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Preliminary statement on the Constitutional Referendum
Election Support Network
March 18, 2013
Election Support Network (ZESN), a network of 31 non-governmental
organisations working on the promotion of democratic elections in
the Constitutional Referendum on Saturday 16 March 2013. ZESN
deployed approximately 600 observers across the country, drawn from
some of its member organisations.
show that the process was generally, peaceful and smooth with very
few recorded incidents of violations. ZESN commends ZEC for putting
together the logistical support within a short time.
pre-referendum concerns remain as they impact on the voting processes.
The untimely departure of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC)
Chair Justice Simpson Mutambanengwe; the extremely limited time
provided to ZEC to prepare for the Referendum; the inadequacies
in voter education on the contents of the draft constitution, the
inadequate and subsequent delay in allocating funding to ZEC; as
well as the intimidation/harassment of civic organisations, contribute
to our concerns.
the ZEC officials for responding timeously and professionally to
concerns of the observers despite the shortcomings highlighted earlier.
the process is not over and continues to observe post voting procedures
– counting, tallying and the tabulation of results.
As a non-partisan
body, ZESN observes elections to ensure that Zimbabweans are able
to freely exercise their right to vote and to provide citizens with
independent information on the process. As an umbrella network we
take no position on the merits or demerits of the new draft constitution.
ZESN conducts its observation efforts in conformity with the Declaration
of Global Principles for Citizen Election Observation and Monitoring
which was launched at the United Nations on 03 April 2012 as well
as the Principles
for Election Management, Monitoring and Observation in the SADC
and recommendations are made in reference to: The laws of Zimbabwe;
African Development Community (SADC) Principles and Guidelines Governing
Democratic Elections as well as other regional and African election
600 observers comprising mobile observer teams, stationary polling
station observers at specific polling stations, and constituency
observers deployed to ZEC Constituency Centres to witness the collating
11 the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, Patrick Chinamasa
(ZANU-PF), announced that the ZEC Chair, Justice Simpson Mutambanengwe,
had resigned. While Justice Rita Makarau was appointed the new ZEC
Chair on the eve of Referendum Day, the Referendum preparations
were conducted under the ZEC Vice -Chair Ms Joyce Letitia Kazembe.
Just a day later,
on 12 February, Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs,
Eric Matinenga (MDC-T), announced that the Referendum would be held
on Saturday 16 March 2013. On Friday 15 February the date for the
Referendum was officially gazetted.
This date provided very little time for the ZEC to prepare, or for
COPAC to conduct comprehensive awareness campaigns for citizens
to make an informed decision on the draft constitution.
of Civil Society
During the run-up
to the Referendum there was a disturbing pattern of intimidation
against civic organizations involved in citizen election observation.
These incidents included:
- 13 December
(a ZESN member organisation) was raided
by the police;
- 14 January
the ZIMRIGHTS Director, Okay Machisa, was arrested
by the police;
- 11 February
Peace Project (ZPP a ZESN member organisation) were raided
by the police;
- 19 February
the ZESN office in Masvingo was broken
into and materials stolen;
- 20 February
the ZESN main office in Harare was raided
by the police; and
- 21 February
the ZESN office in Masvingo was again
broken into at gun-point and again materials stolen; and
- 07 March
the Police Commissioner-General, Augustine Chihuri, appeared on
that the ZPP Director, Jestina Mukoko (a ZESN Board Member) turn
to the police.
For the first
time ZEC added a third accreditation centre in Masvingo. This was
a positive step, making it easier for citizens to exercise their
right to observe the electoral process. ZESN hopes that the accreditation
of observers will be decentralised to all the country’s 10
provinces even down to the district levels.
to accredit all ZESN members as observers under the umbrella body
as has always been the case over the years. Instead, ZEC required
ZESN member organisations to resubmit their applications as separate
bodies to “unbundle the membership”. In addition to
being administratively burdensome, this violated the ZESN members’
fundamental right to association. Further, the accreditation process
appeared discriminatory as other networks were accredited as single
entities yet they are also coalitions.
Worse, ZEC made
the arbitrary decision to refuse to accredit ZIMRIGHTS and the Director
of the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), Ms Jestina Mukoko, who is also
a Board member of ZESN, on the grounds that they were “under
police probe”. We have since raised concerns over this issue
given that the two organisations have not been found guilty of any
crime and are protected by the constitutional right to be presumed
innocent until proven guilty.
apply the rules uniformly and put in place a clear accreditation
criterion well in advance.
and Opening of Polling Stations
The setup and
opening of polling stations generally went well with most polling
stations having adequate materials to commence voting. In isolated
incidents, ZESN observers reported that polling stations opened
three isolated reports of accredited observers initially being denied
access to polling stations, but these issues were ultimately positively
There were a
few reports of missing materials at polling stations, such as the
official ZEC stamp (four) and indelible ink (five). The vast majority
of polling stations were set up so that voters could mark their
ballot paper in secret.
reports of the presence of police officers inside polling stations,
yet Section 19 of the Electoral
Act as read with Schedule 2 of the Electoral Regulations 2005
as amended by Statutory Instrument 32 of 2008, states that only
members of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, electoral officers
on duty, election agents and accredited observers are allowed within
the polling station.
reported compliance on many levels including ballot papers stamped
with the ZEC seal being issued and voters’ fingers marked
with indelible ink. Observers at polling stations reported that
voters without a proper ID identifying their citizenship were not
permitted to vote. Campaigning within 100 metres of polling stations
was not permitted and there were no incidents of violence or intimidation;
or attempts to disrupt the process.
the processing of voters was efficient which reduced waiting time
for most voters. However, ZESN received several reports of unauthorized
persons inside the polling station as well problems with assisted
voters being unable to select the person who would assist them to
went on well except for a few incidents reported by observers. All
ZESN polling station observers reported that the seals on the ballot
box were intact when counting started.
14 requests for recounts of the ballots. Public posting of results
took place in most polling stations except in a few cases (six)
where ZESN observers reported that the official results were not
The ZESN Information
Centre, located at the Holiday Inn, received a total of 178 voting
incidents – primarily from its mobile observer teams –
of which 142 have been confirmed.
number of incidents, 38 reports, relate to violations of the voting
procedures followed by 22 reports of unauthorized persons in the
polling stations. There were also isolated reports of ZEC polling
officials lacking identification badges and an incident of a ZANU-PF
supporter in Mataga, Midlands Province, positioned within a five-metre
radius of the polling station taking down names of the people who
number of incident reports was received from Bulawayo, Harare and
Masvingo provinces with 27, 22 and 22 reports respectively.
short notice, the ZEC was able to organize a generally smooth and
credible Election Day process. However, there were shortcomings
that ZEC should address in advance of the harmonised elections.
For the harmonised
elections, ZEC should ensure:
- Police officers
are deployed outside of polling stations as stipulated in the
law (not inside);
voter education is conducted (inclusively involving civic organisations)
to ensure voters bring the correct identification documents to
officials are fully trained on the procedures for assisted voting,
and voters are informed about their right to make their own choice
of who will assist them, and that voters requiring assistance
are permitted to select a person of their choice to assist them;
officials post the official results outside of all polling stations
for public inspection. This will ensure a transparent process.
- The voters’
roll is amended and updated.
early decentralisation of the accreditation process to make it
less cumbersome and cost effective.
ZESN again notes
that additional electoral reforms are needed before the harmonised
elections take place.
in-depth understanding of the proportional representation system
to the electorate.
- The ZEC
Commissioners, as an entity rather than the Chief Elections Officer,
announce all election results
laws, such as the Public
Order and Security Act (POSA) should be repealed before new
- All political
parties must be able to have equal access to and coverage by the
state electronic media and all political parties must be able
to campaign in every province and constituency.
- The campaign
of intimidation against civic organisations must stop immediately
and they must be allowed to conduct civic and voter education
as well as observe the electoral process if the harmonised elections
are to be credible.
ZESN will continue
to observe the process through the tallying of results at the various
levels and the announcement of the official results by the ZEC and
will issue additional statements as appropriate. ZESN is encouraged
that ZEC has publicly committed itself to the timely release of
the results and urges ZEC to release not only the national but also
the provincial and polling station results.
campaign of intimidation against civic organisations must stop immediately
and they must be allowed to conduct civic and voter education as
well as observe the whole electoral process if the harmonised elections
are to be credible.
Visit the ZESN
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