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Observation report on the Constitutional Referendum
Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe (CCDZ)
March 18, 2013


The Centre for Community Development In Zimbabwe (CCDZ) was accredited by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) on the 14th March to observe the Constitutional Referendum which was held on the 16th March, 2013. CCDZ deployed its team of observers to observe the voting process in Harare, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland West, Harare and Midlands provinces. CCDZ observers were deployed in the following districts: Karoi, Hurungwe, Chinhoyi, Murewa, Mutoko, Mudzi, Wedza, Kwekwe,Gokwe and Marondera. The CCDZ team of observers received a briefing in Harare before they were deployed to their respective areas to observe the constitutional plebiscite. The observer team was asked to observe and report on the following:

i. The levels of awareness and participation by the generality of citizens in the referendum:

The voting process went smoothly in the majority of the above districts except a few instances where political parties bussed in people to cast their ballots in some farming communities. The conduct of ZEC officials was highly commendable at all the polling stations observed.

There was high voter turnout in some rural and farming communities largely due to bloc voting and high political party activity on the voting day. Higher voter turnout was also noted in high density residential areas and Central Business District areas; as opposed to peri-urban and low density residential areas. Statistics show that men came in greater numbers as compared to women and youths. The highest number of male voters was recorded in CBD and rural areas, whilst farming and communal areas recorded higher number of female voters.

Some aspiring MDC-T and ZANU-PF councilors and Members of Parliament assisted their supporters through organizing transport and other logistics including food for the voters in certain areas. In polling centres in the farming areas in the outskirts of Marondera, people were bussed in, that is, they were taken to polling stations in tractors and other modes of transport to cast their ballots. This led to long queues at Winimbe polling station in Marondera East Constituency. The same was recorded at Muchbinding in Magunje Constituency.

In some but mostly urban areas that were observed by CCDZ, there was voter apathy which CCDZ attributes to confusion over the merits or demerits of the Constitutional draft. The majority of people said they had not had sight of the Constitutional Draft and it was folly to either embrace or reject that which they did not know. One youth in Murewa said: "To vote 'Yes' or 'No' to what? I have not seen the Constitution; I have only heard politicians and journalists talking about it".

The level of awareness of the Constitutional Draft and its contents was very minimal in all the areas covered. CCDZ noted that the highest levels of ignorance were amongst the youth and women; whilst political party members had average knowledge levels of the Draft. The majority of people in the areas did not know about the provisions of the draft charter. Some simply said they were voting because their Principal in the Government of National Unity (GNU) and other leaders of their respective parties had urged them to vote "Yes". "We are voting Yes because that is our party's position", remarked one woman in Mutoko. Others told CCDZ observers that they had come across a little bit of information on the Draft on the radio, newspapers and posters; however they highlighted that they were not conversant with the contents of the draft. It was however interesting to note that members of the public had high knowledge levels of the location of their polling stations.

This politicization of the constitution-making process was glaring as MDC-T and ZANU-PF sought to outwit each other on the voting day. Partisan voting patterns were evident as people came to the polling stations in groups either as woman, men and youths who are of the same political affiliations or understanding. "We want to see who between us (MDC-T) and ZANU-PF is able to mobilize more people to vote in the Constitutional referendum', said one MDC-T supporter.

The CCDZ observers reported cases of disenfranchisement of Zimbabwean citizens of foreign descent who are classified as 'aliens'. The 'aliens' were turned away at most polling stations because they were not eligible to vote. The issue of 'aliens' remains topical and it is believed that if the new Charter is adopted the people classified as 'aliens' will have full citizenship rights restored including their suffrage right so that they are not excluded in future elections. CCDZ observers however noted high levels of professionalism amongst ZEC officials as they explained this to voters that were turned away. Other voters that were turned away included voters whose identity documentation was not clear, as well as voters who had drivers licenses and not national identity documents.

Despite the issues highlighted above, the voting process sailed smoothly. The ZEC officials managed to conduct their duties in a professional manner as stipulated in the Referendum Act. The polling centres in the areas visited opened on time; they were adequately resourced in terms of personnel, ballot papers and security. All the polling centres visited opened for voting at 7am and closed at 7pm, allowing people adequate time to cast their votes. Unlike in previous elections, the polling stations were easily accessible and voters did not have to walk long distances to cast their votes.

ii. Political environment

CCDZ observed that the political environment on the pre-election day as well as on the voting day was in all the 3 Mashonaland provinces was free and peaceful. There were isolated incidences of intimidation and harassment in some areas.

On the morning of the 17th of March 2013, CCDZ observers came across an isolated incident of 11 MDC-T activists who came to the Karoi command centre and asked to see the person in charge and demanded to be given the results. They were however told that during the referendum there were no political party representatives.

CCDZ also noted that in Wedza North Constituency, Traditional Leaders were mobilizing people to go and vote. At Chirume polling station, one village head Mafere, who is also a war veteran was summoning people after they have cast a vote and record their names. The local Member of Parliament Munyeyi Gibson later addressed voters outside the polling station. iii. Voting Process:

CCDZ observed that ZEC officers were organized, efficient, professional and helpful in their conduct in Mashonaland East, West and Central provinces. CCDZ noticed that the average time spent per voter in all the provinces was one and a half minutes.

Where there were issues that they were not sure, polling officers would refer to their Returning officer. In Chinhoyi, Lion's Den and Hurungwe, CCDZ observers noted a high level of professionalism by ZEC officials; with officials referring to their Training Manuals to verify matters that they were unsure of.

CCDZ observers noted that the majority of ZEC officials were friendly and they cooperated with CCDZ observers. This was the case in areas such as Bindura, Marondera, Wedza, Chinhoyi, Lion's Den, Mhangura and Hurungwe.ZEC officials even volunteered information that wasn't necessarily asked for by observers. However, CCDZ observers experienced hostility from returning officers and police officers at Mlichi Farm and Dixie polling station in Hurungwe. Some polling station officers were not sure what to do with observers, or what the procedure was for admitting observers into their polling stations. iv. Adherence to the legal framework:

CCDZ observers noted general adherence to the legal framework, save for the following issues:

a. Presence of police officers inside polling station

CCDZ observers noted that at (23 + 16+ 21+ 16 + 7) polling stations in Mashonaland West and Central provinces, there were at least two police officers present inside the polling stations of the presence of police officers at all polling stations except for four. These police officers were permanently stationed inside the polling stations in contravention of Section 55 (7) which provides that the sole function of police officers is to maintain order and exercise their duties under the direction and instruction of the presiding officer. CCDZ observers made inquiries with the returning officers and were told that they were not aware that police officers were required to be outside the polling centres unless required to be inside by the returning officer.

b. Police officers taking down names of assisted voters, voters that are turned away and observers entering polling stations

CCDZ observers also noted that police officers inside polling stations in Hurungwe East, Central and West Constituency took down the names of assisted voters and voters that are turned away in separate notebooks. CCDZ observers in Mashonaland West and Central were also interrogated by some police officers inside polling stations. These police officers took down the names and identification numbers of CCDZ observers in their notebooks. CCDZ notes with concern that such actions are not sanctioned by the Electoral Act.

c. Assisted Voting

CCDZ observers noted that ZEC officials were very helpful and assisted voters that required assistance with voting in a professional and friendly manner. At Mbuyanehanda polling station in Marondera only one person was assisted to vote by 10 am.

Vote Counting Process

a. Partisan Personnel in Command Centres

CCDZ observers noticed that the office of the President and ZANU-PF members were represented at Karoi at Matau, Magungje and Karoi Command Centres. CCDZ also observed the presence of 8 known ZANU-PF youth activists in the Magunje Command Centre who were accredited. There were no representatives from other political parties. They stated that their role was that of logistics. At Nzvimbo Command Centre (Mazowe) there was a ZANU PF representative who is a sitting Councillor in the command centre; other political parties were not represented. CCDZ observers also noted that the representatives of the office of the President were in regular communication with ZANU PF and providing them with information on the voting results. This is a disadvantage to other political parties.


CCDZ is worried about voter apathy which characterised some constituencies particularly in the urban areas. Without adequate voter education there is a high possibility of low voter turnout in future elections. We therefore implore the electoral management body, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to accredit organizations willing to provide voter education and encourage people to participate in the forthcoming elections. The levels of participation of men, women and youths in the voting process goes far in fulfilling the democratizing function of elections. CCDZ implores ZEC to work collaboratively with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) that are willing and have capacity to provide voter education to raise voter rights awareness among the generality of Zimbabweans.

The state security agencies particularly the Zimbabwe Republic Police should execute their duties in a professional and non-partisan manner. The intimidation and harassment of Civil Society organizations (CSOs) epitomized by the disruption of meetings, office raids and incarceration of human rights defenders (HRDs) affected the operations of many organizations who wanted to mobilize voters to exercise their right to participate in the constitutional referendum. We urge the law enforcement agencies to exercise their duties in a professional manner in the forthcoming elections.

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