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This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • 2002 Presidential & Harare Municipal elections - Index of articles


  • Zimbabwe Presidential Elections 9-10 March 2002 Statement
    SADC Parliamentary Forum Election Observation Mission
    March 13, 2002


    The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Parliamentary Forum has completed its interim assessment of the Zimbabwe 2002 elections.

    On the invitation of the government of Zimbabwe by letter dated February 4, 2002, the SADC Parliamentary Forum Observer mission constituted a delegation of 70 members, consisting of 39 Members of Parliament and support staff drawn from the Secretariat in Windhoek, Namibia and eleven parliaments of the region.

    It is the policy of the Forum to observe elections of all member states starting with the pre-election phase. This is the seventh election the Forum has observed in the region since 1999.

    Since its inception of the observation programme, the Forum has collectively evolved Norms and Standards for Elections in the SADC region approved in March 2001. The main objective of the Norms and Standards is to ensure the conduct of peaceful, free and fair elections in the region.

    In observing the elections, the Forum was guided by the constitutional and legal framework of Zimbabwe and the Norms and Standards for Election Observation in the SADC Region. Among other things, the Mission was detailed to assess the security and political environment in which the elections were to be held.

    Conclusions
    Major Recommendations

    Deployment   TOP

    The Forum Deployed to all the ten provinces following consultations and interaction with all stakeholders, including political parties, electoral authorities, representatives of civil society, media editors, Security officers and members of the Diplomatic corps.

    The teams proceeded to observe the campaign rallies, meetings, preparations for elections, location of polling stations, media coverage of elections, voting and counting processes and actions that impinged on the fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizens of Zimbabwe as enshrined in Part III of the constitution.


    The Political and Security Climate
      TOP

    The Forum has observed that the political and security climate in which the elections were conducted was complex. It was characterized by high levels of polarization and political intolerance, lack of communication amongst stakeholders and lack of free flow of information to the electorate, which are necessary conditions for democracy to prevail.

    We observed noticeable differences in the provinces but generally there was no euphoria that normally characterizes elections the SADC region.


    Violence and Intimidation
      TOP

    The election campaign was marred by incidents of violence in all provinces of the country. Police and party leaders have not denied the fact that there has been violence in various forms. What seemed to be in question was the perpetration of that violence. Violence was visited upon ordinary voters, party supporters and leaders alike. Reports indicated that violence was perpetrated by supporters of the two main political parties-the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and the opposition Movement For Democratic Change (MDC).

    Not only did the SADC Parliamentary Forum witness some of these acts, its mission members were themselves targets of an orchestrated attack 10 kilometres out of Chinhoyi on 24 February.

    However, evidence indicated that the majority of those affected were supporters of the MDC or those perceived to be opponents of the ruling party and government. Violence was manifest in the number of hospitalized victims, numerous cases of alleged torture, arson, assault and incidences of false imprisonment.

    The prevalence of violence is reflected in virtually all reports from our observers in the field, which included abduction of some polling agents of MDC; in one such incident, our observer team intervened when Police in Mashonaland Central detained 24 election agents of the opposition party who were on their way to Harare to vote.

    Regrettably, the phenomena of political intolerance and violence seem to have been prevalent since the 2000 legislative elections. Acts of violence appeared to be systematically employed by youth and War veterans with camps dotted around the country.


    Police Conduct
      TOP

    In any situation of conflict, the police were expected to be impartial. In spite of the arrests made, there are significant claims that the police have been partisan in handling of the political situation when called upon to intervene. The use of riot squads to disperse potential voters in some Harare constituencies raised questions about the impartiality of the Police.


    Voters Roll
      TOP

    A voter’s register is considered a basic condition for a successful election. In this election, concerns have been raised regarding the timeous release of the voter’s roll which was only made available three days before the polls, leaving no time for the electorate to verify its accuracy. As a result of this, it was observed that a large number of people were unable to vote.

    Issues of the voter’s roll were compounded by the announcement that a supplementary register had been prepared and would be used in the 2002 elections contrary to earlier announcements that registration for 2002 was closed.


    Freedom to Campaign
      TOP

    In any election, contestants should be able to move freely among the electorate. In this election whereas the ruling party’s campaign was relatively uninterrupted, some of opposition party meetings were cancelled or interrupted by opponents. It was however, significant, in two instances in Harare and Bulawayo, rallies of opposing parties were conducted in the same city without any violence. This should be the norm.


    Polling stations
      TOP

    Information to the electorate and other stakeholders on the location of polling stations was not available to enable the electorate to make informed decisions. Much as we appreciate the increase of polling stations in rural areas, the reduction of the number of polling stations in urban areas had a major impact on the elections. This was particularly so in Harare and Chitungwiza where tripartite elections were held. It resulted in congestion with some people spending more than 48 hours in queues because of their sheer determination to vote.


    Voting and counting
      TOP

    We observed that in many provinces the voting was peaceful. Well over 50 percent of the registered voters were able to cast their vote. The major exception was the Harare Province where the voting process was excruciatingly slow resulting in the extension of both times and days of voting.

    There were also a number of violent incidents in which the police dispersed voters from polling stations especially in high-density suburbs. Further, although a large number of people voted, a significant number of the electorate was unable to vote as a result of logistical, administrative and other impediments. The counting proceeded very well.

    It was significant to note that the recommendation from the Forum observers for the polling agents to ride with the ballot boxes was accepted and implemented. However, free movement of party agents was compromised by acts of intimidation and reported abductions in some provinces.

    However, the massive turnout of voters demonstrates the commitment of the people of Zimbabwe to multiparty democracy.


    Lack of Independence of the Electoral Commission
      TOP

    Despite various recommendations and practices in the SADC region, Zimbabwe is one of the countries without an Independent Electoral Commission. The assignment of roles to three different electoral bodies, the Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC), the Election Directorate and the Registrar-General’s Office affects efficiency and causes duplication. The government should seriously consider establishing an Independent Electoral Commission as recommended by the Forum after the 2000 legislative elections and as held by the Norms and Standards of Elections in SADC.


    Access to Public Media
      TOP

    There was lack of access to the public media by political parties other than the ruling party. The monopolization of the public media by the ruling party went contrary to the guidelines set out by the Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC) for equal and equitable access to contesting parties. The slanted coverage the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) and the Zimbabwe Newspapers deprived the electorate an opportunity to make an informed choice.


    Conclusion   TOP

    The climate of insecurity obtaining in Zimbabwe since the 2000 parliamentary elections was such that the electoral process could not be said to adequately comply with the Norms and Standards for Elections in the SADC region.


    Major Recommendations   TOP

    It is evident to us that elections may not, in themselves, be a panacea to Zimbabwe’s complex situation of political conflict.

    We therefore appeal to the political leadership of the country, the churches, civil society and the business sector to join hands and begin a healing process for Zimbabwe in the face of enormous problems. An election should not be construed to be one of “victor” and “vanquished”.

    We also urge the Heads of State and Government of SADC countries to urgently engage the leadership of Zimbabwe to facilitate dialogue and reconciliation. We believe it is within the powers of the people of Zimbabwe, through their leaders with the support of SADC to avert a political crisis in the country and bring about peace.

     

    Signed for and on Behalf of the SADC Parliamentary Forum Observer Mission,
    Harare, Zimbabwe, 13 March 2002

    Hon. Duke G. Lefhoko, MP
    Head of Mission

    Vice-Chair
    Hon Dr Elvy Mtafu, MP

    Vice-Chair
    Hon. Lutero Simango, MP

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