

More than 6 million people were registered to vote in this election, and indications are that the polls will register another record turnout.

In the last election, in 2018, 85 percent voters cast their votes.

A similar turnout is likely to be recorded.
Apart from the proclamation by the President via a Statutory Instrument extending voting, ZEC emphasised 12 hour window given to presiding officers at polling stations.

And voters were staying put, too.
As of last night, there were numerous cases witnessed or reported of voters staying into the night to cast their votes.
The opposition leader urged supporters to stay put.

“Endure for you are going to enjoy,” said he.

It is not just the contending parties and voters that have put the weight on ZEC to deliver.

A number of stakeholders yesterday noted with concern the delays, demanding resolution of sticking points.

However, the 12 hour moratorium is likely to resolve the issues into the second day.

This is small comfort, though.
Taking lessons from the 2018 elections, when violence broke out only a day after voting over alleged delays in announcing results, the elections body will likely not sit on its laurels.

Legally, results of the election should be announced within five days.

After voting, there is counting, collation, verification and announcements, with results of Parliamentary elections starting to trickle in hours after the poll.

However, political pressure from inside and outside, as well an endless stream of misinformation, disinformation and mal-information, put ZEC in a corner.

After events of the first day, a period of calm has set in – but danger lurks dangerously on the horizon.

ZEC will do well to acquit itself faster and smarter – and every minute counts.
One of the fears for this election is the recurrence of violence and many stakeholders, from political parties, churches, civil society and the international community have pleaded for peace.

In fact, peace could be the one biggest currency the election will have, considering that breaking out of violence could mar the process and undo the work done for this election.

This was the case in 2018, and ZEC will be anxious not to be the fall guys, again.

The bigger picture is that the international community is watching, especially those that Zimbabwe would want to impress to make a good case for reengagement.

Observer missions from the European Union, Commonwealth and other missions, organisations and interests are witnessing this election.

So, too, is a large army of media drawn from over 50 global organisations.

As the referee of the process, ZEC – an independent body mandated to conduct elections and referenda in Zimbabwe – is under the spotlight.

Will it make it or break it?

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