By Nhau Mangirazi
Citizens have been challenged to play a critical role in monitoring forthcoming elections so that they are not disputed.
Ninurai Jena, a civil rights activist made the remarks recently during a Civic Education and Sensitization Forum hosted by Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI) in Karoi.
It was attended by civic organizations representatives from Mashonaland West.
The meeting was held under the theme ‘‘Creating a sustainable community-based citizen oversight agency and agents used to track and monitor public conduct of duty-bearers and exert accountability pressure to facilitate a democratic transition via elections.’’
Jena said it is imperative that civil society demands service delivery from service providers without fear.
‘‘When campaigning for public office, the bearers make a binding relationship with the electorate that they will help and act as facilitators for development. If refuse is not collected in your ward, just go and dump it at your elected councilor’s house premises and just monitor how long it will take without being collected. This is the power that your vote wields. Public officers must work according to their mandate on behalf of general citizens so that our rights are respected,’’ said Jena.
He added that it is every citizen’s right to education, shelter, clean and potable water, and food security among others.
‘‘We can only achieve this if we make public officers accountable to us. As we move towards next year’s general elections, citizens have a role to play in monitoring elections through well-documented evidence of poll violations. Whatever is being done, the Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) must do it according to the law. Let us understand electoral laws and how they are implemented. As citizens, we want credible, free, and fair elections,’’ said Jena who has two decades as a civil rights activist.
He has monitored elections locally and regionally.
He is also a journalist.
Stanford Nyatsanza, the ZDI programs officer said the meeting was aimed at strengthening policy formulation and implementation through public policy debate in Zimbabwe.
‘‘We need a culture of critical debate on public affairs among Zimbabwean citizens to develop the nation regardless of political differences and ensure it is shaped locally through information and knowledge,’’ said Nyatsanza.
He added that there is a need to stimulate citizen participation by strengthening the capacity of state and non-state actors in undertaking research and analysis of public policy.
‘‘We aim to ensure that there is the direct participation of women and youths in public policy formulation and implementation,’’ he said.
Some participants said distribution of free farming inputs was being done selectively around both rural and urban areas in Mashonaland West and the nation at large. Others called on ZEC to increase public awareness campaigns to the electorate on the delimitation exercise.
The meeting was an interface from civic society, politicians, civil society, student organizations, and other democracy defenders from the province.
It aimed at addressing challenges and gaps in implementing electoral reforms and charting the way forward as well as the best strategic plan of action for government, political parties, and democracy defenders.
ZDI aims to create a strong and sustainable community-based citizen oversight agency to track down, monitor, and report the public conduct of duty bearers.
‘‘Zimbabwe elections are disputed but lack evidence from suspected cheaters and those who claim to be victims of cheating. It is high time that citizens give us the real story so that elections don’t scare away potential investors to develop our country,’’ said Nyatsanza.