ZESN begins engaging parliament over poll reforms

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By Bulawayo Correspondent

POLL-BASED NGO, Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) says it has begun engaging parliamentarians on the need to refine the country’s controversial electoral laws through incorporating suggestions proffered by different observer missions that witnessed Zimbabwe’s July 30 elections.

Speaking at a media briefing in Bulawayo on Friday, ZESN programmes co-ordinator, Ellen Dingane said the election watchdog recently approached Clerk of Parliament, Kennedy Chokuda for some advice on how her organisation could effectively influence lawmakers to make use of valuable input from local and international observer mission reports.

“In our report, we have proffered a number of recommendations and we have also done a matrix of recommendations by other observer missions such as European Union, African Union, Carter Centre and SADC.

“We have taken those recommendations to the Clerk of Parliament where we also want to get advice on how we can engage parliament effectively in ensuring that the recommendations that require parliament’s attention are taken on board in this current parliament,” said Dingane.

She said they had a fruitful meeting with parliament’s administration head.

Dingane said key issues of concern highlighted in most observer mission reports included the need to do away with partisan food distribution by political players, abuse of state resources for campaign purposes and voter intimidation.

She said her organisation also raised the issue of biased reporting particularly by the public media.

Apart from the negatives, Dingane said ZESN also noted some positive interventions by Zimbabwean authorities, particularly on the partial amendment of the Electoral Act and the crafting of a political parties code of conduct.

“During our meeting, we highlighted both the gaps and positives,” she said.

“We commended the parliamentarian in the previous parliament for at least amending the electoral act though there is still room for more amendments.”
This comes after President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has persistently rowed with the opposition over electoral reforms and alleged bias towards the incumbent by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).

ZEC chair Priscilla Chigumba, once described as arrogant by then presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa of MDC Alliance, has been singled out for rebuke by Zanu PF opponents on alleged failure to observe impartiality in running the country’s often divisive polls.

Chigumba has pleaded her innocence while saying she was being unfairly targeted by her critics for being a stickler of the country’s laws.

The High Court judge has instead challenged the opposition to use its current parliamentary presence to influence legislative changes in the direction of their longings in order to enjoy them during future polls.