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This article participates on the following special index pages:
New Constitution-making process - Index of articles
- progress review - Constitution Watch 21/2013
March 15, 2013
set up Committees
Committee: this was divided into subcommittees: Human Resources;
Transport and Communication; Finance; Infrastructure. Members of
were drawn from Ministries and their departments and parastatals.
Both ZEC and the subcommittees visited provinces to assess progress.
to monitor media reporting
on the Referendum and ensure they fulfil obligations laid down
in the Electoral Act to give equitable and fair coverage to all
sides, be accurate, factual and fair, rectify errors promptly, refuse
to promote stakeholders encouraging violence, avoid language encouraging
discrimination or inciting hatred, violence or contempt.
Committee: details of this committee and the accreditation process
and fees were given in Constitution
Watch 16/2013, and an update on observer accreditation will
be in the next Constitution Watch.
Electoral Commission [ZEC] deployed two voter educators per ward
to inform the electorate on their legal entitlement to vote, what
documents to bring to polling stations, the times when polling stations
will be opened, how assisted voters will be processed; and generally
information relating to the actual conduct and management of the
poll [not on the contents of the draft Constitution, as this was
done by COPAC and other stakeholders]. The teams used door-to-door
visits, addressed gatherings and meetings and distributed pamphlets.
This outreach programme started on 6th March and ran until 13th
March. ZEC also accredited 15 civic society organisations who had
been vetted and trained to assist in voter education and also flighted
advertisements in newspapers.
Training of Polling Officials
to train the 70 000 plus polling and other staff needed for the
Referendum – this included 56 736 polling officers, with the
rest made up of supervisors and returning officers. ZEC drew on
the pool of personnel used by ZEC previously, drawn from the Public
Service Commission; local authorities; statutory bodies; and the
Health Services Board. Although, because the Referendum falls in
the middle of a teaching term, the Minister of Education asked that
teachers should not be used, ZEC in fact had to use teachers, especially
in rural areas. First, trainers were trained, who then trained the
other necessary staff. Training was decentralised to provincial
and district levels. Two days were allowed. One returning officer
and six referendum officers will be deployed at each polling station.
The deployment took into account gender. Because of transport logistics
most personnel were deployed several days before polling.
9 456 polling
stations and have been identified and set up, as have command centres
at provincial, district and constituency levels. Polling compartments
and a sufficient number of translucent ballot boxes have been provided
at every polling station, along with indelible ink for marking voters’
fingers. 12 million ballot papers have been printed and distributed
according to anticipated demand per province.
The work of
ZEC and its subcommittees should be fully reported on in the ZEC
Referendum Report which has to be presented to the President and
Parliament and the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs [the Ministry
responsible for ZEC] as soon as possible after the results are announced,
and in any event not later than 6 months thereafter.
Time-Frame Too Short
Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Eric Matinenga has said
his personal opinion is that the Presidential proclamation of 16th
March gave too short notice of the Referendum. This short time-frame
between the gazetting of the final draft on 15th February and the
Referendum date has impacted on every aspect of preparing for the
referendum from funding, to producing Referendum regulations and
This was confirmed
by a ZEC commissioner at an observer briefing who said ZEC did not
have enough time to effectively prepare for the Referendum.
On the whole
ZEC has managed well in its administrative decisions given the short
notice, but some of its decisions that have legal or political overtones
have been made without opportunity for querying them.
of Short Time-Frame
substantive chairperson until last minute Justice Makarau has been
sworn in as the new ZEC chairperson less than a day before the Referendum,
meaning that all preparations were headed by the acting chairperson,
who, with due respect to her other skills and experience, does not
have the legal qualifications specified for a chairperson, a fact
which has led to a court challenge.
other government officials or Zimbabwean on national duty outside
the country have the right to postal votes in all elections. But
application forms have to be sent to them and ballot papers delivered
and returned, and ZEC said they did not have time to do this.
the Referendums Act says all Zimbabweans of 18 or above are entitled
to vote, but in spite of many requests and the recent ruling of
the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, the millions
of Zimbabwean in the Diaspora have been excluded.
for prisoners to vote
the Constitution prisoners have the right to vote unless serving
a jail term of six months or more. But no prisoners will be able
to exercise their rights in the Referendum. ZEC has said that limited
resources and time prevented them organising voting for prisoners.
to change IDs
Act says any citizen entitled to register as a voter can vote in
a Referendum. ZEC changed the requirements to prove entitlement
so as to make production of a valid passport, ID or waiting “pass”
showing citizenship essential. Many Zimbabweans, especially those
of Malawian, Mozambican or Zambian descent, are in fact citizens
entitled to register for the vote, but hold old ID cards marked
“alien” because have not been able to get new IDs because
of the expense, time and travel involved in doing so. For purposes
of the Referendum they have effectively been disenfranchised, as
have those who have taken out citizenship but because of delays
do not have IDs.
website out of date
regulations stipulated that the polling stations must be posted
on the ZEC website at least 48 hours before the Referendum. This
has not been done. However, ZEC met the stipulation that polling
stations must be gazetted and published in the press at least 48
hours before polling. ZEC telephone enquiry provisions inadequate.
of Draft Constitution Familiarisation Exercises
Familiarisation Outreach Meetings
A few days ago,
Manicaland provincial co-chairperson for the parliamentary committee
responsible for the draft constitution said he was worried by the
poor public turnout at events called to review the draft. He said
political parties had not done enough to mobilize and publicise
the COPAC outreach programmes. IRIN reported that rural communities
were largely unaware of the impending referendum: "There has
not been adequate publicity around it. People have not seen the
draft, and because the entire process was politicized, people generally
shunned the process and lost interest."
enough copies of draft
COPAC did not
produce nearly enough copies of the draft
constitution or of their summary – and most were in English.
There were only 200 Braille copies of the draft constitution for
a population of 40,000 blind people. The summary was criticised
by some analysts as not an entirely accurate reflection of the full
draft constitution, and this caused some mistrust.
over short timeframe
were raised at meeting and in letters to the press.
pull out of COPAC familiarisation campaign
The MDC led
by their President Welshman Ncube were only allocated outreach meetings
in the Matebeleland provinces in contrast to the other two GPA
parties who were both to cover the whole country. They objected
to this and pulled out of COPAC schedules and did their own education
programme throughout the country.
organisations were asked to help COPAC familiarise citizens with
the draft constitution. They were expected to sign a memorandum
of understanding saying they would promote the YES vote and some
objected to this. Also, the short notice prevented CSOs and other
parties raising funding and producing enough materials for education
stopped some meetings
- The Prime
Minister’s meeting to promote the YES vote in a Harare suburb
was cancelled by police who threatened to disperse the crowd by
by those advocating a NO vote, such as National Constitutional
Assembly, some unions and youth organisations, were not given
- A meeting
at the Media Centre was refused clearance.
- There has
on the whole been very little education done by the media on the
draft constitution owing to its having been gazetted only a month
ago. What was offered pushed for a YES vote, and those advocating
a NO vote were not given opportunities to explain their position.
are now making objections over some aspects of the constitution
which they have only recently become aware of and some are belatedly
advocating a NO vote. But most have said they will accept it but
negotiate for changes later.
parties have been left out of the whole process. Some, such as
Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn and MDC99, have advocated a NO vote
- All three
GPA parties have promised to change the constitution if they get
- Above all
there is a general feeling that the two major parties used the
YES vote campaign for promoting their parties ahead of the elections.
of These Problems
are unlikely to affect the outcome of the Referendum. With the three
GPA parties advocating a YES vote, it is sure to be approved. But
this could also mean that except for party members turning out to
vote on the instructions of their party, there will be considerable
and the number of people excluded from voting are of concern. The
whole object of the constitution-making exercise was to produce
a constitution which citizens were enthusiastic about and for which
there was a sense of ownership, and to promote a culture of constitutionalism.
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