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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Statement by CSOs on the recently held elections in Zimbabwe
    Malawi & Zimbabwe Civil Society Organisations
    August 15, 2013

    We the representatives of civil society organisations in Zimbabwe and Malawi make the following statement regarding the election held in Zimbabwe on 31st July 2013

    Noting the adoption and the recognition of the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections by all SADC States.

    Recognizing the right to a peaceful, free and fair election as guaranteed under Section 155 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

    Recalling the provisions of Article 2.2 of The SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections which states that ‘SADC Member States shall adhere’ to the following:

    2.1.1 Full participation of the citizens in the political process;
    2.1.2 Freedom of association;
    2.1.3 Political tolerance;
    2.1.5 Equal opportunity for all political parties to access the state media;
    2.1.6 Equal opportunity to exercise the right to vote and be voted for;
    2.1.8 Voter education.

    Noting Article 4.1 concerning Guidelines for the Observation of Elections for SADC Member States to determine the nature and scope of election observation:

    4.1.1 Constitutional and legal guarantees of freedom and rights of the citizens;
    4.1.2 Conducive environment for free, fair and peaceful elections;
    4.1.3 Non-discrimination in the voters’ registration;
    4.1.4 Existence of updated and accessible voters roll; among others.

    Do hereby make the following observations:

    On the obtaining political and operating environment in Zimbabwe leading up to the election on the 31st July, 2013 we note that:

    • In general, the lead-up to the 2013 elections was characterised by lower levels of overt violence than the 2008 elections.
    • However, there were continued incidences of intimidation and politically-motivated violence, particularly in rural and remote constituencies,
    • Civil society organisations (CSOs) faced criminalisation of their lawful activities.

    On the imposition of the election date:

    • The imposition of the 31 July 2013 election date by way of presidential decree after the constitutional Court ruling was a violation of the GPA and against the SADC Maputo Summit resolution for the postponement of the election to allow for adequate preparations. It triggered the series of infringements on the Constitution of Zimbabwe that ensued forcing the holding of an election when the minimum conditions prescribed under the SADC guidelines had not been met.
    • The SADC Heads of States recommended a postponement of the election and that would have assisted in allowing sufficient time to ensure compliance with the legal and practical requirements to ensure a credible election. The non-compliance compromised the electoral environment and affected the credibility and the legitimacy of the process.

    On the electoral processes:

    • The election management body, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) failed to conduct the adequate voter registration process as provided for under the Constitution of Zimbabwe and the SADC guidelines. This led to a situation where a large portion of eligible voters remained unregistered and therefore disenfranchised at the time the voters’ roll was closed for the imminent election.
    • ZEC was unwilling to accept assistance in the process of voter education, despite the substantive changes to our electoral system and the confusion that abounded in the wake of the fast-tracked election date.
    • The unwillingness by the R-G and ZEC to comply with the law and allow access to the final voters’ roll until such time as access was rendered meaningless has undermined the credibility of the electoral process.
    • ZEC failed and/or refused to avail an electronic copy of the voters’ roll in searchable and analysable form.
    • Printing of ballot papers by the police undermined any remaining public confidence and acceptance of the credibility of the vote.
    • A review of the voters’ roll has shown duplication of at least 870,000 (Research & Advocacy Unit Report, July 2013) names. The implication of the duplication is that the voters’ roll was inflated and certainly not a true reflection of the number of persons that are registered.

    On the role of the public media, we noted that:

    • The public broadcaster and the state-controlled media’s coverage was the one-sided in total violation of the Constitution and electoral laws. The reportage was replete with outright falsehoods, hate-speech and inciting language and content.
    • ZEC failed to take adequate and strong steps to ensure that media practitioners produce factual, balanced and ethical content for the diversity of the Zimbabwean population.
    • We submit that denial of equal media coverage itself is a fraud to the electorate that has to make informed decisions and a violation of the constitution and SADC principles and guidelines governing the conduct of democratic elections.

    On the Election Day and beyond we noted that:

    There was a litany of electoral irregularities that seriously undermined the credibility of the electoral process and the legitimacy of the outcome.

    1. Turning away of voters at polling stations

    At least 750,000 voters were turned away at polling stations mainly in urban areas. The majority of voters were turned away on the basis that their names did not appear on the voters’ roll or that their names appeared in wards other than where they believed to have been registered.

    2. Presence of police inside polling stations

    There was an ‘abnormally high’ number of police officers on duty inside and outside the polling stations. At most of the polling stations, police officers were stationed inside the polling stations, in contravention of the law.

    3. Rampant misuse of registration slips

    There is evidence of rampant misuse of the voter registration slips that were ostensibly meant to allow persons who had registered but whose names did not appear on the voters’ roll to vote. The abuse of the facility to use voter registration slips on an industrial scale permitted otherwise ineligible persons to vote in constituencies other than their own.

    4. Unlawful voter migration

    There was bussing in of persons into constituencies other than their own, to inflate the number of voters in those areas.

    5. Abuse of special voting system

    The special voting system was abused in that it allowed room for service personnel who had voted in advance to vote more than once during the election, thereby inflating voting figures. There was no credible way of ensuring that persons who had voted under the special voting did not vote again on the main polling day. ZEC has to date failed to account for the number of ballots used on the special voting.

    6. Voting under duress

    There is evidence showing that more than two hundred thousand voters were forced to plead illiteracy and therefore to have someone assist them to cast their ballots. This problem was particularly rife in the rural areas. Traditional leaders commandeered rural voters under their jurisdiction to vote at specific times and to declare illiteracy so that they would be “assisted” to vote. The forced assistance of voters who are otherwise literate and able to vote by themselves was deliberately designed to emasculate voters’ rights to vote by secret ballot, clearly a violation of the new Constitution and the SADC Guidelines.

    Way forward

    • In light of these irregularities, which happened on an industrial scale affecting more than a million voters, the credibility of the electoral process and the legitimacy of the result were severely compromised to an extent that it significantly influenced the election outcome.
    • Further, measured against the SADC Guidelines, the conduct of the electoral process falls short of the basic minimum standards.
    • In the absence of a full, independent and comprehensive audit and clearance of the doubts around the credibility of this election, it is premature to endorse the outcome of this election given the dispute over the process and outcome.
    • Given that Zimbabwe has been under AU and SADC political curatorship for 4 years, it is appropriate that the GPA parties be given an opportunity at the next SADC Summit to be held in Malawi to report to and make submissions over the election and for Summit to resolve conclusively whether the matter has been successfully resolved or to make any other recommendation to facilitate a lasting solution.
    • SADC and the AU should remain seized with the Zimbabwean matter and should satisfy themselves that Zimbabwe has passed the test after due consideration of reports from all the relevant parties.

    In conclusion, consideration should be given to holding a fresh election under SADC and AU. Only a truly transparent, fair and open election would be an appropriate way to bring finality to the political problems of Zimbabwe.

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