Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Zimbabwe Herald Editorial Comment: NERA Must Play Ball, Not Cry Foul
September 14, 2016
Opinion & Analysis
Zimbabwe Herald

ZIMBABWE’s political landscape allows for the participation of many parties and it is not mandatory for them to be registered. There is no registration framework required for anyone or a group of people to form a political party in a democratic Zimbabwe.

Political parties can emerge or turn up at national events to contribute their penny’s worth at such occasions. Any such grouping, small or obscure, pushing a political agenda, can stand on the same platform with Zanu-PF, MDC-T, ZimPF because they are all political animals. It does not matter the size or popularity of the party, or whether those claiming to be popular know it or not.

We thus find complaints by political parties under the banner of the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) describing some parties as “bogus” very unfortunate and misplaced because the fact that the media has not written about such parties does not take away their existence.

The political field is not a monopoly of those who oppose the government of the day. There are no barriers to entry or exit. Political parties can thus emerge today to participate in a specific cause and disappear tomorrow.

This is what Nera needs to appreciate before describing other parties, unknown to them, but known to their constituency, as bogus. There is no such thing as a bogus political party in Zimbabwe given that there is no registration requirement.

Politics is unlike fields such as engineering, law or medicine where there are councils and associations that provide the registration framework for practice. The Law Society of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Medical Association and the Zimbabwe Council of Engineers are some of the bodies that can describe practitioners as bogus or otherwise, because they have a registration framework.

Any practitioner who performs his/her duties outside of the framework can, after a fair hearing, be struck off the register.

This is not so with political parties and it is something we expect Nera to know. They can only begin to describe other political parties as bogus if, as parties, they come up with a Political Parties Society of Zimbabwe, which can only happen in their dreams.

Only when you have such an association can you begin to describe other parties as either bogus or genuine, otherwise for now we assume all parties that attended the Zec/Nera meeting on Tuesday to represent a legitimate constituency.

Without registration requirements, Nera has no legal basis to question the genuineness or otherwise of any party. It is also interesting that Nera only brought up the issue of bogus parties after it had been outsmarted during voting.

Putting electoral reform issues to the vote was in the true spirit of democracy, which Nera claims to be fighting for. But, as has always been the case, Nera could not concede defeat and instead found a scapegoat in the so-called bogus parties. This has become almost standard reaction; when they win the vote is free and fair, when they lose the vote must have been stolen. What a warped notion of democracy.

We also believe it is high time Nera enlightened the nation on the specific electoral reforms they are demanding. We have got to a point now where the electoral reforms chorus has increasingly become meaningless, especially in the absence of what it is exactly they want reformed when most of the issues were negotiated into the new Constitution.

Further, statements by MDC-T secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora that they would proceed to hold 210 planned street protests clearly show that Nera was engaging in bad faith with Zec.

While Zec was committing time and resources in the hope of finding common ground, Nera members must have been mobilising members for violent street protests.

We now doubt that they have anything they want reformed besides avoiding elections.

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