Zimbabwe Citizens Initiative rallies behind the March 22 Nera demonstration on BVR kits

National Electoral Reform Agenda (NERA) is a grouping of Zimbabwe's opposition parties fighting for electoral reforms. This coalition of 13 political parties has been instrumental in organising peaceful demonstrations to push for the implementation of the electoral reforms in time for 2018 elections.

The required electoral reforms are aimed at improving and levelling the playing field in Zimbabwe ahead of the crucial harmonised 2018 elections. Only a United Nations Development Program UNDP) facilitated Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) procurement can achieve this.

The cash strapped government has suddenly decided to hijack the BVR procurement process effectively elbowing UNDP out. This is suspicious because the government pledged only 17 million of the 59 million required for process while the UNDP pledged the balance.

The prescribed process is that observers should be invited to monitor the procurement, tenders presenting their bids through UNDP facilitated process, and other important BRV process. It now looks like the government wants to appoint and award the contract to acompany that they can manipulate.

In response to this development, NERA adopted a two pronged strategy to enforce it’s stance on electoral reforms. The first was calling for a press conference on which they announced their intention of calling for mass demonstrations, whilst the second was through direct engagement with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) as it should be totally independent.

The countrywide demonstrations were the brainchild of social movements such as  Tajamuka #thisflower and # thisflag and the National Vendors Association (NAVUZ) which single handedly also organized the mass protests that followed. The success of these demonstrations showed the power of social media in terms of educating the electorate. NERA hopes to capitalise on these gains.

Through negotiations NERA,  extracted a number of concessions from ZEC. These included the construction of a new fresh voters roll through the BVR system, invitation of observers to monitor the tenders, procurement and deployment,  a transparent, an inclusive voter education program and regular meetings between ZEC and the political parties through the ZEC-Political Parties Platform among other things.

One important agreement was that the procurement of the BVR kits would be handled by ZEC through the UNDP. Consequently, a joint advertisement was placed by the UNDP and ZEC calling upon all potential suppliers of these kits to place their bids. These bids were digitally managed at the UNDP offices in Copenhagen, Denmark and this was witnessed by both ZEC and the NERA political parties. It was further agreed that once the winner of the tender was declared, political parties would second their technical experts to inspect these kits.

The sudden controversial announcement by the ZANU PF government derails the internationally recognised principles of inclusivity and accuracy. This means that the Political parties and other stakeholders such as academics and civil society will therefore not be able to monitor the process as previously indicated.

NERA is totally rejecting this move because it is designed to enable the government to manipulate the procurement process. Thus the ZANU PF government will also be in a good place to manipulate the 2018 election process. In other words this move marks the beginning of the rigging of the 2018 elections.

All the Zimbabwe activists and citizens are therefore called upon, to rise up and resist this manipulation. We should stand in solidarity with NERA as they organise a nationwide demonstration planned for the 22 of March 2017 to show the people’s outrage at the prospect of this political abomination.

Together we can make the necessary noise that will trigger attention from regional and international observers to get these reforms. This rigging

The 22nd of March is indeed a very important day for Zimbabwe. It is the day that Zimbabweans are called upon to rise up against the government’s move to take over the BVR kits procurement process. This move by the ZANU PF government is designed to manipulate the voter registration process thereby influencing the outcome of the 2018 general elections whilst the opposition are busy mauling each other.

Zimbabweans should never allow a situation where the election results are always contested.  This should not happen again considering it has happened on at least 5 elections. The only solution to Zimbabwe’s problems is a credible election. It is  our time to take action over the running of our country and provide an environment in which our people are governed  better. It is time get rid of whispering so that we make our Zimbabwe great again.

NERA should appeal to all Activists, members of the oppositions regardless of party affiliation and to ordinary Zimbabweans to be part of this great demonstration. We must not be afraid of the pain that comes with demonstrations otherwise we will never be able to liberate our people if we fear pain. We now know that although ZANU PF is brutal and cruel, the dictator is shaken and is now afraid of the Zimbabwean people.

The hungry and ill paid security services will not be able to arrest thousands, however they may use their usual heavy handed tactics. We call upon every activist to mobilise the people for this big day. We must continue to demand a clean and fair election and we shall get one. Together we will be heard. If we want a better Zimbabwe, victory has to be certain

Voter education, especially in the rural areas, is required as is activist education to counter corruption and vote buying. We need to learn to embrace our diversity but for 37 years since independence ZANU PF has taught nothing but intolerance. Let us refuse this.

Kingdom Jambawo is  a member  of Zimbabwe Citizen Initiative a globally-diverse platform of Zimbabweans with a deep passion for the conditions in our country whose mission is promote participatory democracy by providing technical and financial support to social movements in Zimbabwe and providing a platform for all citizens to openly hold government official accountable.

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