I’m in a hot seat, says ZEC boss Makarau

ZIMBABWE Electoral Commission (ZEC) chairperson, Justice Rita Makarau, says she is “sitting on a hot seat” as her job requires her to strike an uneasy balance between transparency and vote secrecy.

ZEC chairperson, Justice Rita Makarau

ZEC chairperson, Justice Rita Makarau

Justice Makarau, who is also the Electoral Commissions Forum-DADC President, was addressing new election commissioners from Botswana, Lesotho, Zambia and Malawi in Harare, on Wednesday.

Accused by the opposition of being biased towards President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party and failing to stop vote rigging, Makarau said balancing transparency and vote protection was a difficult task during any election.

“I have always marveled at how elections demand that we be transparent and secret at the same time,” she said.

“You know what I am talking about; our processes have got to be very, very transparent but we have got to protect the secrecy of the vote.

“So it is a skill that you have got to learn and balance. When do I stop being transparent and start protecting the secrecy of the vote?”

In the first round of the 2008 elections, ZEC took almost three months to announce the Presidential vote after then Zanu PF Presidential candidate, Robert Mugabe, had lost to Morgan Tsvangirai of the opposition MDC.

ZEC, at the time, defended the delay saying they were “meticulously verifying the result” which they later said did not give Tsvangirai the outright majority win required to take over power.

A runoff Presidential vote was later called which the opposition boycotted, citing violence against its party supporters by Zanu PF militia.

Mugabe and his party then romped to a stomping victory in the 2013 election which ended the coalition government but the opposition rejected the result, accusing the now 92-year-old leader of cheating.

Makarau said there were times when transparency could be compromised for vote protection, and challenged the electorate “to bear with the election managers when such things happen”.

“We may laugh but we need to understand at each and every stage the guiding principle; the underlying principle why we do certain things in a particular way.

“Why do we have to be transparent at one stage and have to be secretive at some other stages,” she said.


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