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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Zimbabwe Civil Society position statement after Maputo Special SADC Summit
    Zimbabwean Civil Society Organisations
    June 19, 2013

    Executive Summary

    We Civil Society Leaders gathered here in Johannesburg, South Africa want to commend SADC Heads of State and Government for taking a stand in support of the constitutionally guaranteed liberties and rights of the people of Zimbabwe. We highly commend The Maputo Communiqué resolution 8.6 that ‘urged the three parties to the GPA to undertake immediate measures to create a conducive environment for the holding of peaceful, credible, free and fair elections’. As Civil society we want to congratulate SADC for reiterating our long-standing position that there is need for the implementation of critical reforms before the forthcoming harmonized elections in Zimbabwe. We also acknowledge the Maputo resolution 8.5, which urged “the Government of Zimbabwe to engage the Constitutional Court to seek more time beyond 31 July deadline for holding the harmonized elections. We are of the same view that the 31st of July deadline has literally retrogressed efforts towards the creation of a conducive electoral environment to ensure the holding of credible, free and fair elections in Zimbabwe. The role of SADC in monitoring the progress and compliance of the Inclusive Government remains essential and imperative for the conduct of free and fair elections. It is our belief that it is only through implementation of the framework guaranteed by SADC and AU that Zimbabwe can be able to have free, fair and peaceful elections whose outcome will be respected by all political players, SADC and the AU.

    For Zimbabwe to hold credible, free and fair elections the following fundamental concerns need to be urgently addressed and implemented:

    1. Operating Environment for Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and Human Rights Defenders (HRDs)

    The ongoing and intensifying clampdown on CSOs and HRDs remains a matter of great concern. Between October 2012 and April 2013, police have detained and or arrested a total of 681 HRDs. Of the 681 HRDs, 360 were from CSOs and only 20 have been prosecuted. Lawyers providing legal aid to CSOs and HRDs have also been obnoxiously targeted to unsettle the sector and instill fear through threats, arrests and prosecution based on frivolous charges.

    The assault on CSOs has been strategic, intentional, well-planned, and well-resourced and implemented by state apparatus.

    In the past 8 months several coalitions and networks of CSOs representing over 500 000 members have been targeted and criminalized based on flimsy and trumped up charges.

    2. Media

    Media practitioners and journalists continue to be harassed through attacks from senior politicians, unlawful arrests and threats of closure.

    Journalists continue to operate in a repressive environment. The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA), Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act and Official Secrets Act continue to be selectively applied.

    These laws need to be urgently realigned to the New Constitution.

    The public media is partisan, unprofessional and inaccessible to some political players and civil society. In full defiance of the GPA, it continues to churn out partisan propaganda and hate speech.

    3. Election management and administration

    We note with concern, the abuse of the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act by the President of Zimbabwe to subvert the legislative functions of Parliament in effecting the changes to the Electoral Act.

    As civil society we are dismayed by the usurpation of the Parliament’s legislative function by the President.

    Despite the fact that ZEC has limited capacity and resources to conduct effective voter education and registration, the exercise remains exclusionary and chaotic. Given that we are now 8 days into the 30-day constitutionally mandated voter registration period and 42 days before the holding of harmonized elections (based on the 31st of July election date unilaterally decreed by the President) we are concerned that ZEC has not accredited or announced any civil society organization to conduct voter education.

    Onerous provisions in the Electoral Act regarding the provision of voter education have been used to exclude CSOs and criminalize their lawful work.

    We note with concern the disenfranchisement of the eligible voters that could ensue due to the limited time frame being allocated for the purposes of inspecting the voter’s roll. Additionally the synchronizing of the voter registration and the voter’s roll inspection could disadvantage many eligible voters.

    4. Security sector

    In violation of the constitution of Zimbabwe and SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing the Conduct of Democratic Elections, security service chiefs continue to deploy military personnel in communities to intimidate and harass dissenting voices.

    The concerns raised above constitute a threat to SADC and AU’s efforts towards ensuring that Zimbabwe holds a credible, free and fair election, which guarantees peace and stability in the region. We commend the SADC Facilitator to the Zimbabwe Political Dialogue for recommending that there be reforms to do with our security sector before the forthcoming elections.

    We kindly urge SADC to ensure that the Government of Zimbabwe fully implements the following minimum conditions as guided by the SADC resolutions of 10 May 2013 (in Cape Town) and 15 June 2013 (in Maputo) for democratic elections in Zimbabwe:

    1. Allow civil society organizations to carry out their lawful activities without harassment, raids, restrictions and unlawful arrests.

    2. Ensure that the public media is accessible to all citizens, political players and allow media practitioners and journalists to operate freely without intimidation or restrictions from repressive legislation and harassment.

    3. Allow parliament to carry out its legislative mandate by ensuring that all laws that have a bearing on the conduct of elections are realigned with the new constitution.

    4. Reform and professionalize ZEC and urgently establish the electoral court, carry out an all-inclusive voter education exercise, conduct a transparent, accessible and acceptable voter registration exercise.

    5. Allow interested foreign observer missions to observe the election and guarantee safety and security of persons to local observers.

    6. Professionalize and depoliticize the security sector and ensure that security service chiefs do not make pronouncements or engage in actions that are partisan and unconstitutional.

    In accordance with resolution 8.4(v) of the Maputo Special Summit and in the spirit of democracy, peace and stability in the region in general and Zimbabwe in particular - we directly appeal to SADC in its capacity as the Guarantor of the GPA to urgently deploy its election observer mission to Zimbabwe so as to comprehensively observe the whole electoral process.

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