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Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Bill (HB 18, 2004)
Election Support Network (ZESN)
October 22, 2004
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This document examines the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Bill to
assess whether it will establish a strong and independent body which
will be able to ensure the conduct of free and fair elections in
of roles between different electoral authorities
electoral process has been politicised in Zimbabwe and the Electoral
Supervisory Commission, the Registrar-General of Elections, and
the Election Directorate have overlapping responsibilities, leading
to confusion. This confusion could best be avoided by amending the
Constitution to establish a single Independent Electoral Commission
to conduct all elections and supervise the entire electoral process.
The method adopted
by the Bill, namely the setting up of a statutory commission, is
not ideal because the new Zimbabwe Electoral Commission appears
to be usurping the functions of the constitutionally-established
Electoral Supervisory Commission.
composition of the Commission established by the Bill is far from
ideal. All five Commissioners will be appointed by the President.
In the case of the chairperson, the President will have to consult
the Judicial Service Commission, and he will appoint the other four
Commissioners from a list of nominees submitted by a parliamentary
standing committee. The Judicial Service Commission is dominated
by government appointees and the parliamentary standing committee
is dominated by members of the ruling political party. It will be
possible, therefore, for the President to pack the Commission with
To ensure that
the Commission will be composed of competent, neutral and independent
persons, ZESN recommends that the Bill should be amended in any
one of three ways:
- A five-member
Commission should be appointed by Parliament from nominees put
forward by a bi-partisan parliamentary committee; Parliament would
have to appoint the nominees by a two-thirds majority, to ensure
that the appointees are generally acceptable.
- A nine-member
Commission should be appointed by Parliament from nominees put
forward by the Judicial Service Commission, the Law Society, Parliament
and NANGO. The Judicial Service Commission, in consultation with
the Law Society, would nominate the chairman, who would have to
be qualified to be a judge. Parliament would appoint four of the
remaining members from nominees selected by a bi-partisan parliamentary
committee, and the Law Society and NANGO would elect the remaining
- A 15-member
Commission should be constituted with up to a third of its members
being suitable foreigners, perhaps drawn from electoral commissions
in the SADC region.
Bill does not go far enough in ensuring that Commissioners and members
of the Commissionís full-time staff are politically neutral. They
should not be office-bearers of a political party, and probably
should not be allowed to hold membership of a party.
Bill states that the Commission is not subject to direction or control,
it will have to report to the President and the Minister, and so
by implication is answerable to them. Furthermore, the Minister
will have a power of veto over the Commissionís regulations. The
Bill should be amended to give the Commission control over its staff
and procedures, and to allow it to make regulations without Ministerial
approval. In regard to reports, the Commission should be answerable
to Parliament alone.
The Bill allows
Commissioners to be dismissed on the ground that they have shown
themselves to be unsuitable, which is too wide and vague, although
their dismissal must be recommended by a disciplinary committee
appointed by the Minister from nominees put forward by the Attorney-General,
the Commission and the parliamentary standing committee on rules
It is recommended
that Commissioners should have the same security of tenure as judges.
of Commission and remuneration of Commissioners
is not clear whether the Commissionís funds will be a statutory
appropriation or will have to be voted on annually by Parliament,
and the Bill contains inconsistent provisions regarding Commissionersí
remuneration. There is, however, a useful safeguard against reducing
their remuneration during their tenure of office.
that the Commissionís funds should be appropriated annually, and
that the Bill should state that Parliament must provide the Commission
with adequate finance. Commissionersí remuneration should be fixed
by a bi-partisan parliamentary committee.
Bill requires the Commission to appoint a Chief Elections Officer
who will be the Commissionís chief executive responsible for managing
the Commissionís affairs. The Commission will also be empowered
to appoint other members of staff.
of voters and votersí rolls
Bill gives the Commission the function of directing and controlling
the registration of voters and compiling votersí rolls, but there
is no statement as to the publicís right of access to the rolls.
The Commission must be given power ensure that rolls are accessible
and available to the public and interested parties. The Commission
should also be given express power to check the recent registration
exercise and, if necessary, order its extension.
right to provide voter education , i.e. instruction on electoral
law and procedure, will be severely restricted by the Bill: effectively,
only the Commission itself, as well as the Commissionís appointees
and political parties will be allowed to provide it. For anyone
else to provide voter education, they will have to be citizens or
residents of Zimbabwe, or associations consisting wholly of citizens
or residents; the courses of instruction they provide will have
to be approved by the Commission; they will have to provide the
instruction free of charge; and they will not be allowed to accept
any foreign funding to enable them to provide it.
are far too restrictive and are probably unconstitutional. The Commission
should merely be given responsibility for ensuring that other personsí
programmes of voter education are reasonably fair and accurate.
to public news media, particularly broadcasting, is an essential
element in a fair electoral process. In Zimbabwe the public media
are unduly partisan in favour of the ruling political party. The
Commission should be given the responsibility for formulating and
enforcing a code of conduct to ensure fair and balanced news reporting
during election periods.
Bill does not give the Commission responsibility for setting up
procedures for the mediation and settlement of electoral disputes.
The Commission should have been given this responsibility, either
in this Bill or in the Electoral Bill.
with the public
Visit the ZESN
Bill does not contain provisions requiring the Commission to keep
the public informed about its activities, to provide people with
information to which they have a right of access, and to decentralise
its operations. The Bill should be amended to insert such provisions.
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