By KITSEPILE NYATHI
The United States is piling pressure on Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa to implement electoral reforms as the southern African country prepares for crucial by-elections in March.
Zimbabwe will hold 133 by-elections to fill vacant National Assembly and local government seats after President Mnangagwa early this month lifted a two-year suspension of polls due to Covid-19.
In 2023, Zimbabwe will hold general elections where the 79-year-old leader will be seeking a second full term.
The US embassy in Harare says the post Robert Mugabe administration has failed to live up to its promises to create an environment that is conducive for “free, fair and credible elections.”
It said it will be using social media to push the authorities in Harare to reform and ensure that future elections are credible.
“Many continue to question (the independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, ZEC),” the embassy said on Twitter.
“(Zimbabwe electoral reform) means allowing the ZEC to fulfill its constitutional mandate without political interference.
“To ensure ZEC independence, Zimbabwe electoral reform would allow the ZEC chairperson to freely meet and consult political parties contesting elections and prohibit interference from outside entities such as the ministries of Justice, Home Affairs, and the Cabinet.”
The US said there was also a need for security forces to stay away from Zimbabwe’s electoral processes.
“Zim’s constitution enshrines the principle of a (nonpartisan Zimbabwe Defence Forces) subordinate to civilian authority.
“Zimbabwe electoral reform means defence forces must not intimidate voters or interfere in election administration.
“Instead, they must protect the constitutional rights of all citizens.”
The American embassy added: “Zimbabwe electoral reform means the government stops directing traditional and local party leaders to use humanitarian aid to pressure citizens to vote for a specific party.
“The Zimbabwean constitution guarantees the government will treat all persons equally and fairly.
“And yet partisan distribution of humanitarian assistance, agricultural inputs, and other public services in exchange for votes continues.”
After the 2017 ouster of Mr Mugabe, who had ruled Zimbabwe for nearly 40 years, the US maintained that it would only restore normal relations with Harare after it implements electoral and political reforms.
President Mnangagwa’s government said the tweets by the US embassy amounted to interference in the country’s internal affairs.
“I am just wondering how the US State Department would respond or feel if the Zimbabwean embassy in Washington were to tweet about the US army,” said government spokesperson Nick Mangwana.
“Even if they were to tweet on actual condemnable behaviour in Iraq and Afghanistan. What’s good for the goose should be good for the gander.”
The US slapped sanctions on Zimbabwe nearly two decades after accusing the government of electoral fraud and human rights violations.