by Staff Reporter
HARARE-A hurried move by the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to amend the Electoral Act to bring it in line with the new constitution has result in the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) being made not just to inherit the Registrar General’s discredited voters’ roll, but even the Registrar General Tobaiwa Mudede himself, a legal and legislative watchdog has revealed.
Commenting on amendments to the Electoral Act being pushed by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Justice ministry, Veritas pointed out instead of making the already jumbled law useful, the amendments would make it even more confusing and hard to implement.
Pointed out Veritas: “The General Laws Amendment (GLA) Bill seeks to achieve compliance with the Constitution on this score by replacing sections 18 and 19 of the (Electoral) Act, which currently establish the offices of Registrar-General of Voters, constituency registrars and other officers working under the Registrar-General’s direction. The new sections 18 and 19 purport to confer the functions of the Registrar-General and his officials on ZEC and its officers. Unfortunately the new sections are seriously defective:
“They are unnecessarily complicated. Instead of simply saying that ZEC will be responsible for registering voters, compiling voters rolls and so on, the sections say that ZEC is deemed to have assumed the functions of “the former Registrar-General of Voters”, i.e. Mr Mudede who currently holds that office. So to find out what functions have been assumed by ZEC, one will have to find a copy of the unamended Act – i.e. the Act before it is amended by the Bill – and see what it says about the Registrar-General’s functions.
“The sections require ZEC to co-operate with “the former Registrar-General of Voters”, i.e. with Mr Mudede. This will be fine so long as Mr Mudede holds office, but when he ceases to do so, as eventually he must, there will be no one with whom ZEC must co-operate.
“The sections empower ZEC to give “the former Registrar-General of Voters” instructions to ensure the efficient conduct of elections. This suggests [erroneously, one assumes] that Mr Mudede will continue to play a role in the conduct of elections.
“The sections make no clear provision for the transfer of records from the former Registrar-General of Voters to ZEC. The sections empower the Minister of Justice, not ZEC, to make regulations providing for the resolution of discrepancies between the records of ZEC and Mr Mudede – but the regulations will not apply to discrepancies between ZEC’s records and those of the Registrar-General of Births and Deaths after Mr Mudede ceases to hold that office.”
Ideally the new-look ZEC should have compiled its own voters’ roll instead of inheriting the secretive one that has been in Mudede’s custody, but Mnangagwa foisted ZEC to inherit the old voters’ roll after it become obvious that a whole new exercise would expose glaring disparities between the resultant new roll and the old one.
Veritas has been pushing for a new Electoral Act altogether, one that would take into consideration concerns by all stakeholders.
“As Veritas bulletins pointed out… the Electoral Act still needing major amendments to bring it into line with the Constitution. We have also stressed that the Electoral Act should be replaced with an entirely new simplified Act. Unfortunately the Government has not heeded this call. Instead it has chosen to make a few amendments – not nearly as many as are needed – in the GLA Bill.”