…Zec chair Chigumba battles revolt by commissioners over cars and contracts
SERIOUS questions are being raised about the fitness of seven Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) commissioners to run the forthcoming general elections after they rejected a controversial delimitation report done by the body which they work for, rendering themselves redundant in the process.
This comes as it emerged the seven Zec commissioners who have revolted against their chairperson Priscilla Chigumba are at loggerheads with her over their employment contracts and conditions of service, including cars, The NewsHawks has established.
The commissioners concerned include Rosewita Murutare, Kudzai Shava, Jane Mbetu-Nzvenga, Shepherd Manhivi, Abigail Mohadi, Jasper Mangwana and Catherine Mpofu.
Only Rodney Simukai Kiwa, deputy chair, is supporting chairperson Chigumba.
The other commissioners wrote a letter to President Emmerson Mnangagwa rejecting the draft delimitation report for reasons which have not yet been clearly established, but their move has triggered queries about their motives and suitability to manage elections.
Questions are being asked how they are going to run elections on the basis of a delimitation report which they have already rejected.
“Recognising the need to guarantee the integrity of the delimitation process through non-deviation from considerations that are laid out under section 161 (6) of the Constitution,” reads the letter in part.
“Further recognising that the 2023 harmonised elections should be conducted in the next few months, and the need for the constitution to create a voters’ roll that resonates with the new boundaries. This is impossible with the remaining time.
“Concerned that the current draft delimitation proposal does not meet the minimum standards expected regarding transparent procedures that strengthen stakeholders’ confidence and dispel potential gerrymandering allegations; and further concerned that the current delimitation proposal is not people centred and not in an understandable format; we hereby resolve to put aside the current draft delimitation proposal except as a reference point for a proper delimitation process to be conducted and wholly guided by commissioners after the 2023 harmonised elections.”
While the delimitation report has since passed through Parliament, Zec commissioners remain a source of concern to stakeholders who now ask how they run elections if they do not believe in the delimitation process. Top of the commissioners’ grievances is the non-issuance of service vehicles and contracts. Zec commissioners want to be full-time like other constitutional commissioners.
Only Chigumba and Kiwa are full-time.
Zec is an independent Chapter 12 institution established in terms of section 238 of the constitution of Zimbabwe. It is responsible for the management and administration of the country’s electoral processes.
The body has nine commissioners Officials at Zec told The NewsHawks that there were divisions in the commission, with some members saying Chigumba is not pushing hard enough for their grievances to be addressed.
“The divisions contributed to the seven commissioners disowning the delimitation report which was handed over to President Mnangagwa on 26 December,” said a Zec official.
The report however generated an outcry from stakeholders amid concerns it had grave errors, including Zec’s failure to stick to the 20% variance threshold in populations of respective constituencies.
Many stakeholders say the delimitation process was heavily skewed in favour of Zanu PF, while some ruling party legislators were unhappy after losing their constituencies.
Following the uproar, the commissioners wrote a letter to Mnangagwa recommending Zimbabwe go to the polls using the 2008 electoral boundaries, given the limited timeframe to correct anomalies.
In conclusion, the commissioners resolved to “put aside the current draft delimitation report except as a reference point for a proper delimitation process to be conducted and wholly guided by commissioner after the 2023 harmonised elections”.
Chigumba refused to comment on the commissioners’ demand for cars and employment on a fulltime basis, saying the matter was best answered by their employer — the Office of President and Cabinet.
Zec chief executive officer Utloile Silaigwana referred questions on contracts to the employer.
He said the spokesperson of the commission, Mangwana, was best placed to comment on vehicles.
Mangwana denied that commissioners were sulking over cars.
“That’s incorrect information. Zec commissioners are happy with the conditions of service given to them by the appointing authority,” he said.
Asked specifically if the commissioners had raised concern over vehicles, Mangwana said: “There is no issue of conditions of service raised by the commissioners that I am aware of. Commissioners already have vehicles issued to them for use.”