The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has revealed that it attracted over 100 court cases over the secrecy and controversy surrounding its handling of the August 2023 elections with some still pending.
Zec was taken to court over its refusal to release voters’ roll, controversy over the delimitation exercise, and nomination fees among others.
The opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) filed the majority of the courts’ cases as it raised various complaints against the electoral body.
Former CCC leader Nelson Chamisa has refused to accept the election results accusing the Zec of rigging the polls in favour of Zanu-PF.
Election observers also flagged Zec over its mishandling of some election processions in the lead up to the polls,denting its credibility.
In its 2023 harmonised election report submitted to Parliament last week, Zec described the court challenges as some lawfare to discredit the election management body.
Zec said the court cases derailed its preparation for the general elections, which resulted in delays in the deliverance of ballot papers in Harare and Bulawayo.
“The ballot paper and voters’ rolls for the 2023 harmonized elections were printed by the Printing and Minting Company of Zimbabwe (PMCZ) formerly Fidelity Printers,” Zec said in the report.
“The commission faced challenges in the production and distribution of ballot papers.
“These challenges emanated largely from what has now come to be called lawfare against the commission.
“The commission faced an unprecedented number of court challenges (more than 100 applications) arising from the outcome of the nomination courts.
“These court challenges derailed its preparations and road map as it sought to attend to the court challenges and to meet the proclaimed electoral timeline.”
CCC accused Zec of deliberately withholding ballot papers in Harare and Bulawayo, the opposition strongholds to assist Zanu-PF’s victory.
Voting was extended in Harare and Bulawayo as a result.
But Zec said it prioritised distant places rather than Harare, which was close to the printing company.
“The production and distribution strategy adopted by the commission prioritised the remote and more distant provinces to ease distribution challenges against limited timeframes,” Zec said.
“Thus it should be noted that delays were largely experienced in Harare because the printing and distribution was done last due to the province’s proximity to the printer.
“In a few reported cases of Bulawayo and other areas, delays were occasioned by the need to reprint ballots after it had been observed that there were errors on the ballots that had been sent to the affected polling stations.”
Zec said some of the cases that were filed during the run-up to the August 23 and 24 election were still pending.
Zec, however, said the litigious political environment was a testimony that Zimbabweans were becoming conscious of their rights.
“One will be tempted to submit that our society is becoming more and more litigious which is probably a sign that more and more people are becoming aware of their rights,” Zec said.
“However, such litigation was not without its drawbacks in the preparation for the conduct of the elections.
“Some cases are still pending before the courts, albeit many were dealt with before the polling day.
While debating the report in Parliament on Wednesday last week, Zanu-PF legislators commended Zec for managing the elections with transparency and accountability.
“There should be pre-defined periods whereby all court cases should be cleared to give the commission and the printer adequate time to print the ballots.
“The recommendation in (a) refers also to withdrawals by candidates, there should be a specified timeframe where candidates should not be allowed to withdraw in order to have adequate printing time.”