caught off guard

Zimbabwe: Main opposition party CCC could run out of time as election date set week earlier

By Farai Shawn Matiashe

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Posted on June 6, 2023 10:50

 © Zimbabwe opposition party leader Nelson Chamisa of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) casts his ballot during by-elections in March 2022. (Photo by Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP)
Zimbabwe opposition party leader Nelson Chamisa of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) casts his ballot during by-elections in March 2022. (Photo by Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP)

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa has set 23 August for the polls, leaving Citizens Coalition for Change with only three weeks to complete its internal candidate selection process.

But CCC spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere tells The Africa Report their candidate list will be ready before 21 June.

The proclamation of the election date for presidential, parliamentary, and municipality elections by Mnangagwa last Wednesday comes amid a delimitation report and voters’ roll marred by errors.

New system to select candidates

CCC, using a new system of candidate selection, is yet to announce its successful members of parliament and councillors despite launching the process in April.

There was reluctance on the part of some Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) strategists to hold the election at all, says Stephen Chan, a professor of World Politics at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).

“However, bringing the election date a week forward – when everyone was expecting 30 August, including some CCC planners, does seem to be a deliberate decision to catch out the CCC, which should have completed its candidate selection process some time ago but has not,” he says.

The concern is that in the absence of a robust process, they might end up with multiple candidates in certain areas, hence this will be a test for CCC’s methodology, says Piers Pigou, a Southern Africa programme head at the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa.

“The nomination date gives CCC two to three weeks to finalise its internal processes before the nomination court sits,” he says.

“It is going to be a defining moment for the main terms of their approach of strategic ambiguity to see whether they are able to present the nomination court with a set of selected candidates around which there will be minimum contestation.”

In comparison, the ruling Zanu-PF held its internal elections in March, completing its selection process which was reportedly dominated by vote buying and vote rigging.

“Our internal processes are well within the limits set by the law and we will have a full candidate list by the date Nomination Court will sit,” Mahere tells The Africa Report.

Zimbabwe heading for an unfair election

Following the proclamation of the election date by Mnangagwa, all voter registrations and voter transfers close in 48 hours.

Yet the Electoral Amendment Bill is still before parliament, indicating that Zimbabwe is heading towards elections without reforms again.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) opened the voters’ roll for inspection at the end of May and it is a bad state.

Hundreds of people have found that their names have vanished from the voters’ roll while others’ names were moved from their usual polling stations without notice, as required by the law.

In terms of the Constitution, when an election has been called no amendments to the electoral law will be effective in the upcoming general election, says Musa Kika, a human rights lawyer.

“Parliament can still proceed and work on whatever amendments it wants to make on the Electoral Act but those amendments will be for the subsequent election,” he tells The Africa Report.

Kika says it is impossible to change the electoral law in time for this election, even through a statutory instrument or a general notice.

At the weekend, ZEC was overwhelmed with complaints as people flooded their offices seeking to correct the anomalies.

Vanished voters

On 29 May, CCC filed a complaints report at ZEC headquarters in the capital, Harare.

“As the Citizens Coalition for Change, we have noted serious anomalies in the voters’ roll that have been laid out for inspection by the public. A reflective sample across all 10 provinces in the country have indicated numerous errors of commission and omission which indicate deviations from the Constitutional standards of a credible voters’ roll,” reads part of the letter addressed to ZEC chairperson Priscilla Chigumba.

Some of the complaints include that the registered voters that had been appearing on the Biometric Voter Registration system online inspection platform are suddenly missing from the current online platforms and the voters’ roll under inspection.

This is not the first time that people’s names have disappeared from the voters’ roll. In 2013, hundreds of thousands of voters, mainly in urban areas dominated by the opposition party, failed to find their names on the voters’ roll and could not vote.

Pigou says two months should be enough time for CCC candidates to campaign, but their only challenge could be resources and penetrating rural areas that are Zanu-PF strongholds.

“Our campaign and grassroots mobilisation started immediately on our formation. This saw us penetrate rural areas and establish roots for the movement in all 36,000 villages before Zanu-PF realised what had hit them. We have carried out similar mobilisation in urban areas,” says Mahere.

ZEC has refused to release the voters’ roll despite numerous calls by the opposition and civil society groups.

Given the election date has been proclaimed the country is going to elections with a defective voters roll, Kika says.

“Opposition parties, civil society, and the media have not been given a voters’ roll. That is a big issue and we are likely then to find ourselves in an election whose outcome will be challenged and will be lacking in terms of credibility and fairness,” he says.

2 October has been set as the date for a run-off if it is needed.

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