Of Polad efficacy, elections and missed opportunities 

by | Dec 19, 2021 | Local News, Politics | 0 comments

 

Hosia Mviringi

When the Political Actors Dialogue (POLAD) was launched, the invitation was extended to all parties in the country.

The idea was that even those who could not prevail in polls have a role to play in development matters, departing from a winner takes all approach.

Some political players, especially Nelson Chamisa of the MDC-Alliance outfit have repeatedly rejected calls to join the platform, casting all sorts of aspersions.

However, in time, POLAD has shown its efficacy. Those who described it with scornful language must be turning green with envy on the periphery.

In their final Declaration on Electoral Reforms which was issued at the end of their decisive meeting in Harare yesterday December 17, 2021, the platform called for the comprehensive amendment of the Electoral Act as a pre-condition for any elections in Zimbabwe.

The forum’s Legislative and Governance Committee is convinced that no free and fair elections can ever be held under the current Constitutional provisions which they say hinder free participation of political parties and individuals in electoral processes.

Chamisa and his acolytes continue to tweet about electoral reforms, while others get to do the actual hard work which has strong potential for results.

 

“Zimbabwe must move to the proportional representation electoral system. All election related laws must be in the Electoral Act. Funding of political parties must be widened to promote a multi-party democracy,” said POLAD in a communique.

They called on the Political Parties Finances Act to be extended to also cover smaller political parties.

This statutory anomaly is deemed to be an impediment to growth of political parties for full political participation, and an affront to democratic inclusion.

The Political Finances Act aims to provide for the financing of political parties by the State and to prohibit foreign donations to or funding of political parties and candidates, a provision which is deemed to be in the best interests of national security and stability.

Under the current constitutional provisions of the Electoral Act, only those parties whose candidates garnered a minimum of five percent of votes are eligible to receive funding from the Consolidated Revenue Fund which is administered by the Finance Minister.

This is a major bone of contention for POLAD as they feel that all political parties, regardless of size need to be nurtured in the spirit of democratic inclusion. Noble demand it is.

 

POLAD is recommending the pooling of all election-related laws under the Electoral Act for ease of administration.

Yet, the forum is demanding an end to the over regulation of political activities during election campaign season especially the period between proclamation to polling day.

They are demanding that police interference be kept to a bare minimum in the spirit of upholding the democratic right of citizens to freedom of movement, association and assembly.

They are demanding that Police cease to be the final arbiter who decide whether or not a campaign rally takes place to not because it is a democratic right enshrined in the constitution.

This is deemed to be a pre-requirement for an uncontested election result.

Notable in the demands paper is the inclusion of braille in the production of election material to cater for the visually impaired constituency of the society.

This, together with improved access to polling centres by people living with disabilities will improve exclusivity in the electoral system.

On Freedom of the Media, POLAD is demanding that the Electoral Act allow for publication of election results by the press which would have already been published and displayed at polling centres. This, they argue, is because such results would have long become public material at the time of their display.

Freedom of the media is one imperative whose provisions must be enshrined in the Electoral Act for avoidance of any ambiguity.

POLAD is demanding that the 30 percent female quota which was enshrined in the Constitution through an amendment be included under the Electoral Act before the envisaged elections.

Government, through the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Act number 2 of 2021 extended the life of proportional representation of women in the House of Assembly by another 10 years following the expiry of the provisions in December 2021.

The forum is demanding universal access to public media by all participating political parties and candidates to the effect that each party must be accorded a slot within a mandatory 2-hour episode set aside for political messages each day.

This is envisaged to entrench media exclusivity of all political players thus giving equal exposure to all participants.

Friday’s meeting presented a golden opportunity for all concerned political actors in the country to make an input towards holding of comprehensive and acceptable elections which leave no room for contestation of results.

Of course it is important to note that the MDC Alliance and its leader Mr Nelson Chamisa have once again forfeited a golden chance to make a difference and influence electoral processes ahead of elections.

 

All the talk about reforms will amount to nothing until one makes those demands in a well-structured manner that allows for systematic review of processes and procedures.

What it means is that when all has been said and done, only those parties that contributed their input will have the moral ground to complain if the demands have not been met.

What remains now is to see if the electoral reforms can be successfully implemented in time ahead of the elections, starting with by-elections early next year.

This should serve as a lesson to young political players, when platforms are created, wisdom is to participate and try to effect changes from within.