There have been several news articles misrepresenting Veritas. Whether they have criticised or congratulated Veritas for taking cases on election matters, the implication has been that we are doing it for political reasons or to hamper ZEC’s ability to run elections.
These suggestions are without any foundation whatever. They would not merit a response except that they raise several points that need to be made very clearly:
- Veritas is not affiliated with any political party: It is an independent organisation that prides itself on being impartial and in promoting law and constitutionalism in a truthful, accurate, objective and totally non-party-political manner. We are confident that the many Zimbabweans and organisations familiar with our work know that to be so.
- Veritas emphasises that in bringing the court cases it is not acting at the behest of any political party or local or foreign organisation. Our sole concern is to ensure that the forthcoming elections are free, fair and credible and conducted in accordance with the Constitution and the law. So long as those criteria are met, Veritas will accept the result as all patriotic Zimbabweans should, no matter who wins.
- The particular case referred to in one of the state newspapers was a case to enable more people to do voter education. In no way was it meant to embarrass the President, as suggested by the newspaper. In fact the case was lodged on 9th November before he came into power. The delay has been caused by the courts.
Nor was the case meant to involve ZEC with additional expenses – we had in fact discussed the case with ZEC and the Ministry of Justice months ago and made clear that it was in the interests of free and fair elections. Veritas has in fact been working to bring our electoral law and practice into line with the Constitution since the Constitution came into force in 2013. And our intention has at all times been to improve the chances of the coming election being accepted as free and fair and credible.
Why Veritas is Taking Election-Related Court Cases
The Election must be held in accordance with the Constitution
Chapter 7 of the Constitution lays down criteria for elections in Zimbabwe. If conditions for the Elections do not meet the constitutional criteria they are invalid because the Constitution prevails over all other provisions. Unconstitutional provisions must be identified and declared invalid by the courts so that they do not undermine the forthcoming elections.
Reduce the number of post-election challenges
If the elections are in harmony with the Constitution it will reduce the number of electoral petitions and other challenges brought after the elections have been held.
Ensure the Legitimacy of the Elections
The Constitution requires elections to be free, fair, transparent and verifiable. Zimbabweans require this too. If elections are not held in accordance with the Constitution they will not be regarded as credible, and the government’s efforts to attract investment and revive the economy are unlikely to bear fruit.
ZEC Need Not Oppose Every Electoral Challenge
The Constitution requires ZEC to conduct elections in accordance with the Electoral Act but it has not given ZEC power to make or to change the Act. That is the function of Parliament. ZEC is usually cited as a respondent in electoral cases, but this is simply because ZEC is an interested party. It does not mean that ZEC should always contest the cases. If a case involves interpretation of the law and the Constitution, it is not really ZEC’s concern since ZEC cannot control what the law says.
Hence if a person goes to court challenging the validity of a provision of the Electoral Act, it is up to the Attorney General’s Office or the Ministry of Justice to oppose or not oppose the challenge. ZEC is an independent constitutional commission and should preserve its impartiality at all costs. ZEC’s course is to abide by the decision of the court: that is to say, to leave it to government to contest the challenge and to act in conformity with whatever the court may decide. In that way ZEC will remain impartial and will avoid incurring heavy legal costs.
Note: The court papers for all Veritas’ court cases can be found on our website.