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Zimbabwe Election Watch Issue No. 13
December 18, 2007

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Executive Summary

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) has come up with an important critique of the recently gazetted Electoral Laws Amendment Bill which seeks to align the country's laws governing elections with Constitutional Amendments numbers 17 and 18.

ZESN's 10 000-word document was authored last month and fears contained in it were confirmed when President Mugabe warned in his state-of-the-nation address that Zimbabwe would not brook any interference in the running of next year's watershed elections. He insisted that only friendly nations would be invited to observe next year's combined elections.

In response, African Commission on Human and People's Rights (ACHPR) special rapporteur on freedom of expression in Africa, Pansy Tlakula, called on the people and civic organisations in Zimbabwe to use the EU-Africa summit to bring pressure on Mugabe.

Despite calls from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to shelve the demarcation of constituencies until the conclusion of talks between the opposition and ruling Zanu PF party, the authorities went ahead and marked out constituencies for the elections.

The outcome of the constituency delimitation exercise, announced during early December, is reported to be biased in favour of Zanu PF, revealing glaring gerrymandering by the electoral body.

As announced by ZEC George Chiweshe, the three Zanu PF stronghold provinces - Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East and Mashonaland West - will get 27 of the 60 new seats in the expanded parliament. In response, the MDC said the remaining 33 were disproportionately shared by the other provinces. Bulawayo province, which is controlled by the opposition, gained the lowest number of new seats - five.

Chiweshe has refused to accept concerns raised by the MDC that the national voters' roll is "a shambles" and needs an overhaul to remove the names of people who have died.

Chiweshe said although the voters' roll is still open for registration, the commission had used the more than 5.6 million voters who were on the register to mark out the constituencies.

This number of voters is questionable given that, in March 2005, Tobaiwa Mudede, the registrar-general, announced there were 5.7 million voters on the roll and since then the population has dropped significantly.

Responding to Mudede's announcement in 2005, MDC supporters said that up to a million phantom voters could have been included on the register and that ghost voters would be used to inflate votes, which turned out to be the case.

Eddie Cross, a policy adviser to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) (MT), estimates there are now less than 3 million potential voters. Current estimates suggest that the country's population has dropped from around 12.5 million people in 2000 to between 7 and 8 million people, of whom 1.6 million are AIDS orphans. Conservative estimates indicate that more than 3 500 people die each week due mainly to starvation, malnutrition and the collapse of the health care system.

According to a study by the Solidarity Peace Trust, 3.4 million Zimbabweans had left the country by 2004, a staggering 60-70% of productive adults and since then the ranks of the diaspora have swelled significantly in response to the economic collapse, the collapse of health care and the escalation of violence. More than 25% of all Zimbabweans are now in political or economic exile - the biggest proportional mass movement of a population in peacetime ever in modern history.

A fresh report by a group of human rights physicians says the Zimbabwean government has brutally sought to suppress political opposition with state-sponsored torture and political violence, and doubts that the 2008 general elections polls will be free and fair.

The report, titled "We Have Degrees in Violence: A Report on Torture and Human Rights Abuses in Zimbabwe" released this month, documents how victims of political violence have been tortured and subjected to other human rights abuses causing devastating health consequences.

During the first week of December, heavily armed riot police violently stopped a demonstration by the National Constitutional Assembly and in Kwekwe, five student leaders were severely assaulted for wearing T-shirts displaying a portrait of the late MDC spokesman, Learnmore Jongwe.

A musical concert promoted by the civic organisation Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition to disseminate information on people's civic rights to vote was stopped by the Central Intelligence Organisation. At least a dozen theatrical performances have been banned and the artists detained without trial.

Despite the ongoing talks, a political agreement between Zanu PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change has not been reached.

David Coltart, MDC MP (MT) for Bulawayo South, says: "Unless there is an agreement regarding a new constitution being introduced prior to the election, and a reasonable time period between its introduction and holding an election, then any agreement will not be possible."

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