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New Constitution-making process - Index of articles
Zimbabwe Referendum Watch - Issue 1
March 03, 2013
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With Issue 1
of Zimbabwe Referendum Watch (ZRW), Sokwanele continues its tradition
of monitoring Zimbabwe elections against the 'SADC Principles and
Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections'. These were adopted by
SADC leaders on 17th August 2004 in Mauritius, and Zimbabwe is a
signatory to the benchmark principles. Zimbabwe Referendum Watch
measures the parties' performance in relation to the forthcoming
elections against this standard. This is our first issue, and we
started monitoring political compliance on 13 February 2013, the
day the referendum date was announced.
The long awaited
Constitution from COPAC, the Constitution Select Committee, was
released on 1 February 2013. In stark contrast to the very lengthy
of drafting the document, a surprisingly short time has been
allocated for voter education: Zimbabweans will be asked to decide
whether they accept the COPAC Draft as their future constitution
on 16 March 2013. The polling stations will be open for twelve hours.
There has been
widespread condemnation of the amount of time Zimbabweans have been
allowed to familiarise themselves with the draft constitution. The
Constitutional Assembly (NCA), who successfully campaigned for
a 'No vote' in the constitution referendum held in 2000, have been
amongst the most vocal in voicing their objections. They immediately
legal efforts to extend the date, but their efforts were thwarted
on 28 February when Judge President George Chiweshe dismissed the
case saying the case was not subject to rule by a court, affirming
President Robert Mugabe's right to set election dates
on his own judgement.
SADC guidelines require 'Timeous announcement of the election date'
(4.1.5), 'Voter education' (2.1.8) and 'Full participation of the
citizens in the political process' (2.1.1). We have accordingly
recorded the date chosen as a breach of SADC guidelines in line
with criticisms voiced by many: the draft document is complex and
very long (172 pages); common sense dictates that Zimbabweans will
need more than a month to first obtain a copy, and then peruse it,
and then discuss it. Furthermore, it is expected that voter turnout
will be high on polling day making the twelve hours allocated potentially
unfeasible to allow everyone the opportunity to vote.
The most leniently
critical assumption for the date chosen is that it is because the
three main political parties are united in campaigning for a 'Yes
vote'. Telling Zimbabweans to vote Yes, and then swiftly frog-marching
them to the polls, has reduced the referendum to little more than
a rubber-stamping exercise. Those who want to campaign for a 'No
vote' are more strident in their anger, believing that the limited
time is an effort to make it difficult for those opposed to the
draft to campaign for a 'No vote'. Either way, a few extra weeks
seems little to ask for given the fact that Zimbabweans are already
cynical about the heavy political involvement in the drafting of
the document, with further efforts to undermine their right to be
fully informed possibly leading to an overall lack of national commitment
to this most important law.
rare occurrence of having all three main political parties in agreement
before an election, ZRW has already recorded an array of breaches
levelled primarily against the ZANU-PF party.
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