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SADC Mauritius protocol: Assessment of compliance with the protocol - Issue No. 5
Sokwanele
November 26, 2004

On August 17 2004, SADC leaders meeting in Mauritius adopted the SADC Protocol – Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections. Zimbabwe, as a member of SADC, also signed the Protocol and committed itself to implementing its standards.

"Mauritius Watch" provides a regular, objective and non-partisan assessment of Zimbabwe’s compliance with the Protocol. In the run-up to the 2005 Parliamentary Elections we note any significant failures to adhere to the SADC standards.

Date

Incidents/Developments

SADC standards breached

18.11.04

MUGABE BANS HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS

Zimbabwe’s parliament was rushing through legislation last week that will shut down human rights groups and other organizations critical of Robert Mugabe and his government. The Non-Government Organizations Bill will force all the estimated 3,000 private voluntary organizations to register with a state commission or be closed, have their staff arrested and their assts seized. Those not already on the Social Welfare Ministry’s voluntary register will be regarded as illegal as soon as the law comes into force. The Bill also threatens charities that provide water supplies, famine relief, seed and farming implements, literacy and support to much of the one third of the population stricken by HIV/AIDS – and this in a country where most government services, including health, education and welfare are now in ruins.

Earlier this month a report from the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Lands and Agriculture revealed that only 2.3 per cent of the official maize harvest projections had been realized. On this basis, and even taking into account the grain imports the government has been reluctant to admit, Zimbabwe is moving towards a serious grain deficit by early in the new year. Meanwhile senior government ministers have been implicated in a scam involving the export of desperately needed seed from their newly-acquired farms.

Agencies concerned with so-called "governance "issues, including voter education, will be banned from receiving foreign funding. Foreign human rights organizations, including the local office of Amnesty International, will be outlawed.

The parliamentary legal committee has reported that the Bill violates the Constitution on 12 counts. But the ruling ZANU PF has used its parliamentary majority once again to push aside all objections, voting to suspend parliament’s standing orders which would have required a three-week delay to redraft the legislation to bring into line with the Constitution. Mugabe wants this and other draconian Bills passed into law before the ZANU PF Congress commencing December 1.

Professor Welshman Ncube, chairman of the parliamentary legal committee which submitted the adverse report described the Bill as "a determined and pervasive attempt to curtail and extinguish the fundamental freedoms of the people of Zimbabwe". He added: "It does not seek to regulate but to control, to silence, to render ineffective and ultimately shut down non-governmental organizations."

(Reported in The Times (UK) - www.timesonline.co.uk and the Daily Telegraph (UK) - www.telegraph.co.uk)

2.1.1. Full participation of citizens in the political process

2.1.8 Voter education

4.1.1. Constitutional and legal guarantees of freedom and rights of the citizens

4.1.2. Conducive environment for free, fair and peaceful elections

7.4. (Government to) safeguard the human and civil liberties of all citizens including the freedom of movement, assembly, association, expression and campaigning …

20.11.04

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL BLASTS BILL

New restrictions proposed under the government’s Non-Government Organizations (NGO) Bill will hamper the reporting of human rights’ violations in Zimbabwe, Amnesty International has said.

In a statement Amnesty spokesman, Joseph Dube, said that "if such provisions were enacted several human rights organizations would not be able to operate legally in Zimbabwe."

The removal of any mechanisms for monitoring and reporting human rights abuses can only have a negative impact on the human rights situation in the country – a situation which has already attracted adverse comment both in the region and world-wide. It would also make it easier for breaches of SADC election standards to pass unnoticed.

(Reported by Zim Online - www.zimonline.co.zw)

7.4. (Government to) safeguard the human and civil liberties of all citizens …

7.5. (Government to) take all necessary measures and precautions to prevent the perpetration of fraud, rigging or any other illegal practices throughout the whole electoral process …

18.11.04

TSVANGIRAI BRANDED "ENEMY OF THE STATE"

The President of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), currently on a European tour, was branded an "enemy of the state’ by Zimbabwe’s Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Patrick Chinamasa. Speaking in parliament and with reference to the opposition leader’s reported lobbying for renewed sanctions against Mugabe and his entourage, Chinamasa said that he (Tsvangirai) was "state enemy number one". He added: "If Mr Tsvangirai called for sanctions, I don’t expect that he would want to return to this country". MDC members of parliament objected to the description of their leader as "state enemy number one" but their objections were rejected by the ZANU PF Speaker of Parliament.

(Reported by AFP -www.afp.com/ )

2.1.3 Political tolerance

4.1.2. Conducive environment for free, fair and peaceful elections

7.4 (Government to) safeguard the human and civil liberties of all citizens including the freedom of … expression

17.11.04

MUGABE "BUILDING UP HIS ARSENAL" BEFORE POLLS

Tons of police anti-riot equipment and other military hardware worth millions of dollars have been ordered by the Mugabe regime from China in preparation for the March 2005 poll. The Cape Argus quoted "authoritative sources" confirming that the police and the military were being fully prepared to deal with internal disturbances which might occur if the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) decides not to contest the elections. The newspaper was unable to ascertain the precise details of the order but quoted officials who said that police anti-riot equipment, including "several tons of teargas", would constitute the bulk.

(Reported in The Cape Argus (SA) - www.capeargus.co.za)

4.1.2 Conducive environment for free, fair and peaceful elections

19.11.04

CIVIC GROUP ACTIVISTS ARRESTED Police in Harare arrested a number of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) members who were protesting against proposed new legislation imposing severe restrictions on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) Different reports gave the number arrested between 16 and 31.

The NCA is a coalition of human and civic rights groups, pro-democracy organizations, labour, churches and opposition parties campaigning for a new and democratic constitution for Zimbabwe.

About 300 supporters of the coalition converged in central Harare, singing and waving placards denouncing the NGO Bill before heavily armed police, who had kept tight surveillance throughout the city since the morning, pounced on the protestors, beating them up and arresting some. In addition to the arrests at least 16 people were reported to be seriously injured during the police charge.

(Reported by Zim Online - www.zimonline.co.zw and in the Zimbabwe Independent - www.theindependent.co.zw)

2.1.1. Full participation of the citizens in the political process

2.1.2. Freedom of association

2.1.3. Political tolerance

4.1.2. Conducive environment for free, fair and peaceful elections

7.4. (Government to) safeguard the human and civil liberties of all citizens including the freedom of movement, assembly, association, expression and campaigning … during the electoral process

17.11.04

NO FREE AND FAIR POLL UNDER THIS ELECTORAL REFORM

The Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network (ZESN), a non-partisan non-governmental organization concerned with electoral issues in Zimbabwe, has published a detailed analysis of the reforms proposed by the Mugabe regime. Commenting on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Bill and the Electoral Bill 2004 which are now before parliament and which constitute the total package of the proposed reforms, ZESN says that the fundamentals in these two Bill are worse than the existing legislation governing elections.

The ZESN report notes that nowhere in either of the electoral Bills are there provisions for fair access to the only electronic media, the partisan Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation. All other independent broadcasters have been closed down by force. Election observers "will have to be accredited by a committee dominated by nominees of various government ministers, including the President’s Office, and only persons invited by a minister or by the (existing) Electoral Supervisory Commission will be eligible for accreditation", reads the ZESN analysis. "The Bill will require state employees, including members of the defence forces, the police force and the prison service, to be seconded to the Electoral Commission during elections".

Further the report notes that "the Bill’s provisions regarding access to voters’ rolls are similar to those in the present Act" which means there is no fixed date to check on the accuracy of the current roll, nor access to the electronic version.

(Reported in The Pretoria News - www.pretorianews.co.za)

2.1.5 Equal opportunity for all political parties to access the state media

2.1.6. Equal opportunity to exercise the right to vote and be voted for

2.1.7. Independence of the Judiciary and impartiality of the electoral institutions

4.1.3. Non-discrimination in the voters’ registration

4.1.4. Existence of updated and accessible voters’ roll

7.3 (Government to) establish impartial, all-inclusive, competent and accountable national electoral bodies …

7.5. (Government to) take all necessary measures and precautions to prevent the perpetration of fraud, rigging or any other illegal practices …

On the basis of these and numerous other daily breaches of the SADC Protocol on Democratic Elections, it can be seen that the Mugabe regime has yet to show any serious intent to change its ways or to begin to prepare for anything resembling fair and free elections. In fact the reforms they are proposing will result in a situation even worse than the situation which obtained during the Parliamentary Elections of 2000 and Presidential Election of 2002, both of which were heavily criticized by observer missions from the international community.

And the March 2005 Parliamentary Elections are now a matter of weeks away …..

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