Transparency and Accountability- missing ingredients to Zimbabwean Elections

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Transparency is a key element of good governance. It is the basis of good governance. Vishwanath and Kaufmann (1999) and Kaufmann (2002) defines transparency as the “increased flow of timely and reliable economic, social and political information, which is accessible to all relevant stakeholders”. Bellver and Kaufmann (2005) underscore that the information provided should also be accessible, relevant, of good quality and reliable

According to the National Democratic Institute (NDI), transparency is a key principle for credible elections. A transparent election process is one in which each step is open to scrutiny by stakeholders (political parties, election observers and voters alike), who are able to independently verify the process is conducted according to procedures and no irregularities have occurred (ibid). Providing transparency in an election helps establish trust and public confidence in the process, as voters have a means to verify the results are an accurate reflection of the will of the people (ibid). Norris and Nai (2017) in a comprehensive and insightful research book entitled Election Watchdogs- Transparency, Accountability and Integrity underscores that ”

“to be effective in strengthening the integrity of electoral governance,  transparency ideally needs to be accompanied by accountability (identifying the underlying reasons for any incidents of electoral maladministration and responsibility for any flaws that occur) and also mechanisms ensuring compliance to improve performance (including the use of incentives and sanctions)

Hood (2013) as cited by Norris and Nai (2017) argues that without accountability, information about electoral flaws and failures can commonly be ducked by bureaucrats and politicians through blame avoidance. This is true of my country Zimbabwe where the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is facing a tough time in responding to some of the questions on reported cases electoral malpractices. Norris (2017) argues that in the field of electoral governance, openness about the rules and procedures, outcomes, and decision processes used by electoral authorities builds public trust, improve policymaking, and facilitate accountability.
It is important to note that transparency in elections is not the end in itself but the means to an End. The End is a peaceful election and not the violence that we are witnessing in Zimbabwe today. Certainly, the END is the election of a responsive and responsible Government, one that respects the fundamental rights of its citizens. A Government that provides a conducive environment allowing citizens to pursue their goals and happiness. The kind of Government that does not unleash the military to deal with protestors as is the case in present-day Zimbabwe.  All such actions are an indicator that our recent elections lacked transparency and accountability. The kind of transparency that instils faith and trust in those competing and those supporting. The kind of transparency that also cultivate faith and confidence in the outcome of the elections by all parties.  This is the missing ingredient to our elections and it explains why were are in this political quagmire.

Perhaps one could argue that the lack of trust that the MDC Alliance has with ZEC due to lack of transparency and accountability is the main reason the Alliance was demanding for credible information in the form of voter photos from Zimbabwe Electoral Commission prior to the July 30 elections. Indeed as the Commonwealth Observer Mission led by Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama noted, the demands by the MDC Alliance were justified and there remain justified to date.

The Election Resource Centre (ERC) in their pre-election assessment report highlighted that with respect to the July 30 elections

A myriad of challenges remains including limited transparency and accountability in election administration, undermined independence of the election commission, intimidation of citizens by traditional leaders and lack of guarantees of no interference by the military

The European Union Election Observation Mission Preliminary statement on the Zimbabweans elections reads

Improved political climate, inclusive participation rights and a peaceful vote, but un-level playing field, intimidation of voters and lack of trust in the process undermined the pre- election environment. We now hope for a transparent and traceable results process

The Joint election observation mission delegation of the  International Republic Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in their preliminary statement on Zimbabwean elections they recommended for

the ZEC to take immediate steps to ensure the public of its independence and political impartiality by completing the vote tabulation process for all Presidential, Parliamentary and Local elections in an open and transparent mannerincluding publishing and updating its Excel spread sheet populated with polling station results ……

These statements by the Observers do confirm the lack of transparency in the July 30 elections.  The lack of (Electoral Transparency) in its true form, not window dressed form is thus an indication of more challenges and problems to come that will sadly befall Zimbabwean citizens. After today’s event in Harare where the army is alleged to have opened live ammunition on protesting MDC supporters with some dying in the process, my fear is that the lack of electoral transparency will destabilize the country.

Jokingly l commented on my facebook page that I am glad am not from Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe (UMP) 3 districts from which the ruling party has been receiving astronomical votes. I guess the issue ain’t about UMP as a geographical area but rather the issue is about electoral transparency and lack thereof. UMP just happens to be one of the few remote areas where the lack of electoral transparency is likely to have impacted negatively not on the outcomes of the elections as well as leading to the political turmoil that Zimbabwe is heading towards.  A video is circulating on social media (WhatsApp and Twitter) of a truck carrying ballot boxes. In this video, protesters can be heard discussing ballot boxes that have no name(s) of their polling station(s) and no copies of V11. see video below

The picture below has also been circulated on social media and it shows a huge anomaly in the voting slips from the voters roll. That picture clearly shows how details on one individual (Muzanenhamo Brighton- ID number 59 101772-F47) were registered twice in the voters roll in two different constituencies Goromonzi and Chitungwiza. Hypothetically details of this individual could have been used to vote twice or even more depending on the number of voter registration slips were produced. In light of this shocking evidence, one can’t help but ask why ZEC was reluctant to share with the opposition a voters photos. An analysis of the voter roll which was done by Wes Beal on behalf of The Standard newspaper revealed serious anomalies on the voters’ roll.  The analysis brought to fore evidence showing how eight people are registered under a fictitious address in Harare’s Highlands suburb and as such they will vote in five different constituencies in the capital despite the fact that the elections would be polling station-based. Investigations by The Standard that involved searching Harare City Council records showed that address, 3 Kew Drive in Highlands, does not exist, but eight people used it to register to vote during the BVR process that began last year. They will vote in Glen view North, Harare East, Harare West, Kuwadzana and Harare Central (ibid).  Read the full story on https://www.thestandard.co.zw/2018/07/01/voter-roll-fiasco-fictitious-addresses-missing-names-raise-eyebrows/.

 

The other picture below shows another worrying fact with regards to the voting and lack of transparency. In that picture of the alleged V11 form from Gore Village in UMP, the handwriting of the President Officer and the Witness is a red flag. The handwriting of the Presiding Officer (Usavi Abel) and the Witness (Muyambo David) is so identical. It this just coincidence. I leave the reader to conclude

Maybe and l argue maybe from day 1 we accepted a flawed voters roll with the 5 million registered voters. Maybe the 5 million figure is an inflated figure which sought to accommodate the likes of the many Muzanenhamo Brighton. Indeed there is a need for electoral transparency in Zimbabwe. Had there been transparency no one would have protested against the outcome of these elections. Had there been transparency l don’t think the outcome of our elections would be in dispute as is the case right now. Why can’t ZEC be transparent as recommended by the observers? At the point of writing, there is a growing dispute over the  21% of the V11 forms that ZEC is alleged to have withheld.   There is a need for all interested parties -Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, in particular, to respect and implement the recommendations of the Observer missions. The foreign observer missions cited in this paper, as well as the Zimbabwe Election Support Network and the Election Resource Centre, all recommend for ZEC to improve on electoral transparency through publishing credible, reliable information timeously.

Farai Mutondoro writes in his personal capacity. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author

Farai Mutondoro is a governance, democracy, human rights and policy expert with over 7 years’ experience in the nonprofit sectors of livelihoods, natural resource governance, service delivery, transparency and accountability and anti-corruption. He has experience in strategy review and implementation, project and programme design, implementation and management, risk analysis as well as developing communication and information materials such as policy briefs, media statements, fact sheets info graphics and videos. Farai has managed various governance studies assessing the drivers, impact and extent of corruption on key sectors to the Zimbabwean political economy such as mining, land, state-owned enterprises, service delivery and climate finance. Farai is also a good presenter and training expert having presented and facilitated dialogue at such national, regional and international platforms as the 2015, 2016 and 2017 World Bank Land and Poverty Conference, 2017 Australia Africa Research Forum, 2017 Namibia Anti-Corruption Commission Extractive Industry Strategic Review, Zimbabwe Parliamentary Committee Trainings on Transparency and Accountability well as the International Anti-Corruption Conference.

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