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Tsvangirai's MDC mulls elections boycott

by Staff reporter
31 Jan 2013 at 07:45hrs | 3696 Views
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC will boycott forthcoming elections if Zanu-PF-aligned spies working in the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) secretariat are not flushed out.

MDC secretary-general Tendai Biti told reporters on Tuesday that President Jacob Zuma's facilitation team has already been notified of the boycott plan.

Biti said the staffing of the Zec secretariat - which the party says is stuffed with intelligence and military officials - was a matter of grave concern to the MDC.

"We are not going for polls if these hooligans are the ones still in charge of running the elections," Biti told a news conference. "It is well that observers are going to be sent to monitor the elections.

"Our position is Zec should be allowed to recruit its own staff, keep the competent members and give the golden handshake to those failing to do their jobs."

The lawyer-cum-politician said the opaque staffing at the electoral commission remained one of the outstanding issues.

"We are not victimising the Zec staff but the new Zec board should be allowed to recruit staff and grade them and retain employees they see as gems for the organisation," he said.

Biti said as a labour-backed party, the MDC was not insisting that Zec workers be dismissed but that there be transparency in everything taking place at the commission.

Biti, who is also Finance minister in the coalition government, said the MDC was glad that the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) was sending in observers for the forthcoming referendum scheduled for March.

"It is our wish that they stay until elections. We will give them farms so that they stay, and continue monitoring the situation," he chuckled.

He said the new Constitution expected to sail through when the referendum is held, will speak on a number of issues that can affect the holding of free, fair and violence free elections in Zimbabwe.

"In the past it was difficult to register to vote as people were asked to get letters from the headmen or landlords but the new Act has liberalised that. The new Constitution further calls for the announcement of the election results within 48 hours and the results will be posted outside the polling stations while all candidates will get soft copies of the results," said Biti.

Tsvangirai is said to have presented an ultimatum to national facilitators to immediately reform the Zec secretariat during a meeting held on Tuesday.

"We cannot have the same people that made us wait for three months without an election outcome preside over the board, it does not make political and economic sense."

A top research institute Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI), has condemned the Zec secretariat which it said remains wholly unreformed that it cannot be trusted to deliver free and fair elections.

Biti said an unreformed Zec falls into Zanu-PF's plot to hoodwink the region and pretend that there are free and fair elections, "when the electoral context, environment and administration are crafted to deliver a pre-determined outcome of regime retention and continuity."

The MDC is also demanding an electronic voters' roll. Biti claims his party will sue the registrar general to compel him to use an electronic voters' roll, saying it was the only way to ensure transparency during the upcoming elections.

"We do not hope it comes to that, but if it does, we are ready to go to court so that an electronic voters' roll system can be installed. We have with us the minister of technology, so installation of the desired device is not a challenge," Biti said.

The registrar of voters, Tobaiwa Mudede has rejected similar calls by the smaller MDC led by Welshman Ncube to adopt an online voter registration system to get more youths to register, arguing his office has inadequate checks and balances to detect electoral fraud.

Biti however said his party was not going to the polls in an un-digitalised environment as it would open avenues for rigging.

"This is a requirement we want met, not because we are trying to be difficult, but we are sure it will narrow down cheating chances," Biti said.

He described this year's elections as "watershed" comparing them with those held in 1980 when Zimbabwe gained its independence.

However, he said the MDC will continue calling for major reforms before elections are held in order to ensure that there is no repeat of the kind of violence that took place in the country in 2008 after Zanu-PF suffered a crushing defeat during the March 2008 polls.

The MDC said there should be security of the vote, security of the voter, a guarantee for the security of the people's will, implementation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) in full and all other agreed positions including the implementation of regional and international standards on democratic elections.

"We are very clear on these four issues. We can have elections tomorrow but if there are no reforms it will be one step forward and 20 steps backwards and we will have a similar situation like we had in 2008," said Biti.

He said the MDC was concerned by the increase of political intimidation, violence and arrests taking place across the country.

"That is why we are saying that Jomic (Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee) must be empowered at province, district and ward levels. This will help in mitigating violence," said Biti.

He said the coming elections should be held under the 2004 Sadc principles and guidelines governing democratic elections and that the MDC expected non-governmental organisations and the media to do their work without being harassed.

"The transfer of power in the next elections will be respected. We are tired of always being on the agenda of Sadc and as the MDC we are juiced up for the elections."

Biti said as the Finance Minister, he had received instructions from the principals, Prime Minister Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe to source funds from the international community for the coming elections as the government could not fund the process.

Biti said elections will most probably be held in July before the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) conference in August, though the dates will be announced by the principals.

Source - dailynews
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