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Review of SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections - Opinion and Analysis
adopts electoral draft Bill
Musengeyi, The Herald
September 08, 2004
Government yesterday adopted the anxiously awaited draft Bill to establish
an independent electoral body to administer all elections and referendums
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
The chairperson of the commission
shall be a person qualified to be a judge of the High Court or Supreme
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
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
A Member of Parliament or a
member of two or more statutory bodies shall not be appointed a commissioner.
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