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Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles
statement on the Zimbabwe harmonized elections
Southern Africa Regional Civil Society and Social
Movements Observer Mission
August 05, 2013
in Zimbabwe Coalition and the Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum, hosted
by the ACTION Support Centre in South Africa, deployed a Regional
Observer Mission composed of representatives of Civil Society Organizations,
the Ecumenical Sector and Social Movements, to the 31st
July 2013 harmonized election.
The mission, whose participants
were drawn from South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania
and Namibia observed the environment in the run up to the election,
the voting process, closure of polling stations and in some instances
counting. The mission covered urban, peri-urban and rural areas.
The mission’s observations are premised on Zimbabwe’s
compliance or lack thereof, with the SADC Principles and Guidelines
Governing Democratic Elections and the African Charter on Democracy,
Elections and Governance.
Electoral systems are
vulnerable to abuse and manipulation. This is why the guidelines,
principles and rules that are developed at national, regional and
continental levels are so important, and why they need to be used
as the benchmark against which pronouncements on the validity of
elections are made. In the case of Zimbabwe, the greatest area of
concern is that the voters’ roll was not prepared in time,
or made equally accessible to all parties. The observations of this
mission, and of others who have commented on the process are that
it is this element of the Zimbabwean electoral process that was
used to manipulate the voting outcomes.
Closer scrutiny by this
observer team, and those we worked with on the ground, point to
the disenfranchisement of a significant sector of the voting public,
and a number of discrepancies in the voting procedures that were
supposed to be followed to ensure a free and fair election. While
these voters’ roll issues remain unresolved it is both inappropriate
and incorrect to declare that the announced outcomes of the voting
process reflect the will of the people. As Zimbabweans work through
these concerns regional and international solidarity will remain
The mission observed
of police officers at polling stations: The mission observed
that there were an abnormally high number of police officers on
duty inside and outside poling stations. In a country where policing
is associated with human rights abuses, the environment in most
cases was highly intimidating. At some polling stations such as
Bindura Primary School in Mashonaland Central, police officers were
running a parallel register of statistics of voters and observer
visits, duties solely bestowed upon the presiding officer. This
was blatant interference with the electoral duties bestowed upon
2. Police officers voting at polling stations:
Linked to one (1) above, the mission observed that there were a
number of police officers voting at most poling stations. When asked
to clarify this, polling officers at most polling stations visited
could not answer satisfactorily as to whether they had a foolproof
mechanism to check whether or not the uniformed forces had not previously
voted under the special vote.
3. Use of voter registration slips: The mission
observed that an abnormally high number of people voted using vote
registration slips. These slips were observed to be inconsistent
in the type of material used. Tied to this, the mission noted with
grave concern an incident in Hatfield constituency where at least
20 fake voter slips were recovered from people who intended to use
them for voting, as confirmed by ZEC at a press conference held
on the 1st of August 2013. The mission noted with concern that in
some cases voting slips were given back to voters after casting
their votes without ZEC having recorded the details of the slips.
The mission was greatly concerned by the possibility of the election
having been manipulated through a porous voter slips system which
may have been abused by certain political parties.
4. Use of private property as polling stations:
The mission noted with serious concern the use of private property
as polling stations. A case in point was the use of a milling shop:
Pote Store, 5km from Shamva, along the Shamva-Bindura Road in Mashonaland
Central Province. The use of non-neutral polling stations compromises
the freedom of choice, as the environment may be intimidating to
5. High number of assisted voters: The mission
observed that there was an abnormally high number of assisted voters
at most polling stations, raising fears of a well planned intimidation
mechanism which compromised freedom of choice.
6. Voters turned away: The mission observed that
there was a very high number of potential voters who were turned
away for various reasons including their names not appearing on
the voters roll, appearing at wrong polling stations and voters
not having correct identification documents. Mission noted that
this points to ZEC not having done enough civic education to prepare
voters for this election. This was compounded by the fact that ZEC
and the Registrar of Voters failed to avail the voters’ roll
for inspection by voters ahead of the crucial election.
7. Bussing of voters: The mission observed that
in some constituencies, voters were seen in buses and lorries being
ferried to and from polling stations. Cases in point are in Mazowe
(Mashonaland Central Province) and Mt Pleasant (Harare Metropolitan
Province) constituencies. The mission is gravely concerned by the
fact that busing of voters by some candidates points to the possibility
of a scam where people who were not registered and or not resident
in certain wards ended up voting in those wards, in blatant violation
of Zimbabwe electoral laws provision of a strictly ward based voting
8. Lack of facilities and attention to special needs voters:
The mission observed that at most polling stations there were no
facilities and requisite attention given to people needing special
attention such as women and people living with disability. This
discourages voters as some give up while some become disinterested
in future elections.
9. Voters’ roll unavailability: The mission
was seriously concerned by the fact that the voters’ roll
was only made available to political parties in hard copy 24 hours
prior to voting. The electronic voters roll was not made available.
Mission is further concerned by the fact that there was no meaningful,
if any, voters’ roll inspection by stakeholders ahead of the
election. The failure by ZEC and the Registrar of Voters to avail
the voters’ roll on time has fueled allegations of the election
being manipulated through the voters roll.
10. Voting day environment: The mission observed that in
most places, the situation was relatively calm. The mission however
also observed that in some parts of the country, particularly rural
areas visited, the environment was tense.
Using the above,
and information from fellow Zimbabwean Civil Society Organizations
who monitored the pre-election environment for a longer period,
the Observer Mission came to the conclusion that these elections
were heavily compromised and fall far short of meeting the SADC
Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.
The elections also fail
the test when subjected to the provisions of the African Charter
on Democracy, Elections and Governance. Although the environment
was calm, resembling peace, the overall electoral processes and
environment were not conducive for the conduct of a free, fair and
As a regional civil society
movement, that seeks to build a culture of people-to-people solidarity,
we will strategise together to find more effective forms of ensuring
that where people in positions of power seek to marginalize or disregard
the democratic will of citizens in the region, the political costs
for those in power make it impossible and unfeasible for them to
do so. This will require a strengthening of our regional efforts,
and tighter more coordinated forms of regional action.
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