Nelson Chamisa is leader of the Citizens Coalition for Change.

By BLESSINGS MASHAYA
POLITICAL EDITOR

ZIMBABWEAN authorities have completed instituting all the important legislative reforms to ensure free, fair and credible national polls next year, in line with Sadc principles and guidelines on democratic elections.


Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi asserted that the electoral reforms that the government had embarked on were in some cases “better” than those recommended by Sadc — thereby shutting the door on any further changes.


This comes as opposition parties have been saying there is still a long way to go before the country’s electoral playing field is levelled — while also proposing a raft of further reforms that they argue will make the 2023 polls freer and fairer.


But Ziyambi said yesterday that the government was now solely focused on implementing the electoral reforms that it had instituted.


“Between 2018 and 2022, we have been working on reforms. We unbundled the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) and provided free space to the media.


“We repealed the Public Order and Security Act (Posa) and came up with the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act, and we came up with an improved Electoral Act.


“We have another Electoral Amendment Bill before Parliament. So, we are of the view that the legislative reforms we have done put our electoral laws at par or even better than our Sadc counterparts,” Ziyambi told the Daily News.


“Our view is that it’s the implementation that now needs monitoring and focusing on. The government has put everything in place for the country to have free, fair and credible elections,” he added.


But Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) deputy secretary for elections, Ellen Shiriyedenga, said the government had a lot of work to do to level the playing field before next year’s polls.


“They submitted their Electoral Amendment Bill to Parliament and this must come under public scrutiny. The document itself is insufficient in terms of guaranteeing free, fair and credible elections in the sense that it leaves a lot of issues.


“We don’t know which reforms they are talking of and we don’t know what they wanted to implement because the Bill they submitted to Parliament is insufficient.


“There is more work which needs to be done. There is need to consult stakeholders on the issue of reforms. We will continue to use Parliament to make sure that our issues are also addressed,” Shiriyedenga said.


On his part, MDC spokesperson Witness Dube expressed the fear that the route that the government was taking would lead to disputed elections in 2023.


“The government cannot be implementing a position that has not been agreed to by other stakeholders, because that is a recipe for yet another disputed election,” he said.


This comes after President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s spokesperson, George Charamba, said recently that his boss no longer had time to meet CCC leader Nelson Chamisa, as he was now preparing for next year’s elections.


“They (senior CCC officials) are trying to meet the president, but he is now preparing for elections.

“The president has no time for that at this eleventh hour. At any rate, there is no value in meeting them.


“One can’t arrange such a meeting on the basis of the predicament of one’s opponents. You arrange a meeting on the basis of the value of that particular meeting.


“To underline the point, the president is now preparing for elections. Every sensible person, even (Saviour) Kasukuwere, who is outside the country, is preparing for elections,” Charamba said then.


“They know that they are going to suffer a humiliating defeat. So, they just want to find something to say after the elections.

‘The president has done his part and every Zimbabwean now knows that the second Republic is for development,” he added.


Speaking recently to the Daily News’s sister paper, the Daily News On Sunday, analysts also said Zanu PF had no incentive to engage the opposition and was set on exploiting all the advantages of its incumbency — meaning that its rivals had to do more to have a chance in 2023.


University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, was among the analysts who said the opposition needed to work harder and be more creative to have a chance in next year’s polls.


“Let us be very clear, after resoundingly being selected as party leader and Zanu PF’s presidential candidate for the 2023 elections, ED (Mnangagwa) has no incentive at all to engage CCC or any other opposition formation.


“In any case, what Jonathan Moyo famously said some time ago, that Zanu PF will not reform itself out of power still subsists as the ruling party’s position today.


“Indeed, the time is ripe for the opposition to think outside the box by designing strategies of winning, not because there are electoral reforms, but despite them.

“This is more strategic and meaningful than continuing to demand electoral reforms that will never come,” Masunungure said then.


He also suggested that the prevailing electoral laws still offered the opposition “some opportunities” to surprise Zanu PF if the ruling party’s opponents exploited them to the full.


“The major problem now is, strictly speaking, not about reforms, but about getting current laws enforced. If the current electoral infrastructure is observed to the full, there would be no need for any further reforms.


“So, a lot of the focus should be on the enforcement of the current electoral framework and its associated paraphernalia. This may well be a better investment of time and resources,” Masunungure said.


Professor of World Politics at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Stephen Chan, also said the government would not implement the electoral reforms recommended by the opposition and the international community.


“CCC needs to anticipate contesting elections in an unreformed system. This places the CCC at a disadvantage and the government will, in addition, seek to exploit all the advantages of incumbency,” he said.


In this light, Chan added, Chamisa needed to do more and to prepare to win the 2023 elections without reforms.


“This means the CCC has to present itself right now, onwards to the elections as a government-in-waiting. And that does mean having a front bench with identifiable portfolio-holders.


“A shadow minister of Energy Resources should right now be outlining desirable negotiating platforms with Zambia over such use of Kariba waters as is possible.


“A shadow minister of Finance should be outlining negotiating positions with international lenders over Zimbabwe’s debt,” Chan said.


“Thankfully, the Zambians have shown the way on this.

“And Chamisa himself needs to create an image that is the polar opposite to that of the crocodile (ED) and the old men around him by doing what Western politicians like (France president Emmanuel) Macron, (former United States president Barack) Obama have done to demonstrate their vigour,” he added. – Daily News