The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has dismissed as uninformed reports that it was captured by the executive arm of government after it failed to stand firm on by-election dates.
This comes after the electoral body has received criticism from various quarters including law expert Alex Magaisa for confirming the indefinite suspension of by-elections Vice President Constantino Chiwenga who doubles as the Health minister.
Blocking the by-elections, Chiwenga cited the prevalence of the coronavirus pandemic but some view the suspension as a political strategy with nothing to do with the novel virus.
ZEC chairperson, Justice Priscila Chigumba, speaking in Darwendale Tuesday at a training workshop for journalists organised by Zec, said the commission was just an administrative body with no power whatsoever to make policy or challenge the Executive. She said:
When you go and look at the Constitution and the Electoral Act, only His Excellency, the President, can announce the date of by-elections. He does that by gazetting it. He only does that in consultation with us. We do not have a mandate where we can stand up and say by-elections will be conducted tomorrow. There is a piece of paper that is signed by His Excellency to say he has consulted us, he has consulted other stakeholders, he in his considered view agrees that by-elections can be held on such and such a date.
It is my very considered view that this is not a reflection of a lack of independence on the part of Zec, if by independence you mean Zec should willy-nilly proclaim election dates which it has no power to do, then I would say it’s premised on the lack of understanding of the Electoral Act and the Constitution.
Zec has been criticised particularly by opposition political players and their supporters over allegations of lack of independence.
MDC Alliance, in particular, claims ZEC connived with the ruling ZANU PF to manipulate results of the 2018 presidential election in favour of President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The by-elections were meant to fill posts left vacant mainly by MDC Alliance legislators who were recalled by MDC-T interim leadership.