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This article participates on the following special index pages:
New Constitution-making process - Index of articles
Constitutional Referendum interim report
March 20, 2013
Resource Centre (ERC) is a non-profit making organisation which
was established in January 2010 to service the needs of election
stakeholders in Zimbabwe. The Election Resource Centre is an independent
electoral institution which aims at strengthening the capacity of
election stakeholders to meaningfully engage in the election processes.
Apart from its
conventional programming the ERC establishes domestic observer missions
towards every given electoral event. In this instance the organization
has embarked on a mission to monitor the constitutional
referendum which was conducted on the 16th of March 2013.
of Observer Mission
- To assess
the pre-referendum environment
- To observe
the actual day of voting in terms of the voting procedures, counting
and transmission of results
- To record
and observe any voting irregularities before and during the referendum
- To observe
and report on any polls related violence
Resource Centre (ERC) deployed 30 accredited observers and voters’
clubs members who covered all the country’s 210 constituencies.
The observers assessed the pre-referendum period, the referendum
and post referendum period. In addition to the accredited observers,
the ERC also relied on information gathered and supplied by its
unaccredited citizen monitors situated in all the country's 210
constituencies. Such citizen monitors would give constant near-real
time updates on unfolding election related events which had potential
to disturb the conduct of the election. Such information was relayed
through SMS or Whatsapp, calls and feeds on e-mail and processed
into reports on the electoral environment.
period was largely peaceful but was punctuated by an upsurge in
on civil society organizations which witnessed raids
and searches at the Zimbabwe
Peace Project, ZimRights,
Dialogue. Such attacks on civil society impeded the ability
of the CSOs to freely provide their services to the citizenry, and
can stifle information to the communities especially as it relates
to the referendum.
- Voter Education
- ZEC embarked on a voter education outreach programme meant to
inform prospective voters of the requirements and places where
people were going to cast their votes. The outreach meetings started
on the 6th of March and were conducted until the 13th of March
2013 with ZEC deploying 2 voter educators per ward. Clearly the
time allocated for voter education exercise was inadequate and
indeed not far reaching. Consequently the referendum was marred
by the following unfortunate incidences:
bringing unsuitable forms of identification like drivers'
licences, expired passports, photocopies of IDs and even business
cards. This resulted in prospective voters to be turned away.
- The lack
of adequate voter education also resulted into spoilt ballots
which could have been avoided had there been adequate voter
information prior to the election.
- A significant
number of voters did not understand the difference between
a referendum and the general election.
- A number
of aliens, who by current law are not eligible to vote, found
themselves in queues intending to vote before inevitably being
- Voting -
Our observers on the ground reported that voting proceeded smoothly,
with most of the polling stations opening up on time for voting
and closing on time, albeit there were reports of one polling
station opening at 10.30am and closing at 10.30pm at Caledonia.
However the increase in the number of polling stations widened
access to the voting facilities. Voters were taking an average
of 3 minutes to complete the voting process. Generally, the voting
process was easy to navigate and the ERC commends the Zimbabwe
Electoral Commission for conducting a smooth voting process.
- Voting Environment
- While voting was widely peaceful and orderly, there were however
isolated reports of violence and arrests in certain parts of the
country. There were reports on acts of coercion in Epworth and
Muzarabani. Villagers and residents were being forced to go and
vote and threatened with unspecified action if they do not comply.
In Chakari, our observers reported that 7 ZANU PF youth were turned
away from a polling station for attempting to vote while wearing
party regalia, and reportedly assaulted an MDC-T supporter on
their way from the polling station. There were also reports of
arrests in Harare, Glen View and Kariba. It is however commendable
that the referendum was largely conducted in a largely peaceful
environment; but the isolated cases of violence and intimidation
have the potential to dent the credibility of the referendum.
Framework - Our observers reported disorder in the form of shortage
of ballot papers in areas such as Ntabazinduna in Matabeleland
North and Bulawayo East. There were reports of lack of adequate
visible signs to direct voters to most polling stations. Such
administrative oversights are an indictment on the part of ZEC
and its capacity to implement logistics related to the conduct
of elections, especially coming against the background of ZEC
having printed excessive ballot papers for the plebiscite.
- The ERC received reports of anomalies in the counting and collation
of results processes. For instance, the ERC received reports from
its observers that all observers present at New Hall Command Centre
in Glen View South Constituency were asked to vacate the facility
when counting began. Mr. Maenzanise, the Returning Officer at
the said counting centre further informed observers that they
were not at liberty to either disclose or display the results
as they were being channelled directly to the national command
- The mentioned
Returning Officer reportedly hinted to the observers that it is
his exclusive discretion to make public or not, results from the
collation centre concerned. Such utterances are clearly contrary
to the provisions of electoral legislation and regulations. It
was further reported that at some polling stations in Nyami Nyami,
Seke and Mt Pleasant, results were not being displayed at polling
stations; rather they were being channelled directly to their
respective collation centres. The ERC notes that such conduct
negates the provisions of the Referendums Regulations (Statutory
Instrument 26 of 2013) together with the Electoral
Act (Chapter 2.13) requiring every Returning Officer to “upon
completion of the constituency collation return, affix a copy
of the constituency collation return outside the constituency
- Police presence
inside polling stations - Our observers nationwide noted a worryingly
heavy presence of police in and around polling stations. Some
reports indicated that the police officers at some polling stations
were actively involved in the polling processes. More worrying
is the fact that most of the police details were present in the
polling stations – police should be stationed outside the
polling stations to maintain law and order. Their presence inside
polling stations has the potential to cause anxiety amongst the
Officials - The ERC also observed that some election officials
were not aware of the laws and regulations governing the conduct
of the referendum. This was invariably exhibited at various polling
centres as some polling officials either through commission or
omission did the following:
officers chasing away observers at counting
officers refusing to display results at the polling centres
officers refusing to give copies of results to accredited
observers at the polling centres
referendum officials did not understand the role of the observers
1. The ERC therefore
calls upon election administrators to exercise consistency in the
observance of electoral regulations, which inevitably would limit
suspicions of manipulation of the electoral outcomes.
2. Call on the
state institutions charged with maintaining law and order to fulfil
their mandate impartially and in manner that instills confidence
in the electorate
3. Urge ZEC
to plan more effectively its administration of the electoral processes
so that it is able to confront unforeseen events like floods and
accidents as well as shortage of voting material
4. Call on ZEC
to make sure that in future polls, adequate time and resources is
allocated to voter education so as to reduce rejected votes and
increase voter turnout.
5. That all
observers willing to observe future elections must be given accreditation
without unreasonable limitations.
6. There is
need to ensure officials deployed to polling centres are adequately
trained and fully understand the scope of their work and corresponding
laws and regulations governing the conduct of elections.
In view of the
above, the Election Resource Centre (ERC) considers the March 2013
Referendum to have been conducted in a largely peaceful, transparent
and credible manner.
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Resource Centre fact
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