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This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • Index of results, reports, press stmts and articles on March 31 2005 General Election - post Mar 30

  • Use of public resources in 2005 Zimbabwe parliamentary elections
    Sydney Letsholo, Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA)
    Extracted from Election Talk No. 20
    May 10, 2005

    The use of public resources during election time has always been a thorny issue throughout the world, and Zimbabwe is no exception. The debate has centred on the notion that the use of public resources has been unfairly to the advantage of ruling parties. This article will look at the use of public resources in Zimbabwe with regard to the public media, public funding for political parties and other publicrelated resources that are and can be used. Furthermore, the article will critically focus on the relevant legislation that clearly stipulate on the conduct of political parties when using state resources.

    Public Funding to Political Parties
    An election is a fairly expensive endeavour in that it demands the investment of various kinds of resources throughout its three main phases, namely: pre-election; polling or election day; and postelection.1 Throughout the world, ruling parties have a tendency to set rules that are heavily favourable to them. EISA's election instrument, the Principles for Election Management, Monitoring and Observation in the SADC Region (PEMMO) notes that the majority of SADC member states provide public funding to political parties for election purposes. However, in Zimbabwe, the Political Party (Finance) Act forbids any public funding for political parties. Section 7 of the Act stipulates that no person who is a citizen of a foreign country domiciled in a country other than Zimbabwe shall, within Zimbabwe, solicit donations from the public on behalf of any political party of candidate. This Act (see Election Talk 19 for further details) has seen many parties and some independent candidates failing to contest the parliamentary elections. In this regard, political analysts and opposition parties argue that the playing fields are not level. In an effort to have a political environment that is conducive to credible elections, PEMMO has come up with following recommendations:

    • Public funding should be extended to all parties (and independent candidates) contesting elections who can demonstrate a track record of support in the most recently held elections, based for example on their share of the popular vote;
    • The Electoral Management Body (EMB) should be responsible for regulating the use of these public funds and beneficiaries of the funds must provide verifiable accounts to the EMB; and
    • Consideration should be given to the establishment of rules governing the disclosure of all sources of funding of political parties.

    Use of State Resources & Freedom of Assembly and Association
    It is generally accepted that the main function of the police throughout the world is to maintain law and order. In an effort to maintain such, the Zimbabwean government has instituted the Public Order and Security Act (POSA). The Act has been seen as hindering freedom of assembly and association as it gives the police wide powers to control public meetings and demonstrations. This also applies to political rallies, gatherings and meetings that are conducted in any public place.2 It has been argued by opposition parties that state resources, in this case the police, are mainly misused to curtail political freedom of association and expression. Section 24 of POSA stipulates that organisers of public gatherings, other than social gatherings, must give the police four days' notice that they are going to hold them, and failure to give notice is a criminal offence punishable by up to six months' imprisonment. To some extent, it has also been put forward that this Act stifles the freedom of the press.

    Use of State Resources & Freedom of Expression
    The media plays a crucial role in the democratic affairs of any given country. Whether state-run or independent, the fact remains that there is a need for objective analysis on the state of democracy, more especially around election time. In many Southern African countries and beyond, the painful reality is that the ruling parties dominate the public media. Chief of the argument is that in election time, the ruling party enjoys privileged access to the public media at the expense of the opposition parties. Though the emergence of independent media has had the effect of challenging this monopoly, there is still a perception that in some cases the public media is not sufficiently accountable to the populous, often resorting to sensational and bias reporting.3

    In Zimbabwe, the perception is no different. The state has passed the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) which lays down the rules for the public media.

    Various stakeholders in the country object to this Act as infringing on freedom of expression. Section 79 of the Act mandates that no journalist shall exercise the rights of a journalist without being accredited by the Media and Information Commission. The credibility of this Commission has been a bone of contention because of the nature of its composition. The Commission consists entirely of ministerial appointees, who are partisan and ruling party sympathisers. Furthermore, Section 80 (1: A) of the Act mentions that it is an offence for a journalist to falsify or fabricate information. This Act has seen many independent newspapers being shut down.

    Nonetheless, PEMMO has come up with the following recommendations regarding public media:

    • All contesting parties and candidates should have equal access to the public media;
    • Media regulations should be issued by an independent media authority responsible for monitoring and regulating the media on a continuous basis; and
    • Media coverage of the elections should be subject to a code of conduct designed to promote fair reporting.

    The article has reflected on the complexity of the usage of state resources in Zimbabwe, especially around election time. Furthermore, the issue on the use of state resources has not only been controversial in Zimbabwe alone, but also throughout the world. However, in Zimbabwe, the issue has fuelled tensions between the ruling party and the opposition parties. In an effort to balance the reportedly uneven playing fields, the article has also given the recommendations as stated in PEMMO.


    • Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), 2002 Masterson, G, 2005: "Zimbabwe's Constitutional & Legal Framework", in Election Talk, No.18, Johannesburg
    • Matlosa, K & Mbaya, K, 2004. "An Analysis of the Utilisation of State/Public Resources during Elections: A Comparative Survey of Experiences in the SADC Region", in The Politics of State Resources: Party Funding in South Africa, Matlosa, K (ed), Johannesburg
    • The SADC Electoral Principles and Guidelines, and Zimbabwe's New Electoral Legislation prepared by ZESN, 2005
    • Political Parties (Finance) Act, 2001
    • Principle for Election Management, Monitoring and Observation in the SADC Region, 2003
    • Public Order and Security Act (POSA), 2002

    1. Matlosa & Mbaya, 2004: 12
    2. Masterson, 2005: 2
    3. PEMMO, 2003

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