13 March 2013

Zimbabwe: Zimrights Takes ZEC to Court Over Referendum

Photo: IRIN
Hope in Harare.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has stuck to its guns and refused to accredit ZimRights to observe this Saturday's referendum.

This is despite a directive issued by the principals to the GPA, following their meeting on Tuesday, that the commission had no right to refuse anyone the opportunity to observe the vote on Saturday.

On Tuesday ZimRights sent the commission a letter of appeal, but was turned down on the grounds that they have a pending court case related to issues to do with elections.

This latest development forced ZimRights to ask its lawyers to file an urgent High Court application challenging ZEC's refusal to accredit them.

ZEC's decision to ban ZimRights from the referendum led to the Crisis Coalition, with about 300 affiliate member groups, threatening to withdraw from 'the observation process' if they didn't reverse this stance by late Wednesday.

Mcdonald Lewanika, the director for the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, told SW Radio Africa that they 'still stand' with their threat to boycott the referendum if ZEC does not reconsider their position.

Lewanika said during Wednesday's observer briefing, ZEC commissioner Geoff Feltoe stressed that other civil society organizations that had been turned down would now be allowed to observe, but not ZimRights.

'We noticed a claw back on ZEC's earlier position....instead of blanketing everyone we are noticing ZimRights is the only institution left alone. While we appreciate the claw back we wait to see the court action as we stand solidly behind ZimRights,' Lewanika said.

Lewanika stressed that they will give the electoral body until the end of Wednesday to change their minds.

'We gave ZEC until the end of Wednesday, so after that we will make our position clear. Even the Principals agreed that ZEC must not prohibit local civil society organisations and NGOs from accreditation on the basis that they are facing investigations, charges or prosecution by the police,' Lewanika said.

When President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai met on Tuesday, they pledged that the referendum process would be as transparent as possible and insisted that no local persons would be banned from accreditation on the basis that they're under investigation.

In January, ZimRights director Okay Machisa was arrested by the police and charged with conducting illegal voter registration and fraud, an allegation Zimrights denies. The legal case is still pending, which is the excuse that ZEC is using to stop them from being observers at the referendum.

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