Games that Institutions Play – Opening the ZEC Pandora Box

There is an adage which reads, what is good for the goose is good for the gander. As we near the 31st July election, a plethora of events are unfolding at an extraordinarily swift pace. Disturbingly so, after having held a chaotic special voting exercise for the uniformed forces the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has managed to massage the reality by apportioning blame over its inefficiency as played out in the marred special voting exercise held on the 14th and 15th of July respectively. It has however, blamed the late disbursement of funds from the treasury, printing hitches by the assigned printing company amongst a plethora of other logistical hiccups.

Be that as it may, it came as a surprise that ZEC is now filing for the extension of the Special vote to the ConCourt, so as to allow the uniformed forces to vote with the fellow voting citizenry on the 31st of July. In the words of Joyce Kazembe (ZEC’s vice chairperson) , ‘it would be ‘unfair’ to disenfranchise police officers and other people who could not cast their votes because the commission was responsible for their failure to vote’ (see http://www.newsday.co.zw/2013/07/24/zec-goes-to-concourt-over-special-vote).One can also be forgiven for asking, Isn’t this the politics of ‘deception’ and ‘exceptionalism’ at play.

Furthermore, we need to ask ZEC loudly and emphatically what has changed? (Why didn’t ZEC) approach the same ConCourt seeking for the extension of the voter registration? (An exercise which unfortunately) ended amidst calls, cries and stiff resistance by the opposition political parties, civic organisations and citizens more particularly those who were (formerly and legally) deemed aliens. Is ZEC playing games with the citizenry? WHY didn’t ZEC echo the same – that it would be ‘unfair’ to disenfranchise fellow deserving and eligible prospective voters. An eminent international relations scholar Huizinger notes that ‘from childhood to adulthood human beings play games’ – I also add, so are institutions. According to RAU (2013) Research paper, 2 million eligible and potential young voters under the age of 30 were left unregistered – hence they have been systematically disenfranchised so to speak (see the Paper entitled, Key Statistics from the June 2013 Voters’ Roll).

Basing on the aforementioned arguments, one may ask, Is ZEC playing games with the citizenry? What has become so special about the special voting? Isn’t this a rendition of another fictional Animal FARM? Were ‘some’ animals become more equal than others. When an institution cherry picks the law – resultantly the law will act as a sword rather than a shield to put it in Albie Sachs’ words. On the other hand, can we also rely on the Zimbabwean judiciary given clear indications that the judges usually hand on activist judgments on all electoral related cases judging from the cases that have been brought before the bench as from the year 2000 – to date. I therefore foresee the ConCourt ruling in favour of ZEC. It is within such a context, that we need to dissociate the ‘living law’ from the ‘living politics’ surrounding ZEC and the broader Zimbabwean electoral framework and processes. Definitely, we can’t bury our heads in the sand any longer! The myth of the judges as ‘independent’ people who are not influenced by the politics of the day is not only mischievous but misplaced.

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