The drama unfolding after the nullification of the presidential election by the Supreme Court has occupied us for most of this week. But it is the happenings and fallout within the IEBC that has been the centre of focus.
First, the commission gazetted the date of the election despite protestations from NASA. Second, the IEBC chairman set up a project team to manage the October 17 election, which team has been rejected by NASA and Jubilee.
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NASA insists that those they say are responsible for bungling the previous election must be fired while Jubilee argues that the team set up by Chebukati includes partisan individuals. Third, the IEBC chairman wrote an explosive memo to the CEO Ezra Chiloba, requiring him to explain failings of the commission during the August 8 election. Notably, several commissioners have distanced themselves from the actions of the chairman.
In my view, the unfolding drama puts into question the October 17 date for the fresh presidential elections and further complicates the uncertainty we are experiencing as a country.
To my mind, there are three questions worth exploring even as we watch the drama unfold. First, did the IEBC commissioners know about the 'failings' in advance? Two, will the commission in its current state be able to organise the election? And, three, if the commission succeeds in organising the election, what kind of election will it be?
Regarding the first issue, I find it curious that the IEBC chairman, in his memo to the CEO, has raised questions regarding the failure of the election even before the Supreme Court has issued a full ruling on why they nullified the election.
This suggests that the IEBC was aware of the failings in the preparations for the election but did not take remedial action. Even more surprising is the fact that it seems to have gone to court completely unprepared to defend itself against such accusations.
The IEBC did not receive the best defence during the Supreme Court hearings. One must wonder whether this had to do with it not providing its lawyers with adequate information to defend it. When the dust has finally settled, the question of exactly when they knew about the failings and what they did about it must be revisited and addressed.
Secondly, the evident fallout between the commissioners, with two emerging centres of power, is as worrying as the attempt to create a second centre of power within the secretariat.
We may perhaps survive the divisions in the commission but I don't see how we will be able to deal with the issues at the secretariat level within the strict timelines before the next election.
For instance, by raising queries with the procurement of electoral materials for the August 8 election, the chairman is opening up to the possibility for fresh procurement. Thinking back to the challenges they faced in the lead up to the previous election, is it practical to start fresh procurement processes?
Furthermore, while the idea to set up a new team to run the election may appear like a solid strategy, it is unlikely to succeed in doing anything better. In fact, we may end up with a worse situation than the previous one. For one, the team would require more time to gain the necessary competence to run the electoral process. In any case, since the IEBC has one accounting officer, it is unlikely that the new team will be able to get much done without the support of the current CEO.
Third, even if the commission limps along in the next few weeks and manage to deliver an election on October 17, how different will the election it conduct be from the one it conducted last month? The actions of the commission after the election have only served to further discredit it. I will not be surprised that when the dust has settled, it will be called to answer for the acts of omission and commission.