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ZESN's closing statement at its Annual General Meeting
Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN)
July 23, 2005

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network held its Annual General Meeting on the 23rd of July 2005 at the Wild Geese Lodge in Harare. The meeting deliberated on a number of issues pertaining to the network and the nation as a whole and came up with several resolutions with the major one being to continue lobbying for the establishment of a truly independent electoral management body.

Having observed the wanton destruction of homes under the name of ‘Operation Restore Order’ or Murambatsvina, ZESN notes with concern the effects of this operation on the electorate in particular and democracy in general.

Operation Murambatsvina has not only caused untold suffering to the majority of the urban poor by making them destitute but has also inevitably resulted in the forcible displacement of most of them. This means that although these displaced people remain on the voters’ roll they are unable to exercise their right to vote since they are no longer resident in the constituencies in which they are registered as voters.

The destruction of the urban dwellings has left some members of parliament in an untenable position whereby they have been left with a few people to represent in parliament as significant portions of their constituencies have been destroyed.

The government has gazetted proposed constitutional amendments through which it seeks to re –establish senate. Owing to the large number of people that has been displaced during the operation, it is evident that for any reasonably free and fair elections to take place in Zimbabwe it will be necessary to undertake a comprehensive voters’ roll audit and a transparent voter registration exercise that will result in the creation of a credible voters’ roll.

ZESN is perturbed that the government has adopted a unilateral approach towards this very important national issue and has not bothered to consult the various stakeholders, especially the electorate, before gazetting the proposed amendments nor has it attempted to advise the people of the advantages or otherwise of adopting a bicameral legislative system.

In addition, ZESN believes that the continued holding of elections under the prevailing economic conditions is not in the interests of democracy. The current fuel and economic crises make preparations for elections costly and the movement of voters difficult. ZESN wonders whether the country’s ailing economy can sustain an election of such magnitude after another election, especially when considering the immense costs involved in the conducting of elections. ZESN therefore proposes that the senate be established by proportional representation using the March 2005 election results.

ZESN is disturbed by the government’s intension to appoint sixteen of the proposed sixty six senators. It is noteworthy that the appointment of thirty non – constituency members of parliament is already a contentious matter and ZESN believes that the appointment of the un elected senators will not only be a cause for public outcry but is also undemocratic and not in the spirit of the SADC Principles and Guidelines on democratic elections.

ZESN notes that none of the thirteen challenges to the results of the March 2005 elections have yet been resolved in court. It is ZESN’s opinion that continuing to hold elections in this background will greatly contribute to voter apathy and further polarise the country.

In view of the challenges and disputes that have characterised previous elections ZESN believes that the country’s elections will continue to be riddled by controversy unless a truly independent election management body that runs and manages elections in a transparent manner is set up.

ZESN also reiterates its call for the abolition of the Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC) and for the establishment of a single, truly independent election management body. It is such a body that should be responsible for the new voter registration exercise that ZESN has been and is still calling for.

The network also calls for the immediate cessation of the persecution and segregation of those patriotic Zimbabweans who served as its observers in the March general elections. It also recommends that all the stakeholders to the Zimbabwean crisis should engage each other in dialogue in order to find an amicable resolution and avert an economic and political crisis.

ZESN implores the responsible authorities to open up both the electronic and print media in order to afford political competitors an opportunity to air their views to their supporters. Not only will such a move go a long way towards levelling the electoral playing field but it will also open the way for divergent views thereby giving the voters an opportunity to make an informed choice.

The selective application of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) has made it difficult for other players to enter the media field. Certain sections of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) also restrict basic freedoms therefore ZESN reiterates its call for a comprehensive constitutional review process in order to create an environment conducive for the holding of democratic elections.

It is with this in mind that ZESN calls on the government to take urgent measures to rectify the situation if the Bulawayo Mayoral elections and other impending local government elections are to be held in line with SADC Principles and Guidelines on Democratic Elections.

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