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  • Review of SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections - Opinion and Analysis

  • Government adopts electoral draft Bill
    By Itai Musengeyi, The Herald
    September 08, 2004

    The Government yesterday adopted the anxiously awaited draft Bill to establish an independent electoral body to administer all elections and referendums in Zimbabwe.

    The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Bill — which is expected to be gazetted soon before being brought to Parliament — will establish an independent body called the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to run elections in the country and amend the Electoral Act.

    "Subject to the Constitution, the Commission shall not, in the exercise of its functions, be subjected to the direction or control of any person or authority," reads the Bill.

    The approval of the draft Bill comes in the wake of false claims by the opposition MDC that the Government was not implementing guidelines governing democratic elections adopted at the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) summit last month in Mauritius.

    Before the adoption of the draft Bill, Government had already begun implementing some electoral reforms — which do not require legislation — in line with the Sadc guidelines.

    These include voting in one day and counting of votes at polling stations.

    The reforms will come into force in a rural district council by-election in Ward 1, Murehwa, on September 25 where the ruling Zanu-PF will battle it out with the MDC.

    ZEC will be responsible for running presidential, parliamentary and council elections as well as referendums.

    It will direct and control the registration of voters by the authority charged with that responsibility under an Act of Parliament; compile voters’ rolls and registers; and ensure the proper custody and maintenance of voters’ rolls.

    It will design, print and distribute ballot papers; approve the form of and procure ballot boxes; and establish and operate polling centres.

    The commission will also conduct voter education and accredit observers of elections and referendums in accordance with an Act of Parliament.

    It will provide adequate, accurate and unbiased voter education; and ensure voter education provided by other persons other than political parties is adequate and not misleading or biased in favour of any political party.

    The commission shall produce its own voter education materials or course of programme or instruction for use in voter education.

    It may appoint any person to assist it in providing voter education.

    No person other than the commission or a person appointed in terms of the law or a political party shall provide voter education, unless such a person is a citizen of Zimbabwe or permanent resident of Zimbabwe or an association of persons — whether incorporated or unincorporated — consisting exclusively of citizens or permanent residents of Zimbabwe.

    Persons and organisations providing voter education must employ citizens or permanent residents of Zimbabwe to conduct voter education.

    The voter education activities shall be funded solely by local contributions or donations.

    Foreign contributions or donations are prohibited except where the donations are made to the ZEC.

    Voter education materials shall be adequate and not misleading or biased in favour of any political party and must be free of charge.

    Voter education will be conducted in accordance with a course of programme furnished or approved by the commission.

    The commission may, in writing, request any organisation providing voter education, including political parties, to furnish it with their voter education materials.

    It may also request the names, addresses, citizenship or residence status and qualifications of the individuals who will conduct voter education; and disclose the manner and sources of funding of an organisation’s proposed voter education activities.

    Any person who contravenes these requirements shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine or imprisonment not exceeding two years or both.

    The commission may devise regulations on the reasonable and equal access by political parties to radio and television broadcasting services in consultation with the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe during an election period.

    The commission will also devise a code of conduct for political parties in consultation with political parties during an election period.

    A party that breaches any code of conduct shall be liable to a fine.

    The commission may make regulations that are, in its opinion, necessary or convenient to the administration of elections.

    It will give instructions to the Registrar General in regard to the exercise of his or her functions under the Electoral Act and other persons in the employment of the State or of a local authority for the purpose of ensuring the efficient, proper, free and fair conduct of elections.

    The commission will perform other functions that may be conferred or imposed on it by the Electoral Act or any other enactment.

    The commission shall have the power to do or cause to be done, either by itself or through its agents, all or any of the things specified in the Bill either absolutely or conditionally and either solely or jointly with others.

    It will ensure elections and referendums are conducted efficiently, freely, fairly, transparently and in accordance with the law.

    The commission is required to report to the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on any election or referendum as soon as possible after the election or referendum.

    The Minister will submit the report to Parliament within a certain period after receiving it.

    The President will appoint the chairperson of the commission after consultation with the Judicial Services Commission and four other commissioners from a list of seven nominees submitted by the Parliamentary Committee on Standing Rules and Orders.

    The chairperson of the commission shall be a person qualified to be a judge of the High Court or Supreme Court.

    The commission will appoint a chief elections officer whose principal task is to manage the affairs and property of the commission.

    No persons who are not Zimbabwean citizens shall become commissioners.

    People with financial interests in any business connected to the commission or engaged in any activity connected with any such service, or married or connected to or associated with a person who has such an interest cannot be commissioners, unless the President is satisfied the interest or activity will not interfere with the person’s impartial discharge of his or her duties as a commissioner.

    Persons who have been declared insolvent or bankrupt or convicted of an offence in Zimbabwe or outside the country or sentenced to jail for a period exceeding six months within five years immediately preceding their appointment, are disqualified from becoming commissioners.

    A Member of Parliament or a member of two or more statutory bodies shall not be appointed a commissioner.

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