For some time now, the buzz word has been Zimbabwe is holding watershed elections this year yet despite this excitement, no one knows actually when.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa is by law empowered to proclaim the election dates and until he does so, civic groups, opposition parties and by extension, the national election management body – the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) as well as prospective voters – keep speculating.
It is fair for everyone involved to have an idea of when the elections are held and only the powers-that-be, in this case, Mnangagwa, has a duty to proclaim the dates in time to allow proper planning by those involved.
This is not limited to Zec only but all key constituencies such as the civic groups involved in voter education and voters, both domiciled here and the Diaspora.
With Mnangagwa’s government ruling out the Diaspora vote, it is only fair that he should announce the dates within time that should be deemed reasonable by those in the Diaspora who might have the resources to travel and vote back home.
But most importantly, announcing the days on time gives everyone involved, from the ordinary voters to Zec, the ample time that is needed to prepare for free, fair and credible elections.
Zimbabwe has had a long history of contested election results amid consistent claims of ballot cheating. The country cannot and must not remain on this path.
Apart from the actual voting day, there are other electoral processes that have to be attended to and these include inspection of the voters’ roll by eligible voters, nomination and registration of presidential, Parliament and council contestants.
Also, Zimbabwe needs to comply with the regional norms and guidelines on elections which include giving equitable coverage to all the political parties contesting the elections.
The country needs to move away from the era of former president Robert Mugabe where the country consistently attracted negativity in preparations of its national elections and in their aftermath.
Mnangagwa has cast himself as a reformer and should act consistently with the picture that he has shown the world — that of a man charting a new path.
It is time that he breaks away from the past and truly show all those doubting his reformist message that he is indeed a man set apart from Mugabe and the old Zanu PF way of doing things.
He should announce election dates on time.