The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Let's Make Referendum Outreach a Success

editorial

Photo: IRIN
Hope in Harare.

Copac yesterday officially rolled out the campaign programme to familiarise Zimbabweans countrywide with the contents of the draft Constitution ahead of the referendum scheduled for March 16.

The programme that started yesterday is expected to end on Friday next week.

It is against this backdrop of serious time and resource squeeze that we call upon all stakeholders, including civil society, to participate in this national programme with the common agenda of making it a success.

The outreach programmes will be conducted in 147 centres, with some provinces being allocated as little as 10 participating schools and business centres.

Parties in the inclusive Government took considerable time to iron out sticky issues that were impeding the conclusion of the constitution making process and it is every citizen of this country's hope that no one this time will stand in the way of the referendum.

This exercise that culminates in the actual voting is very critical to the country as it puts all the electoral apparatus to a litmus test to prove whether all systems are ready to go for the actual voting during the harmonised election.

The fact that only 147 centres will be used to conduct the exercise creates a need for parties in the inclusive Government to also join hands with Copac in ensuring that this programme succeeds.

We urge all legislators from parties in Government, their grassroots structures countrywide and approved non-governmental organisations to assist Copac in ensuring that all Zimbabweans, regardless of their geographical location, are apprised of the message.

The world will be watching and this programme might be used to test whether Zimbabweans are politically mature or not, and whether they tolerate divergent views from their political opponents or not.

If all parties have agreed to push for a "Yes" vote, we do not expect clashes during the outreach programme.

The success of the outreach programme and the subsequent holding of the referendum will be used as a yardstick to test all systems' preparedness for the polls.

It is everyone's hope that during this critical period there will be no political violence and the people who fan violence should be brought to book.

There should be no sacred cows.

It is commendable that the police have set up a special commission to co-ordinate police activities from now until after the general elections.

This is critical in that all election related misunderstandings will be handled by a special standing team that is likely to see cases being resolved promptly.

Police have been accused in previous elections of failing to deal with potentially volatile situations on time, leading to some escalating to fully fledged political violence.

Zimbabwe has been in the international media at times for wrong reasons and it is our hope this time that all non-governmental organisations will behave responsibly and report truthful information about the situation obtaining on the ground.

They should shun reporting doctored images communicating political violence to their international financiers and handlers.

It is against this background that we call upon all Zimbabweans, mainly politicians, to report all suspected cases of political violence and avoid rushing to newspapers.

It is unfortunate that on many occasions, some of the cases reported as politically motivated violence are either arson cases or sudden death cases that some parties capitalise on to push their agendas.

Besides, all leaders of parties in the inclusive Government have said no to violence and demonstrated that they are accommodative to each other. People should take a cue from that.

It is intriguing that all the resources to fund the referendum this time were sourced locally and it is our hope that all the stakeholders will conduct themselves responsibly and make sure programmes are concluded within set time-lines.

There is no room for creating unnecessary squabbles in an effort to prolong the exercise in order to line some pockets. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has pegged the referendum budget at US$85 million and if people do not stick to the budget and the set time-lines, sooner or later there will be demand for additional funding.

That will be bad news to people expending their money on the programme.

The country cannot afford to keep on dragging this process.

Regionally and internationally, it has been proven that it is counterproductive for a country to go for a long time in an election mood. Planning for business and even at household level becomes difficult, resulting in a country going on autopilot for too long.

We therefore call upon all stakeholders to make this programme a success. The country should not be talking about holding elections next year.

It is everyone's hope that the elections shall be held this year so that one party governs.

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