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Election Watch Issue No. 13
December 18, 2007
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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
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.
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.
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
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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