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  • 2002 Presidential & Harare Municipal elections - Index of articles

  • Report on Presidential and Municipal Elections
    Combined Harare Residents' Association (CHRA)
    March 26, 2002

    Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) has led the fight for democratically elected representation in our city for the last three years and we are deeply disappointed that our eventual victory has been used by the state to undermine and disenfranchise thousands of Harare’s residents.

    We opposed the conflation of the elections with the presidential ballot from the start and, even on the eve of elections, applied unsuccessfully to the courts for certain steps to be taken to avert the disaster we anticipated. The courts in their wisdom decided that the holding of the elections was entirely an administrative question to be determined by the Registrar General. This was despite the glaring evidence of the contempt with which the Registrar General had regarded previous court rulings; a contempt that had to be ‘legitimised’ by decree of the President. At no time did we hold any faith in the ability or the intention of the Registrar General to hold free and fair elections and events have done nothing to erode our pessimism.

    Combined Harare Residents Association regards both the presidential and the municipal elections as fundamentally flawed. This judgement is based on the following observations:

    • The failure of the government to comply with an endless succession of court orders and to subvert the legal process through the issuing of statutory instruments undermined both the independence of the judiciary and the faith of citizens in the electoral process. The issuing of decrees on the eve of the elections merely served to confuse voters and to cast an opaque shadow over the conduct of the elections.
    • The chaotic state of the voters’ roll, the failure of the Registrar General to close the rolls timeously and to make these freely available for inspection as required by the Electoral Act (Part IV Sect 18) is a bureaucratic arrogance and incompetence that undermined this democratic process. Our experience with the January voters roll can only lead us to believe that the incompetence and erroneous data therein was a deliberate ploy to frustrate voters. This view is supported by the detailed reports of others (e.g. ZIMCET) in civil society.
    • The failure of the ESC to accredit adequate numbers of observers from civil society (and none from CHRA) undermined the requisite transparency of the electoral process.
    • The reduction of polling stations in Harare by an average of 35% (50% in some constituencies) and the resultant queues placed an intolerable burden upon the electorate. An average of 5 300 registered voters per polling station (as compared to 1 000 in the rural areas) placed a patently absurd burden upon both the electorate and the staff at the polling stations. Citizens should not be punished for wanting to exercise their democratic rights. Queuing for thirty hours to vote is insulting to us all as is being subjected to the tortuous scrutiny of semi-literate election officials who couldn’t tell if ‘Mi’ came after ‘Ma’ or ‘Mu’. There appeared to be a deliberate attempt to frustrate the urban voter.
    • The failure of the ESC to provide accurate information (as evidenced by their erroneous voter flow chart contained in The Herald of 6 March) undermined the voting process and confused voters. At the briefing held on the same day at the International Conference Centre, the Chairman of the ESC stated that both ballot boxes and ballot papers would have different colours. In the event only the size of the three ballot papers differed while the ballot boxes only had paper labels to differentiate them. This resulted in many ballots being placed in the incorrect boxes. In spite of assurances to the contrary given by the Registrar General prior to the elections, these ballots effectively became spoiled papers.
    • We have innumerable instances of residents being unable to vote in local elections because they were not on the constituency roll (even if they were on the ward roll). The right to vote in local elections is based on residency not on citizenship and all those contributing to the finances of the city should be able to select councillors of their choice.
    • Some polling stations remained open throughout the night of the 9th whereas others closed and riot police dispersed waiting voters. The Registrar General should have implemented a consistent and uniform policy.
    • Many people owning property in Harare but registered outside the area for the presidential roll were similarly denied the right to chose their representatives in the city.
    • The failure of the Registrar General to reopen the polls on time on the extended day of elections, the prompt closing and the dispersal of those voters still queuing at 7.00 pm can only lead us to believe in an intent by the Registrar General to deny the vote to citizens.
    • The failure of the Registrar General to release full results of the municipal elections (not only those votes cast for the winning candidates) timeously does little to promote faith in his office and encourages the proliferation of rumours.
    • The post-election disqualification of two successful candidates (even though the Registrar General had accepted their nominations only a few weeks previously) highlights the incompetence and willfully anti-democratic attitudes of the Registrar General.

    CHRA therefore wishes to advise the citizens of Harare that, while we applaud the existence of an elected Mayor and Council at long last, the questions raised by the flawed elections need to be addressed. We cannot therefore regard the election results as legitimate. However our primary concern must be for the well being of our city and all its citizens. We have been governed for too long by an unrepresentative Commission and we in the residents associations will promote a working relationship at ward and city level with the new Mayor and Councillors. Those candidates elected to office will have to work within this context and will need to establish their credentials on an individual and collective basis to win the support and trust of the citizens of Harare.

    We believe that the way forward is to revisit the constitutional debate in the search for a truly democratic constitution that will promote and enhance the participation of citizens in all levels of government. Under a new constitution, we hope that the holding of separate and legitimate local elections will be possible.

    CHRA believes that the Registrar General should be replaced with a civil servant who has both the will and the capacity to perform his or her functions diligently and with due humility. We believe that even a return to the former system of local government elections run by the town clerk would be a great improvement.

    We call upon all those principled citizens who have been withholding the payment of rates in objection to the illegal Commission to now make payment. We also call upon the new Council to engage fully with the community through the established residents' associations so that together we can start rebuilding our beloved city.

    We call for the immediate publication of full election results, including those ballot papers spoiled by being placed in the incorrect box.

    Mike Davies
    Acting Chairman
    Combined Harare Residents Association

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