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This article participates on the following special index pages:
2008 harmonised elections - Index of articles
release on 2008 harmonized elections
for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe (CCJP)
March 28, 2008
Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe (CCJPZ) notes that
nearly six million Zimbabweans will be, for the first time in their
political history, holding complex and simultaneous presidential,
legislative (House of Assembly and Senate), and local government
elections and all on the same day (March 29, 2008) and under new
regulations. The new rules are partly in conformity with the 2004
SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections -
to which Zimbabwe is a signatory - as well as a product of
the SADC-mediated talks between the ruling ZANU-PF and opposition
MDC. On February 8, 2008 the CCJP issued a press statement raising
"concerns for urgent attention on the forthcoming harmonised
elections." Regrettably, little has been done to address those
concerns and, since then, more grave concerns have surfaced.
As in 2005,
the CCJP recognizes and welcomes the considerable progress made
in improving the political and electoral playing ground. This has
contributed significantly to the relaxed electoral terrain and a
far less repressive campaign climate than in other elections since
2000. We particularly welcome the following:
- The amendments
(albeit limited) to contentious statues notably the Public
Order and Security Act (POSA), Access
to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), the
Act and the Broadcasting
Services Act (BSA) that received bi-partisan support in December
2007. The spirit of the SADC talks led by President Thabo Mbeki
helped in partially dissolving the chronic suspicion and distrust
between the ruling ZANU-PF and the opposition MDC and has contributed
to the improved political climate.
by various political leaders exhorting their supporters to refrain
from violent political campaigns and the considerable extent to
which these calls have been observed. As a consequence, throughout
the country, the political atmosphere for the upcoming elections
has been significantly more conducive than at any time in the
post-2000 period. All political parties and candidates have largely
been able to campaign freely, communicate their political messages
without undue hindrances and their supporters have tolerated each
other remarkably well. This is as things should be. The police
force has by and large conducted itself in a professional manner
with senior police officers assuring voters that they will adopt
a "zero tolerance" approach to political violence.
Most contestants have expressed satisfaction with the conduct
of the police.
- The consolidation
of electoral agencies and functions in the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission (ZEC) unlike in 2005 when several electoral bodies
existed, with overlapping functions and causing unnecessary confusion
among all stakeholders.
- The extension
of the voter inspection exercise from the initial 1-7 February
to 15 February 2008.
- The significant
improvement in media coverage in the last two weeks of campaigning
though this should have been done much earlier to ensure a level
the above positive developments, CCJP however expresses grave concern
at the following
- The apparent
impotence of designated electoral institutions to do their job
with confidence, autonomy and impartiality. This is with particular
reference to the Electoral Court and ZEC. In mid-March, the Electoral
Court turned down an application by one of the opposition faction
seeking an order compelling election authorities to: (a) disclose
information pertaining to the number of ballot papers printed
for the elections; (b) order ZEC to disclose the identity of the
firm contracted to print ballot papers; (c) allow inspection and
auditing of ballot papers; and (d) order ZEC to increase the number
of polling stations in urban areas. The Electoral Court claimed
it had no jurisdiction to hear the matters when in fact it was
created to adjudicate on electoral matters. Fair minded Zimbabweans
found this judgement baffling.
- We also highlight
the reluctance of ZEC to clarify the inconsistencies in the Electoral
Act regarding circumstances surrounding a Presidential run-off.
Section 110 (3) of the Electoral Act allows for a run-off within
21 days if none of the candidates emerges with clear majority
of the total number of valid votes cast while as Section 3 (1)
of the second schedule of the same Act says the candidate with
a plurality of votes - and not necessarily a majority of
the votes - should be declared the winner.
- As many observers
have noted, this inconsistency has great potential to not only
cause confusion but bitter disputes if none of the candidates
achieves at least 51% of the valid votes cast. This confusion
can easily be avoided by a prompt and decisive interpretation
that guides all stakeholders.
- The breach
of procedural consensus on aspects of the administration of elections.
Particularly worrisome is the role of the so-called National Command
Centre, an agency which does not appear in the governing electoral
law, and which not only operates in an opaque way but is staffed
largely by military officers. The place of the Command Centre
is especially critical given the controversial announcement by
ZEC, and which some players contend is illegal, to have the results
of the presidential election announced at the Command Centre.
The law prescribes counting of ballot papers for candidates in
each of the elections to be done at the polling stations and the
results displayed on the door of the polling station as public
notices. CCJP is gravely concerned at this vitiation of the law
and which has the effect of casting doubt on the results.
- We are also
acutely concerned at the unilateral
amendment under the controversial Presidential
Powers (Temporary Measures) Act of the Electoral Act which
had the effect of abolishing a new electoral provision enacted
in January as one of the fruits of the SADC negotiations and which
excluded police from being present in polling stations. Under
the Statutory Instrument, "police officers on duty"
are now allowed to be present in a polling station to assist illiterate
and disabled voters.
Act failed to clearly distinguish between functions of the ZEC
and of the Registrar General's office. The former is meant
to maintain the voters roll but the latter retains responsibility
for registration giving rise to a "recipe for confusion."
The Electoral Act should have transferred management of all electoral
processes to the ZEC, including management of the voters roll.
- Mobile voter
registration exercises, voter education, and inspection of voters
roll were all characterised by logistical problems. Many voters
and communities were not aware of voter registration or inspection
- Even in the
last two weeks of campaigning, Government and the ruling party
continued to retain tight control of television and radio, which
they sometimes used to threaten and insult political opponents.
CCJP noted the bias, inequality and unfairness of the reporting
of elections in favour of the ruling party.
- The controversial
Media and Information Commission (MIC) was also to have been reconstituted
and renamed Zimbabwe Media Council but there appeared to be little
time for this. Similarly, ZEC which was given the added responsibility
of delimiting parliamentary constituency and council ward boundaries
did not finalise its work until 17 January 2008. Only one copy
of the report was presented in Parliament and the legislature
adjourned before it could debate the report. This whole fast-tracked
process generated accusations - valid or not - of gerrymandering
electoral districts by ZEC on behalf of ZANU-PF.
by various security chiefs - the Commissioner-General of
Police, the Commander of the Defence Forces and the Commissioner
of Prisons - to the effect that they would not recognise
the election of any one other than the incumbent as president
of the country. Such inflammatory statements raise tensions and
have the clear effect of intimidating the voting public. In a
democracy, it is not the function of security forces to veto the
will of the people and CCJP regrets that ZEC was unable or unwilling
to sanction such conduct.
abuse of state resources manifested in alleged politically motivated
distribution of food aid in the midst of widespread scarcities.
We also noted the manipulation of traditional and community leaders
for partisan purposes and the patronage uses of farming inputs
and equipment under the guise of the farm mechanisation programme.
- There was
late and inadequate voter education. The law allows the monopolisation
of voter education in the ZEC except for activities by NGOs sanctioned
by ZEC. Many voters might fail to cast their ballots because of
the redrawing of constituency and ward boundaries and new voting
procedures, including ward-based voting. Efforts by other civic
bodies to complement ZEC's work were frustrated which barred
these organisation -including the Zimbabwe
Election Support Network - from carrying out voter education.
As a result, we fear the chaos that is likely on voting day with
confusion reigning, many spoilt papers and widespread disenfranchisement.
We are afraid that many eligible voters lack information about
where and how to cast their ballots in four-tier elections and
under rules different from previous elections.
- The inexplicable
variance in the allocation of polling stations between urban and
rural constituencies. The skewed distribution has resulted in
far fewer voting stations in urban compared to rural areas. Polling
stations in urban areas will be responsible for more than three
times the number of registered voters as polling stations in the
- CCJP is also
disturbed by reports attributed to ZEC that it may take several
days before the election results are announced because of the
difficulties of tabulating and tallying the results.
- The state
of the voters roll, the alleged printing of 600 000 postal votes
and an order to print 9 million ballot papers when the total number
of registered voters according to ZEC was 5,9 million people raises
eyebrows on the motive.
the token amendments to the electoral laws and the grave issues
that the Commission has raised renders the poll not being able to
express the will of the electorate. We are however hopeful that
all voters that are registered should be allowed to cast their ballots.
We urge all to remain calm after the poll announcement and peacefully
manage any disputes.
Munyaradzi Chaumba; National Director . +263 912 413 485/ + 263
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