Parliamentary and civic rights watchdog, Veritas has called on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to work on building trust in order to convince all stakeholders that the July 30 elections are free, fair and credible. Veritas said that it is not enough to just conduct the elections in a free and fair way, as people need to see that the elections are indeed free and fair. Commenting on the recent controversy over postal voting which occured last week when police officers in Bulawayo Voted, Veritas said,
…statutory provisions requiring processes to be transparent and open are useless if observers don’t open their eyes and look.
An important defect in the Electoral Act is that there is no provision for postal voting by police officers and members of the Defence Forces to be observed by election observers or polling agents or anyone else. So while there is nothing wrong in police officers queuing outside a building in order to cast their postal votes – as we have noted, postal votes must be cast well before polling day – no one outside the Police Service knows if, once inside the building, the officers were allowed to cast their votes in secret. And if they were not, all the other precautions against the rigging of postal votes will be futile.
ZEC’s task is not just to conduct the elections freely and fairly but to convince everyone– candidates, parties, observers and the Zimbabwean public – that the elections are indeed free and fair. In other words, ZEC must build trust by ensuring that all electoral processes are conducted transparently. Postal voting has been controversial in past elections, so ZEC should have taken steps for voting by police and Defence Force members to be observed by accredited election observers and election agents. Although the Electoral Act does not require it, as we have said, ZEC could legitimately, under section 352 of the Constitution, have directed the police and Defence Force authorities to see that their members voted by post in the presence of observers. If ZEC had done this, the renewed controversy over postal voting would not have arisen.