Speaker of Parliament Honourable Jacob Mudenda has lashed out at the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association for being under-represented at the ongoing two day Parliamentary Interface conference being held in Bulawayo.
The conference dubbed, “Promoting Public Involvement in Parliamentary Business” has brought together civic society, traditional leaders and executive institutions.
The speaker of parliament said all institutions invited are expected to be represented at the highest level and should take parliament business seriously.
Honourable Mudenda inquired the whereabouts of the two heads of the organisation by name and was not amused by their absence.
ZEC is led by Justice Rita Makarau and Mr Okay Machisa is the Director at Zimbabwe Human Rights Association.
The conference is focused on civil society electoral reform petition presented to the conference led by the Justice Legal and Parliamentary Portfolio.
Honourable Mudenda said the electoral reform process must be guided by the country’s constitution adding that the reform process must not be rushed and is surprised the petition comes 4 years after the new constitution and 12 months before the next general election.
He said the process must be driven by patriotism and respect for Zimbabweans and the constitution.
Honourable Mudenda castigated politicians to stop politics of the purse where those with money can buy themselves through funding their campaigns and bribing the electorate.
Honourable Mudenda said the electoral law system must look at democracy within political parties where chefs can decide who goes to primary elections questioning their democracy and what should the law say.
He said voter education is important as over the years a small number of people has been voted as compared to the number of registered voters.
A representative of ZEC who made a presentation on behalf of the institution told the meeting that Justice Makarau is currently out of the country on assignment.
On violence during elections, ZEC highlighted that there is no authority to police or punish offenders saying the petition calls for a peaceful environment.
ZEC said there are arms responsible for this, which in this case is the police.
On ZEC’s independence, the body said reporting to the Minister of Legal, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs has not compromised their independence.
The electoral body noted that they operate within the law and will continue to do so under any laws or alignments which parliament may push or come up with.
The ZEC representative who is a commissioner said the electoral body is committed to working with stakeholders whenever the need arises following complaints that they have closed doors on stakeholders engagement.
President of the Chiefs Council, Chief Fortune Charumbira said chiefs embrace all ‘children’ regardless of whatever political parties they come from.
He said this in response to calls for a code of conduct to ensure chiefs remain apolitical.
Chief Charumbira said the chiefs position in the democratic process should be clarified.
“In other countries like Britain the Queen has a clear position where anyone who wins an election should be granted the permission to form the next government by the Queen. In Zimbabwe the role of a chief in this regard is not clear,” said Chief Charumbira.
He said, on the code of conduct, the constitution in section 287 outlines the integrity of traditional leaders and that can be used to come up with a code of conduct for chiefs.
“We only read such issues in the newspapers,” he said.
The Chiefs Council president said chiefs are the stockholders of the nation and want to see the country progressing democratically.
He challenged the civic society to be independent in civic education as much as they demand ZEC to be independent in voter education.
More details to follow: