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to GNU principals on ZEC's refusal to accredit some local NGOs
Zimbabwean Civil Society Organisations
March 12, 2013
Robert Gabriel Mugabe
Munhumutapa Government Offices
THE REFUSAL BY THE ZIMBABWE ELECTORAL COMMISSION TO ACCREDIT SOME
NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATIONS AS OBSERVERS, CITING “ONGOING
INVESTIGATIONS BY THE POLICE”
the above matter refers.
We, as Civic
Society Organisations (CSOs) operating in Zimbabwe and fully abiding
by the laws of this country, wish to categorically advise that we
can no longer overlook or accept the continued harassment of our
members and consequent criminalisation of our legitimate activities.
We wish to place
on record our collective outrage at the refusal by the Zimbabwe
Electoral Commission (ZEC) to allow our fellow CSOs to accredit
as domestic observers ahead of the constitutional
referendum scheduled to take place on 16 March 2013. The refusal
was reportedly on the grounds that the said organisations were “under
criminal investigations” and need to produce proof of acquittal
before their applications for accreditation can be considered.
It is our unequivocal
contention that ZEC acted outside the purview of its constitutional
man-date, in presuming to assign guilt to parties who have not been
pronounced guilty in competent courts of law and who should, for
all intents and purposes – including the purpose of accreditation
to observe the referendum, be presumed innocent, until proven otherwise.
In light of
this specific instance, and the incessant and well-documented harassment
of CSOs that has preceded the referendum process, we wish to notify
you as a Principal of the Inclusive
Government, and as a custodian of this constitutional process,
that we will urge our members to withdraw completely from observation
of the referendum process en masse, if members are cavalierly barred
from accreditation without lawful cause.
We are disturbed
by ZEC's actions, particularly as the affected organisations were
clearly acceptable as “ COPAC's agents” in terms of
popularising and educating people on its draft, but are suddenly
not acceptable as mere observers of the process of voting on the
We respect ZEC
and value its independence in carrying out its mandate, but believe
that this decision is not only dependent on some unknown quantities,
but is ultra vires the Constitution
of Zimbabwe, and flies in the face of the age old understanding
of presumptive innocence and the constitutional right to protection
of the law.
We are convinced
that the decision by ZEC to bar organisations like the Zimbabwe
Human Rights Assocation from accrediting to observe the referendum
- particularly when such organisations have historically never had
a challenge in accrediting to observe similar processes in the past
- is an indication of underhand machinations at play that go beyond
the operations of the institution itself. It is not totally unforeseeable
- particularly when considered in the context of the blitz of the
last few weeks - that the bulk of CSOs can be placed under police
investigation ahead of the elections, and be barred from carrying
out their organisational and patriotic duties of observation and
participation in civic process, based on such spurious “charges”.
find it necessary to take a stand on the above matter specifically,
and also on the need for political parties and Government to guarantee
the non-victimisation of CSOs as a means of facilitating peaceful
political processes including the referendum and subsequent elections.
We will be awaiting
a public reversal of this unlawful ZEC decision by close of business
on Wednesday 13 March 2013 and a swift return to compliance with
the Constitution and the Referendums Act, Electoral
Act and relevant regulations. If it does not materialise, we
will have no option but to take the regrettable step of placing
your high office, and ZEC, by copy of this letter, on notice, that
we will proceed to mobilise our members to withdraw from observation
of the process and put into motion various actions that we deem
to be an appropriate response to what we see as ZEC's ludicrous
stance on the accreditation of ZimRights and other organisations
in similar circumstances.
It is common
cause that the region and continent at large is invested in ensuring
smooth and lawful processes for the referendum and upcoming elections,
which must comply with national laws, as well as regional and continental
guidelines and good practices. The action by ZEC puts the last four
years of the Global
Political Agreement and the positive work of the Inclusive Government
at great risk, and we trust that the Principals will take swift
action to ensure that this has not been in vain.
Crisis in Zimbabwe
For and on Behalf of The CSO Heads of Coalitions and Networks
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