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Free and fair elections are a right
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
January 29, 2004

With only a year left to go into yet another general election, we call upon the government to ensure the incorporation of the basic norms and standards for the conduct of a free and fair election as established by the SADC Parliamentary Forum.

Since the June 2000 parliamentary elections, the youth militia, war veterans and members of the uniformed forces (the army and the police) have been cited as some of the perpetrators of violence. Much to our disappointment, there is no action that has been taken by the police to bring to book all perpetrators of violence. Infact some of these criminals were freed by President Robert Mugabe’s Clemency Order of 2000. The June 2000 parliamentary elections were characterised by massive violence, including physical and psychological torture of the voters. We are also perturbed by the fact that there is no improvement in the way election campaigns are conducted, the latest example being the Gutu North by-election where militia bases have been set up at Zvavahera and other stations to intimidate voters.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition demands the following:

1. Disband the Youth Militia
The coalition also notes with concern that since the June 2000 parliamentary elections there has been systematic use of violence by candidates to intimidate the voters. We realise that this has been the trend with all the parliamentary by-elections that have been conducted during the run up to the Presidential elections held on the 9th to the 10th of March 2002.

We condemn strongly the use of violence and the subsequent intimidation and torture of the voters by the youth militia to force people to vote for a political party or candidate they do not support. We realise that to date, more than 200 deaths that have been recorded were due to political violence. Many people, particularly in the rural areas have been subjected to torture if they are suspected to be members of the opposition. The political opposition has been failing to campaign freely in the rural areas because these have been declared "no-go areas".

We call for the disbanding of the youth militia and the immediate rehabilitation of the Border Gezi graduates who are wreaking havoc in the country. It is only after the disbanding of the youth militia that Zimbabwe can experience a free and fair election. We also urge the youth to desist from being used as canon fodder by the politicians for no meaningful gains other than being given money to buy beer.

2. Independent Electoral Commission
Crisis Coalition calls for the setting up of an Independent Electoral Commission to manage the election process. The Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC) appointed by the President and is responsible for supervising the registration of voters and conducting the elections executes its duties in a partisan manner especially on the appointment of election monitors and observers. Many civil society organisations have been refused to conduct voter education campaigns and this responsibility has been left to the ESC, which was appointed by President Mugabe. We call for the repeal of the General Laws Amendment Act of 2000,which gives the ESC monopoly on voter education. The prohibition of civil society to conduct voter education is ultra vires the constitution that enshrines the fundamental rights of access to information and freedom of assembly and association. The independent electoral commission we envisage must be free from executive control and must run the elections professionally and in accordance with internationally approved standards and norms.

3. Media Coverage of Elections
All competing political candidates must have access to the public media rather than the partisan coverage of contesting candidates, as is the case with the public broadcaster, ZBC and the Zimpapers stable of newspapers. The public media must be accessible to all contesting parties.

The public media has been used to prop up the ruling Zanu PF party candidates. There has been no equitable coverage of the elections and this has had a profound effect on the election outcome since many people rely on the media. This is more so, especially considering that voter education on the part of civil society has been outlawed.

The state’s monopoly of radio and television has seen unfair coverage of elections, with independent candidates and opposition parties being denied the opportunity to present their policies on either radio or television. We are once again vindicated on the need for a new democratic constitution that guarantees and protects universal suffrage.

We strongly believe that it is only after the restoration of these demands that will mark Zimbabwe as a sound democracy. A free and fair election is everyone’s right.

Visit the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition fact sheet

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