HARARE – The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has invited opposition political parties to an all stakeholders indaba which they say is an attempt to stop them from holding demonstrations on electoral reforms.
Curiously, the indaba will be held on September 15 — a day before the expiry of a contentious police ban which barred pro-democracy and opposition political parties from holding demonstrations in Harare for two weeks.
The ban expires on Friday, September 16.
“Zec is inviting two representatives from your organisation to a stakeholders’ meeting scheduled for 15 September, 2016,” said the national elections’ management body in its invitations to the political parties.
“The meeting is one of Zec’s initiatives to continuously engage with
valued stakeholders and to discuss issues raised in their last meeting held in May 2016.”
Eighteen opposition political parties have coalesced under the banner of the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera), to demand reforms from Zec whose secretariat is accused of taking orders from Zanu PF.
The parties want sweeping changes to the current electoral laws and are bidding to have Zimbabwe introduce a biometric voters’ roll in the 2018 elections.
Nera convener Didymus Mutasa said the Zec stakeholders meeting will not stop them from pressing ahead with their protests over electoral reforms.
“Only two members of each party are going to attend the meeting and it’s a futile exercise on their (Zec) part,” Mutasa told the Daily News.
“Few people from Nera will attend this meeting while the rest are going to express their views through demonstrations.”
Last week police invoked Statutory Instrument 101A that bans demonstrations in central Harare. This occurred a few hours before the opposition political parties were to hold a mega demonstration in the capital.
The ban followed bloody clashes in the capital on August 26 when police defied a court order and bludgeoned thousands of protesters who had gathered under the auspices of Nera.
Zec has been accused of “packing” its secretariat with Zanu PF functionaries whom the opposition political parties accuse of manipulating ballot results to entrench President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF rule.
In 2008, Zec withheld the result of the presidential election for six weeks in which Mugabe lost to MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai who fell short of commanding an overall lead.
Tsvangirai was forced to go into a presidential run-off which he pulled from days before polling citing massive intimidation and violence against his supporters.
Mugabe went on to hold an election in which he was the sole candidate but it was dismissed as sham by the international community.