23 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Parties Strike Electoral Pact

THE three political parties in Government have endorsed the code of conduct of the Organ on National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration that will see political parties being held accountable for their supporters' violent conduct.

This comes at a time the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has tightened the electoral code of conduct for political parties and candidates as efforts to foster tolerance ahead of the harmonised polls this year gather momentum.

National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration co-Minister Sekai Holland hailed parties for committing themselves to remove all forms of violence.

"The code of conduct has been agreed to by the three political parties and now it paves way for the enabling Act after the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission was put in the draft constitution," said Minister Holland.

"The objective is to remove all forms of violence among Zimbabweans. We want human dignity to be respected. We now have infrastructure for peace through a legal framework as embodied in the draft constitution."

Minister Holland said the draft code of conduct was now with the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs.

"Minister Chinamasa will now introduce that code of conduct through an Act of Parliament as an enabling Act to the provisions of the Constitution," said Minister Holland.

"The draft has passed through Cabinet, political parties and back to Cabinet where it was also endorsed.

"We want to make sure we remove all forms of violence to a scenario where people can freely talk of their differences without resorting to violence. We want to demonstrate that we have the capacity to remove violence from our midst."

The code compels political parties to publicly campaign against violence.

President Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai last year said the code of conduct would be used to rein in perpetrators of violence. They said this while addressing Zanu-PF, MDC-T and MDC executives at a meeting to seek ways to end political violence.

The code of conduct says leaders of political parties will be compelled to issue directives forbidding the intimidation of opponents.

"The leader of a party that has subscribed to this code will instruct the party's officials, candidates, members and supporters that no weapon of any kind, including any traditional weapon, may be brought to any political rally, meeting, march or other demonstration," reads the code of conduct.

"A party that has subscribed to this code will not engage in or permit any kind of violent activity to demonstrate party strength or to prove supremacy."

Inter-party and stakeholders committees will be established at national, provincial and district levels to deal with political violence.

The code of conduct calls for political parties to manage their election campaigns in ways that do not infringe on the activities of others.

It emphasises that political parties should be able to campaign and disseminate their political ideas without fear. It also touches on conduct of political parties during polling, accepting the outcome of a free and fair election and the use of right language during campaigns.

The code of conduct compels political parties to desist from bribery to garner votes.

On the other hand, ZEC has tightened the electoral conduct for political parties and candidates in the amended Electoral Act.

ZEC acting chairperson Mrs Joyce Kazembe recently told The Herald that principals to the Global Political Agreement endorsed the amendments that are now part of the amended Electoral Act.

The amendments were enacted into law in September last year.

She said a number of matters that were considered as prohibited in the code of conduct were criminal acts that attracted penalties as prescribed by the Act for those who fail to comply. Apart from the code of conduct, Mrs Kazembe said, the Act introduced specific provisions aimed at dealing expeditiously with cases of politically motivated violence and intimidation.

She said the courts could impose special penalties for those convicted of an offence involving political violence or intimidation.

Some of the penalties prohibit the offender from campaigning or taking any further part during the particular election period.

If prohibited, the offender may not during that election era attend or address any meetings of a political nature at which more than three people are present.

The offender may also not encourage, urge or persuade any other person to cast his or her vote in the election for a particular political party or candidate.

However, the person is entitled to vote or to be voted for. The country is expected to go for polls this year.

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