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Ballot update: June-July issue
Election Support Network
August 05, 2011
in Zimbabwe continue to unfold in intriguing ways. The months of
June and July witnessed a number of inconsistencies regarding election
dates messages and the electoral road map, which impact negatively
on the nation's confidence in the Inclusive
Government. Of importance was the statement by President Mugabe
to leave "his" generals alone and its implications for
free and fair elections in the country. During this period there
was also the disturbing disruption of public hearings for the Human
Rights Commission Bill at the Parliament building and in Masvingo.
These and other political development are analysed in this Ballot
Election Support Network remains dedicated to the promotion of democratic
elections in Zimbabwe. In line with this objective, the organisation
continues to analyse the political environment in the 210 House
of Assembly constituencies where its observers are deployed. This
update is informed by observations from these constituencies and
broadly captures national political developments in Zimbabwe. For
comments and feedback email: email@example.com
of National Unity remains fragile with evident cracks as the three
parties continue to fail to work out their differences for the good
of the country. The lack of institutional reform has meant that
it remains business as usual with continued harassment and arrest
of MDC activists and members of Parliament. In the last update,
ZESN noted that statements by Brigadier Nyikayaramba that 'they'
would not accept anyone without war credentials as Head of State
and that succession was not an issue on the agenda raised a furore
in media and political circles. In reaction to these utterances,
a Member of Parliament, Honarable Chikwinya of MDC moved the matter
in Parliament on the unconstitutionality of the statements by the
security sector. In reaction to Parliament's discussion on
the role of security agents, President Mugabe is on record as having
warned Parliament to leave his generals alone. The condoning and
defence of the General's statement by the President does not
give confidence on the functionality of the GNU. Such statements
do not provide any hope of the possibility of security sector reform
given that it remains one of the issues that have remained unresolved
in the implementation of the GPA and the election roadmap. In light
of the role played by the military in the presidential run-off and
their alleged deployment to provinces to "get things in order",
there are far reaching implications for the conduct of an election
under an unreformed security sector. ZESN calls for a military that
is professional operating squarely within its constitutional mandate
of protecting national security and not partisan interests.
the gazetting of the Electoral
Laws Amendment Bill. While this shows efforts by political parties
to right the problematic issues in the current electoral laws, ZESN
notes a number of oversights on the part of the political parties
negotiating on the law. The Bill does not mention a number of critical
aspects that affect the electoral environment in the country. It
remains silent on what defines an election period and the campaign
period. The lack of such distinctive timeframes, has led to perpetual
campaigns by some political parties in Zimbabwe. In addition, the
Bill does not deal with structural flaws inherent in the political
environment such as the role of security sector except for the police
in electoral processes. A number of other issues remain grey in
the Bill such as the independence of ZEC which is not provided for,
the registration of voters which remains a shared responsibility
between the registrar of voters and ZEC. ZEC remains tied regards
accreditation to the approval of the committee without other recourse
measures for those denied accreditation. ZESN advocates for ZEC
to be in charge of the invitation and accreditation of observers
without any form of executive involvement or interference. Further,
there is contradiction on the issue of polling station based voters
roll and ward based voters roll. There is need for clarity on which
voter registration system will be used.
Constitution Making Process
making process continues, well behind schedule, plagued by perennial
funding woes. In the month of July, COPAC began drafting the statement
of principles that would guide the drafters as they draw up the
constitution. ZESN welcomes the COPAC approach to draw experiences
from other countries such as South Africa and Kenya among others
who have had a constitution making process as a means of resolving
conflict and governance crises in these countries. The process of
collating provincial and national data is scheduled to resume so
that the drafting process can begin. COPAC officials quoted in the
media point to a draft by October and a referendum in January 2012.
These timelines seem more realistic than scheduled ones but ZESN
hopes that adequate time will be given to citizens to interrogate
the constitution so as to make informed decisions when the constitution
is taken to referendum. The Referendum Act needs to be reviewed
to reflect the changes that have taken place in the political environment.
The new constitution must establish two categories of referendum,
that is mandatory and non mandatory referenda which is triggered
by certain events and not leaving matters in the hands of the president.
ZESN notes the need to realign the Referendum Act to the Constitutional
provisions to prevent contradictions.
roadmap remains a controversial document that exposes the tensions
in the fragile inclusive government. ZESN is of the view that the
timelines provided in the roadmap are unrealistic and fail to address
a number of pertinent concerns that are essential before the country
can hold a new election. ZESN believes that the 30 days given for
voter education and mobilization for voter registration are insufficient
as the successful completion of the processes is likely to exceed
the set timeline given the many dimensions the processes demand.
The 60 day timeline given for voter registration and preparation
for a new voters' roll is unrealistic and there is need for
review taking into account the number of existing registered voters
in excess of 5 million and first time voters that would need to
be captured. This is compounded by the proposed Electoral Amendments
Bill which seeks set up a polling station based voters' roll.
The proposed system would necessitate the'reregistration'
of all existing voters and allocation to specific polling stations.
The time allocated for this process should be cognizant of this,
to ensure no eligible voters are excluded. The time and resources
required for voters to register also needs to be considered so that
the process is not too onerous as to discourage citizens from participating.
It is discouraging
to note that the parties failed to agree on essential reforms that
we believe are fundamental to creating an environment suitable for
credible, free and fair elections in Zimbabwe in particular the
need for enhancing the independence and resourcing of the Zimbabwe
Electoral Commission (ZEC).
Rights Commission Bill
Rights Commission Bill was gazetted on the 10th of June 2011.
Like many others, ZESN has expressed its concern over the absence
of an Act of Parliament two years after the constitutional provisions
setting up the Human Rights Commission were enacted. The absence
of legislation meant that the Commission was defunct even before
it got off the ground. While the gazetting of the Bill was welcome,
ZESN however notes with concern that public hearings for the Bill
were disrupted in Masvingo
on the 22nd of July 2011, where there was violence and intimidation
to participants. The Human Rights Commission is a critical as a
tool to remedy and curb the human rights violations that have taken
place in the country, the majority being electoral related or politically
motivated violence. A functional Human Right Commission would act
as an antidote for the inadequacies of the Organ
on National Healing and Reconciliation by providing the balance
between justice and healing. The disruptions of the meetings point
to continued conflict and the desire not to have institutions that
provide checks and balances to violence.
rights and fundamental freedoms
ZESN notes with
satisfaction the dismantling of some "bases" that had
been set up. ZESN observers in Chakari reported that a "base"
that had been mounted in Chakari Hall and the one at the old Chinhoyi
Hospital had been dismantled. While this is a positive development,
ZESN observers in some onstituencies have reported the existence
of "bases" in some areas Mashonaland West and Central
which ZESN is still verifying.
also noted the existence of various types of violations taking place
in some areas of the country. These violations include limited freedom
of expression, freedom of association and right to information,
intimidation, harassment and victimisation of perceived MDC supporters.
Observers in Gwanda reported violence and intimidation that followed
in the wake of a rally by Prime Minister Tsvagirayi in Gwanda Stadium.
While security is necessary, observers reported that the security
presence was overwhelming to the extent of being intimidatory. Vendors
were attacked and their wares confisticated during the same period
to disrupt the rally. This indicates deeper tension and the lack
of tolerance still existent in Zimbabwe. ZESN believes that citizens
have a right to attend events of their choice and political parties
have a right to promote themselves to citizens.
in rural constituencies have reported intimidation and censorship
of citizens who read other papers other than state owned newspapers.
This amounts to violation of citizens' right to information
which is critical in a democracy. The desire to ensure that only
one voice is heard yet there are more voices the citizens can have
access to speak of gross intolerance. These violations were noted
in some areas of Tsholotsho, Insiza South, Umguza, Gwanda Central,
Bulilima East, Mangwe, Gokwe Chireya, Gokwe Central and parts Mashonaland
Central and West to mention a few. On the whole, observers reported
various degrees of violations within constituencies, with most being
covert acts of intimidation meant to instil fear in citizens. Observers
have reported continued unequal access to citizens by political
parties. During this period, members of MDC led by Professor Ncube
and detained in Hwange for having held a private meeting in
Victoria Falls. They were later released without charges. In the
same way, police denied clearance to ZAPU for a meeting scheduled
in Lupane West. It seems that ZANU PF is the only party in the country
that is able to conduct meetings whenever they want without problems
of clearance. ZESN believes that Zimbabwe is a multiparty democracy
and the right to association is most critical. Barring some parties
from accessing citizens is a violation of their right to association
provided for in the Zimbabwe constitution. The issue of police clearance
has resulted in arbitrary denial of some groups while others are
favoured. In Masvingo, Jabulani Sibanda, the war veteran continues
with his reign of terror "to convert" people to the
right party. Observers in Bikita West and Zaka Central reported
that villagers were being coerced to attend meetings presided over
by Jabulani Sibanda. These meetings are meant to bring those citizens
perceived "lost" because they voted for MDC to the "right
party" ZANU PF. On the 18th of June, in Nyanga South, residents
were forced to attend a rally being presided over by an aspiring
member of Parliament for ZANU PF.
Headlands have reported a certain war veteran (name withheld) has
been forcing people in Mugadza District to buy ZANU PF cards. ZESN
believes that people should engage in political activities out of
their own volition not coercion which engenders healthy participation.
In Makoni West, observers have reported that people are being forced
to attend rallies and failure to do so results in their names being
forwarded to the youth officers. ZESN observers reported that in
Nyanga North, a council bar was being used to sell maize to ZANU
PF supporters only. In some settlements such as Caledonia and Bobo
in Mabvuku Harare, residents are threatened with eviction if they
do not support ZANU PF. This amount to intimidation and has implications
for elections held in this environment. ZESN observers reported
that on the 30th of June, a rally was held in Cheshumba school were
ZANU PF officials (names withheld) warned people that if people
do not vote for ZANU PF they would be dealt with severely. ZESN
believes elections are meant to provide citizens an opportunity
to vote in leaders of their choice, thus predetermined outcomes
due to violence and intimidation deny elections their purpose of
bring accountable and responsive leadership.
in the Midlands and Manicaland as well as Harare have noted the
handing out of gifts by ZANU PF officials in these areas. In Mabvuku
and Tafara in Harare, some residents have been given blankets, soap
and at times cash as well as funeral assistance. ZESN hopes these
gifts are not meant to cause undue influence to the electorate.
In some cases, the electorate has been promised more of these gifts
if they vote for a particular party. ZESN observers reported that
youth officers are being used as mobilizers of support for a political
party. ZESN observers throughout the country have reported tension
as citizens are not free to discuss political issues in public for
fear of victimisation; this shows the unhealthy nature of our political
ZESN notes with
concern that the moratorium on by-elections for deceased members
of Parliament has adverse consequences for representation of the
electorate. The moratorium on by-elections has result in some constituencies
without representation thereby creating their marginalisation. It
is important to begin thinking of mechanisms of ensuring these constituencies
are represented in Parliament and that their interests are taken
committed to monitoring Zimbabwe's political environment and
analysing their implications for the conduct of elections in Zimbabwe.
While some areas in Zimbabwe are experiencing human rights violations
in various ways, observers have also noted areas where people's
rights are respected. ZESN envisages a Zimbabwe where people's
rights are respected and protected. In pursuance of our mandate
of promoting a democratic Zimbabwe where free and fair elections
are conducted, Zimbabwe advocates for these minimum conditions:
- The creation
of a violent-free environment where freedom of assembly, association
and speech, media pluralism among others are upheld.
observation forms a critical element in any election, ZESN calls
for the opening up of election observation to all interested stakeholders
and for the invitation to be given by ZEC and not an executive
arm of government.
ZESN remains concerned about the state of the voters' roll
and calls for the production of a fresh voters' roll.
- ZESN advocates
that ZEC should be independent of executive influence and report
be well resourced and be given its full mandate in the management
of the election.
- ZESN believes
that for elections to be free and fair there is need for transparency
in all processes of the elections which include among others results
management, transparency in the processing of postal votes.
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