THE NGO NETWORK ALLIANCE PROJECT - an online community for Zimbabwean activists  
 View archive by sector


Back to Index

The specter of elections and the struggle for a democratic constitution
Dr Lovemore Madhuku, National Constitutional Assembly (NCA)
May 09, 2007

The context of debate for democracy in Zimbabwe has been for the past few weeks dominated by developments from the SADC Defense and Security Committee meeting held in Tanzania. Amongst the several resolutions of the committee was the appointment of South African President, Thabo Mbeki as mediator in the Zimbabwean crisis. A rallying point to this mediation is the push to have legislative, administrative and executive elections in 2008. This arrangement would necessitate a constitutional amendment to allow for the re-scheduling of legislative elections from 2010, when they were due, to 2008. The same would be the case for local government elections.

A starting point to this process would be the facilitation of negotiations between the political party protagonists. Indications are there that the process of creating ground for the negotiations, if at all they are to happen, is taking place. A lot of popular debate is shifting toward contemplation for an election in the coming year.

The NCA however affirms its position that outside a facilitation of an inclusive objective national process of building sustainable democratic systems, based on respect of fundamental rights and dignity of all Zimbabweans, negotiations or mediation efforts serve nothing but buy time for those strangling the nation and its people. Peace and an end to state terrorism are moral pre-conditions for a mutual dialogue. No mutual mediation can be said to take place when campaigners of freedom and continue to endured punitive detention and prosecution.

National dialogue is critically important in the formulation of such mediation and dialogue. Instruments which allow for national dialogue should be put in place, whilst those that restrict informed public participation in national debate and processes must be removed. This includes the repeal of anti-democracy laws such as Access to Information and Protection of Publicity Act and Public Order and Security Act.

The NCA believes a genuine people driven constitution should be the basis for any election and critical departure point for a democratic order.

The rules governing national life need a fundamental overhaul to allow for democratic existence of Zimbabweans. With regards to the elections/transition debate, a number of issues are noted. The Assembly is not so much interested in who will win or lose the elections as it is in having a legitimate national framework which allows for all Zimbabweans to exercise all their rights as full citizens. Issues informing our position include, but are not limited to:

  • Citizenship - a number of Zimbabweans including farm workers, those in the Diaspora, former holders of dual citizenship will be excluded from the electoral franchise. The Assembly's draft constitution suggests that all Zimbabweans should have their citizenship rights respected and honored, and that all Zimbabweans of voting age should be part of the electoral franchise
  • Zimbabwe is a constituency based electoral system. With the population displacements caused by government's Operation Murambatsvina, coupled with the urban poverty motivated rural drift a number of urban voters will find themselves unregistered and unable to vote in the rural and peri-urban centres which have become their new settlements. With estimates pointing at an estimated 2million displaced voters unable to vote, the scales are tilted in favor of the incumbent regime. The Assembly believes that voter registration should be an on-going national process that does not create room for the exclusion of any Zimbabwean of voting age from participating in national elections as a result of objective factors of human mobility.
  • A token Electoral Court system - the High Court acts as an electoral court, with electoral cases having to fall on the same queuing system as other legal cases to be decided. From experience, we have seen some cases being heard way after the term of office in question has expired, disenfranchising candidates and constituencies of legitimate representation. Voters' rolls in many cases are yet to be availed for public inspection owing to failure to decide by the electoral courts or the executive's lack of respect for court decisions. The Assembly underlines that a system of legitimate legal recourse by all stakeholders, including candidates and voters, is key to any electoral query and fundamental to a legitimate election system
  • Electoral Commission - its independence is in question having been set up through presidential appointment to preside over elections in which the same President is a candidate. Its mandate undermines the participation of citizens in electoral issues. It has the sole mandate to provide voter education, a key tool in promoting a free and fair electoral enterprise. The Assembly believes in the un-diminishing right and obligation of citizens to participate and promote free and fair elections through embarking on strategies and exercises that ensure fellow citizens exercise their right to elect leaders best suited to represent them. Civil society and individuals should be allowed to provide voter education and other attendant activities necessary for a substantive electoral system.
  • First Past the Post system - we have a winner takes all election, which means the expressions of a significant number of voting citizens is excluded in the determination of electoral results in favor of the majority expression. This process means all those who vote for a losing candidate's votes are meaningless, and their expression should be ignored. The Assembly's draft constitution advocated for a system that allows for the fusion of the first-past-the-post and proportional representation, meaning there is no exclusionary leakages of voters' expression from a national election and therefore allowing for a more representative electoral result system.
  • State Policy issues - tacitly or actively, the state has been a perpetrator of violence against the people. The state has a responsibility of ensuring that the national culture of violence and impunity is eliminated and replaced with one of tolerance and goodwill. Policy issues incongruent with open democracy include the use of food aid as political tools; use of the national security organs for 'non' state issues (in many cases as extensions of personal militias) and in meting political violence; use of traditional administrative systems for political party consolidation (the ruling party has been using chiefs and headmen as party stewards in driving rural populations into support bases. The Assembly believes state policies must be objective and state institutions, including traditional administrative systems must be free of political party interference and have a national character that is not driven by patronage to one or any political party.

Key national issues can not be left for political party elites only to decide. The nation must dialogue with itself and institutionalize the foundations on which its political, social and economic systems are to be based. The period we find ourselves in if strategically used, provides space for us to write a constitution which allows for sustainable democracy providing roots for a culture of good and accountable governance, political and economic systems that are just, and a social system that promotes human dignity, equality and freedom for all. These are not issues to be left only for political party manifestos, but should be a result of a thorough public participation exercise of all our people.

Dr Lovemore Madhuku
National Chairperson

Visit the National Constitutional Assembly fact sheet

Please credit if you make use of material from this website. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.