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Summary of the individual interventions and discussion during the conference
South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA)
May 12, 2005

Read Pointers on Zimbabwe during the conference

Dr Reginald Matchaba-Hove (Chair Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network – ZESN)
Matchaba-Hove noted that, unlike previous elections, the 2005 event could be measured against a number of regionally and continentally endorsed and acceptable guidelines. These included the SADC Parliamentary Forum guidelines, the SADC guidelines adopted at the Heads of State Summit in August 2004, the AU guidelines, as well as the SADC Electoral Commissioners’ Forum and Electoral Institute Guidelines.

The pre-election period saw some improvements in election planning and conduct

  • The adoption of the SADC guidelines including inter alia by Zimbabwe
  • The establishment of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC)
  • The establishment of electoral courts designed to resolve electoral disputes within six months of the election.
  • A degree of space provided via the electronic media for campaigning by
  • both ZANU-PF and the MDC

In the 2002 presidential election a mere 400 ZESN observers were accredited, this contrasts with 6,000 in 2005. However there were 8,000 polling stations; thus ZESN could not cover 25% of the country. The police were slightly less partisan in 2005. A month before the election there was a drop in state-sponsored violence. There was an increase in polling stations. Translucent ballot boxes were a doubleedged sword. Indelible ink was used. The MDC was also provided with some state funding before the elections.

There were, however, areas of concern:

The ZEC had insufficient time and resources to carry out its mandate. In reality it was operational only for a month before the election. Its staff was taken from the Registrar’s office and civil servants. The voters’ roll was compiled by the Registrar’s office and was highly problematical. Post-Mauritius SADC Summit, electoral changes were made without consultation with the MDC and civil society, but rather through an act of parliament.

The election still took place against a raft of repressive legislation and regulation such as the POSA, which insists on notification of any meeting with more than four people. This has been interpreted by the police as the need to seek authority, clearance or permission to hold a meeting. Although the NGO Bill had not been signed into law it did affect the operation of civil society during the elections. In order for ZESN to conduct electoral education required it to seek approval from the authorities. Overall ZESN was of the view that there was insufficient voter information to make the elections legitimate.

The delimitation of constituencies was not carried out in a transparent manner, there was gerrymandering of borders and population size and density were not taken into account in urban areas which tended to count against the MDC.

The new electoral act distinguishes between ‘monitors’ who can only be civil servants, including the police and intelligence officers and ‘observers’ such as ZESN.

The voters’ roll was not available on time, nor was it accurate. Registration fees were increased a hundred-fold for candidates too. Although there was less statesponsored overt violence there were instances of intimidation by traditional leaders such as informing voters that they could see their vote in the translucent boxes.

The SADC mission was only admitted a month before the election and independent monitors remained shut out. Furthermore there was still far too much military involvement in the management of the electoral process, for example the Electoral Supervisory Commission was staffed by military officers. There has been a dangerous trend of inserting the military into civilian spheres of operation in Zimbabwe.

In terms of the conduct of the parties, prior to the campaign ZANU-PF was marked by internal division, particularly during the primaries which witnessed some intra-party violence. Essentially ZANU-PF stood on an ‘anti-Blair’ campaign. By contrast, the MDC ran on the platform of the economy, jobs and food.

A key question is whether the MDC’s earlier boycott and late entry into the election affected its performance. As voter registration closed on 4 February and the MDC took its decision to participate later, this may have had an effect on voter registration and particularly those potential MDC supporters.

ZESN noted that in the 75% of the polling stations at which it had observers, some 10% of potential voters were turned away. Moreover some ZESN observers were also turned away in the first few hours of the election when the bulk of people came to vote. They were also excluded from the vote counting in some instances. The ZESN noted a very high number of spoilt ballot papers. In most instances the ZEC and the ZESN vote counts do not tally, even where there is agreement on the winner. On the ZESN reckoning, 5 MDC candidates were deprived of winning their constituencies through irregularities.

ZESN also analysed why there was a reduction in violence immediately prior to the election. They contended that firstly, the Zimbabwe government staked its credibility on it being a violent-free poll. Secondly, it sought to more closely comply with the SADC guidelines. Thirdly, some of the groups previously associated with state-sponsored violence such as the Tsholotsho group have been increasingly marginalised recently.

Matchaba-Hove speculated on what the immediate aftermath was likely to hold for Zimbabwe. As ZANU-PF has achieved a two-thirds majority it is likely to approve amendments to the constitution, particularly one that re-instates the institution of the Senate.

It is likely that presidential and parliamentary terms will be synchronised by 2010.

However, ZESN is calling for a single independent electoral authority and for there to be reform of the electoral system in Zimbabwe to provide for a mixed first-pastthe- post system (FPTP) and proportional representation (PR) system. There is a need for broad-based electoral reform, not just a parliamentary driven process, but one that involves a broad range of civil society. Matchaba-Hove speculated that there may be leverage available for more moderates in ZANU to convince the party that it can win elections without resorting to violence and intimidation.

Finally, Matchaba-Hove recommended that SADC as an institution and its Organs need to be much more assertive, but more than this the leverage for change in Zimbabwe lay with South Africa.

Elinor Sisulu
Sisulu commented that food in Zimbabwe was being used as a political tool of retribution and coercion. Zimbabwe was facing a famine that was politically made. She argued that there was a need for a comprehensive nutritional survey of children under 5 as the nutritional status of children under 5 has declined.

Sisulu called for an All African conference on elections governance and democracy informed by a high degree of consensus among Africans. Elections observers must be in place 90 days beforehand (in conflict situations). She reiterated that the value of local monitoring groups was that they were better able to understand and interpret local conditions than those from Western countries. In this regard Sisulu commended the election reports of the SADC – PF. By contrast Sisulu berated the "sheer arrogance of the head of the South African observer mission" and the patronising attitude of its head Minister Mdladlana, who in her view lacked integrity. Sisulu noted that it was right to question the credentials of any and all observer missions to ensure they were qualified to do the job with which they were tasked.

Piers Pigou noted that much of the reportage around the Zimbabwe election was anecdotal, thus the Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum was embarking on a project to extract the detailed documentation of the local observer missions to Zimbabwe (both the South African and parliamentary missions). The Presidency and parliament had been approached in this regard to supply all relevant documentation. This would clarify how the missions went about their work and how they reached their conclusions. Should it fail in its request to secure the requested information it will seek recourse through the provisions of the Access to Information Act.

Nthabiseng Khunou MP (ANC), SA Parliamentary Observer Mission
Khunou read from the observer mission report which although completed had not yet been sent to the Speaker’s office and had not been before parliament. Khunou commenced by asserting that the guiding principle for the observers was that the "We must respect the sovereignty of Zimbabwe." She argued that the parliamentary observer team could not have been in Zimbabwe for 90 days in accordance with the SADC guidelines as this "would cost parliament too much." Although there needed to be an improvement in voter education, it was nevertheless "very good." For Khunou it was a "meticulously planned and executed election" from which South Africa could take some lessons, such as the three-line alphabetical queues at polling stations.

Diane Kohler-Barnard MP (DA), SADC Observer Mission
Kohler-Barnard was the only alternative (non-ruling party) MP on mission and three Mauritians. She commented that she and her ANC colleague "must have been observing different elections". She received no briefing from her party Whip, but was instructed to report what she observed. Kohler-Barnard informed conference that all her daily typed reports were faxed to the Head of Mission in Harare and were "thrown into bin". She documented numerous reports of violence, intimidation and election irregularities. One police commissioner proudly showed ll MDC rallies not approved and all ZANU-PF approved.

In terms of the legal and political climate surrounding the election she noted that in terms of POSA it is illegal to criticise the president, but he was insulting and libellous regarding the opposition. In addition to being state-owned the media in Zimbabwe was highly skewed in favour of ZANU-PF and against the MDC. For example at the launch of the party manifestos ZANU-PF was given some four hours of coverage on television, whereas the MDC was given 2 minutes and 35 seconds on February 20, which was followed by scurrilous songs about MDC. The Zimbabwe Herald ran 5 full-page election adverts for ZANU-PF. In addition, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai was called a donkey.

In terms of the climate of violence and intimidation she noted that of 57 MDC MPs there were about seven who had not been arrested at some time or another since the 2000 parliamentary elections. She stated that, "the Zim public is frightened, beaten, starved".

Kohler-Barnard proffered a number of proposals regarding the way forward for Zimbabwe:

  • The militia must be disbanded and de-politicised.
  • There must be clear separation of state and party and 3 branches of government.
  • A process of national reconciliation must be undertaken.
  • A free and independent media, without government interference, must be established.
  • There must be an independent electoral commission.
  • Repressive legislation must be amended or repealed

Professor Welshman Ncube MP, General Secretary MDC
Ncube commenced by asserting that South Africa could help the Zimbabwe situation only if it made an honest assessment of the crisis in the country. "Mugabe is not going to solve crisis". The Zimbabwe system is based on coercion. Such a system must always have instruments of coercion at its disposal on standby. The question then is when it will fall, not if.

Ncube stated that the following matters needed to be dealt with urgently:

The importance of negotiating a new constitution – Zimbabweans must agree on fundamental principles governing society. There is a need for national consensus.

SA and SADC must insist on this.
In contrast ZANU-PF favours a number of constitutional amendments:

  • That all land acquired in the last 5 years will be declared state land; hence all court challenges become academic.
  • Can only raise the issue of compensation, not the validity of acquisition.
  • Remove electoral supervisory commission.
  • Acknowledging the current duplication.
  • Introduce 40-member senate (to be in place within 3 months from first April).

Then ZANU-PF wants a parliamentary process to review the constitution, but none of these proposals try to develop national consensus. By contrast Ncube argued that it was imperative to address all other non-constitutional aspects which resulted in democratic deficits. If not, it would be impossible to have any legitimate election in Zimbabwe.

Commenting on the election observer missions, Ncube argued that "the only mission report that makes sense, is the one written by the AU".

Ncube bemoaned the lack of media freedom and independence in Zimbabwe noting that this needs to be addressed particularly as Zimbabwe is the only SADC country that has no private radio stations.

On the MDC’s decision to suspend its participation in the election and then to participate Ncube informed conference that the decision to suspend was taken until the government committed itself to comply with the SADC guidelines. The decision to later participate in the election was taken following consultation with the MDC’s structures in the 11 provinces who felt that it was necessary to participate and also because the MDC National Council felt contesting the election would increase the costs of dictatorship. The party felt that it should not surrender without a fight any of the democratic spaces it occupied at local and national level.

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