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Consolidated Election Climate No. 1 - Feb 2005
National Constitutional Assembly (NCA)
March 18, 2005

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Executive Summary:
This report covers all the reports received by the NCA for February 2005, coming from 8 Provinces, and 56 Constituencies. It summarises the position that pertained during the last 2 weeks of February. Unfortunately, no data had been submitted from either Manicaland or Mashonaland West by the time of writing, but it is submitted that the data nonetheless do give a good overview of the national picture in February 2005.

The report does not give all the details for each Province and the related constituencies, but attempts to provide an overview of the election climate during February 2005. Detailed reports on each Province have been issued previously, and this report summarises these reports, as well as undertaking some preliminary analysis of the trends. Those who wish the more detailed reports should send an email to the NCA at

As can be seen from the consolidated Election Irregularity [EI] ratings [see below], no Province during February 2005, amongst those sampled, has shown a satisfactory election climate. Harare would seem the worst of all Provinces to date, whilst Matabeleland North seems the best. It is evident that the trend described above accords with the observations of previous elections: Harare and the Mashonaland Provinces generally have shown more frequent instances of election irregularities than other Provinces.

There is marked variability within the Provinces, although most constituencies have EI ratings that are unacceptably high. Bikita West and Hwange East had the lowest EI ratings, and there the electoral climate can be described as wholly conforming to the SADC Principles and Guidelines. In all, 5 constituencies had EI ratings of 3 or lower, and this is what might be expected of an election climate approximating the SADC Principles and Guidelines.

Of the 10 worst constituencies, 9 were from Mashonaland Provinces, with 7 of these from Harare alone. The shift towards urban constituencies showing a poorer election climate than rural constituencies marks a change from previous elections, and suggests that the battleground for this election is in the urban areas, where the Movement for Democratic Change has been the stronger of the two main parties since 2000.

The citizens report that political violence is widespread, and, although actual physical violence is reduced on previous elections, hate speech, threats, and intimidation are widely reported. This would strongly suggest that the psychological climate, so essential to genuine elections and open choice, is severely lacking currently in Zimbabwe.

Militia bases were reported in 40% of the constituencies sampled during February. There was no obvious trend, and the reports indicated that bases were equally likely to be in urban as well as rural areas. This is something of a change from previous elections when militia bases were generally more likely to be found in rural areas. The presence of militia bases is extremely important in recent Zimbabwean elections as there is a decided correlation between the presence of militia bases and political violence and other irregularities in a constituency. In view of the importance of militia, we undertook an analysis of the data as it relates to militia. This analysis showed strong associations between the presence of militia and a wide range of electoral irregularities: the association was not merely with violence, but with interference with basic freedoms as well.

It is also worth noting that voter education is extremely low, only 25% of the constituencies sampled reported voter education taking place, and, in those constituencies where voter education has taken place, this has usually been by the political parties. This would seem to reflect the dual effect of the new electoral laws and disruptions due to the NGO Bill producing a serious diminution of NGO activities compared with previous elections. Here it must be stressed that voter education is now under the control and direction of the Zimbabwe Election Commission, and the reports to date suggest that it is seriously deficient in this aspect of its duties.

The reports concerning the political use of food are also a clear cause for concern. Nearly 72% of the constituencies sampled reported the political use of food, with the most common report being an inability to access food without presenting a ZanuPF party card. In the run-up to a highly contentious election, and in the context of a manifestly serious humanitarian crisis, reports that food is being used as a form of treating must be immediately investigated. With a recent report stating that about 4.8 million are in need of food, reports of food being used as a political gambit are wholly unacceptable.

Our preliminary findings give enormous cause for concern, and, accordingly, we make the following recommendations:

  • There must be immediate steps to remove all partisan forces from the existing constituencies. This applies particularly to the war veterans and the youth militia. Here the NCA would point out that the associations between these groups and significant irregularities are sufficiently serious to warrant immediate action.
  • There must be immediate steps to set in place an enforceable code of conduct for these elections. Whilst both parties are implicated in electoral irregularities, the balance of the evidence to date suggests that ZanuPF is the major culprit, and the NCA would call upon the Government to take immediate steps both to restrain its supporters and to call for a consultation between all political parties on the setting up of an enforceable code of conduct.
  • In view of the large number of allegations of partisan behaviour by the law enforcement and security agencies, there must be immediate and public action by the Government to ensure compliance the law. The NCA calls upon the Government to ensure that all allegations of partisan behaviour on the part of these agencies are quickly investigated and publicly dealt with through the courts.
  • The complete absence of voter education, especially when these elections are being run under a new dispensation, is a near-fatal flaw, and underlines the reasons for the NCA repudiating these elections.
  • The allegations of partisan access to food are deeply disturbing, especially in the context of a serious humanitarian crisis. The NCA calls upon the Government to immediately take steps to ensure that no political party has any access to the possibility of providing food relief, and to publicly demonstrate to all that food relief is non-partisan.

It is doubtful that the election climate described above can change much in the coming weeks, but the NCA will withhold its judgement that the "freeness" component of the forthcoming election has been fatally damaged. The NCA will issue a final pre-election report immediately prior to the poll, which will summarise the developments during March 2005, as well as the whole pre-election climate. The NCA will also provide a final detailed and statistical report after the elections.

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