ZEC says Mnangagwa’s delimitation proposals remain ‘private and confidential’

ZEC Chief Elections Officer Utoile Silaigwana
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THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has declined to disclose the recommendations that President Emmerson Mnangagwa (ED) made on its controversial preliminary delimitation report.

Zec told NewsDay yesterday that authority to get Mnangagwa’s views on the report publicised could only be sought from the Office of the President and Cabinet.

This has raised questions over the electoral body’s independence.

On January 23, Mnangagwa submitted his recommendations on the preliminary delimitation report to Zec, but they have remained under wraps, while Parliament’s recommendations have been made public.

When NewsDay requested for a copy of Mnangagwa’s recommendations, Zec chief elections officer Utloile Silaigwana initially demanded the questions in writing, but later said he was not authorised to release the recommendations to the media.

“You must put your request in writing,” Silaigwana said.

“But why would you need the (President’s) recommendations? This is an issue that is above us. In fact, I cannot give you, I am not authorised to give you the recommendations.”

However, constitutional law expert and Political Actors Dialogue member Lovemore Madhuku said Mnangagwa’s recommendations should be made public since he is an interested party in the elections.

“This is because the President did not make the recommendations as a private citizen, but as the President,” Madhuku said.

“The Constitution puts the President at the same level with Parliament, and we are aware that Parliament’s recommendations were made public. If he was advised properly, he ought to have gazetted his recommendations.  Zec also ought to publicise those recommendations. I would not want to attribute the secrecy to a sinister motive, but just that he (Mnangagwa) is not being advised properly.”

Observers said transparency on the communication between Zec and Mnangagwa was key in demistifying the electoral process.

“The secrecy on Mnangagwa’s recommendations to Zec adds to the questions on Zec’s credibility to run elections,” political analyst Eldred Masunungure said.

“Zec is a constitutional commission which should be guided by accountability and transparency. Communication between Zec and the President on the delimitations process — a public process — is of public interest.  The report from the parliamentary ad-hoc committee was publicised. Therefore, the secrecy on Mnangagwa’s recommendations breathes unnecessary suspicions that probably the President instructed Zec to do some machinations that will help him win elections since he is also a candidate in the upcoming election. It is also important to note that the President is in a public office.”

Another analyst Vivid Gwede said: “The gist of the matter in the delimitation process is about transparency and accountability. Delimitation is a public process that determines boundaries of constituencies and local authority wards, and it directly affects the electorate.  Therefore, every bit and piece of information of the process is very crucial for the public. It is the duty of the Presidium and the Executive to be transparent.”

Contacted for comment, Zec spokesperson Jasper Mangwana referred questions to the electoral management body’s chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba.

Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba was not picking calls yesterday.

Zec is expected to deliver its final delimitation report by February 26, but Chigumba said the commission was working towards releasing a draft report this week.

NewsDay gathers that Zec’s report will be final and will not be subject to scrutiny by the lawmakers again before Mnangagwa gazettes it, although constitutional experts argue that the documents can still be challenged in a court of law.

Zec is currently battling to deal with the fallout among its commissioners after seven out of nine of them disowned the preliminary delimitation report which Justice Chigumba handed to Mnangagwa early this month. – News Day