With the July 30 date for the 2018 elections fast approaching, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) joins calls for the leveling of the playing field ahead of the harmonized elections.
As CiZC, we note with great concern a number of electoral irregularities that could hinder the holding of free, fair and credible polls ahead of the 2018 elections.
Of major concern is the fact that senior ruling party officials have openly declared that the army, besides campaigning for Zanu (PF) also stands ready to block the ascendancy of the opposition to power.
On May 21, 2018, the deputy Minister of Finance, Terence Mukupe confirmed our worst fears when he declared that the army, which is credited for President Emmerson Mnangagwa's ascendancy to power, would never allow opposition parties to dislodge Zanu (PF) from power.
Earlier on, the Minister of State for Masvingo province, Josiah Hungwe had declared in May 2018 that President Mnangagwa is 'a soldier who is ready to shoot' hence he will not be removed from power.
The sentiments by the Zanu (PF) officials add to previous sentiments by President Mnangagwa's Advisor, Christopher Mutsvangwa who in December 2017 said the ruling party would campaign with the assistance of the army.
Presently, there are reports of the army being deployed to campaign for Zanu (PF) in rural areas and this is a cause for alarm ahead of the 2018 polls. These developments are alarming especially given the fact that the Zimbabwean army has a well known record of interfering in elections against the dictates of the constitution.
Other major irregularities as Zimbabwe heads for the 2018 polls include the secrecy around the printing of ballot papers with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) turning down demands from opposition parties for an open tender.
ZEC has also been adamant to release the provisional voters' roll to election stakeholders and the move prompted the Election Resource Centre (ERC) to file an urgent court application seeking an order to compel ZEC to release the provisional voters' roll.
On May 28, 2018 President Mnangagwa signed the Amended Electoral Act into law but the move was viewed as largely piecemeal with opposition parties contending that a number of submissions were left out which include the issue of the printing of ballot papers being transparent to all political parties as well as the fact that the Electoral Court must be given powers to disqualify candidates.
Vote buying continues to be the norm especially in rural areas with the ruling party abusing state resources to garner support ahead of the 2018 polls. There is also the issue of partisan distribution of food aid, while in rural areas; citizens continue to be threatened with a repeat of the 2008 poll violence in the event that they do not vote for Zanu (PF).
CiZC is also concerned over the issue of forced attendance of citizens at Zanu PF meetings with school children also falling victim to the Zanu (PF) machinations.
The State media continues to act as mouthpiece of the ruling party and their coverage of political issues has largely been an attempt to prop up the Zanu (PF) campaign while denigrating opposition parties.
CiZC is concerned by the intransigency among Zanu (PF) officials who continue to exhibit a penchant for violence and rigging (as evidenced by the irregularities and violence that characterized the ruling party's primary elections).
CiZC implores President Mnangagwa to walk the talk on his pledge for free, fair and credible polls.
We also call upon ZEC to ensure the highest level of transparency, accountability and impartiality in conforming to the principles of free, fair and credible polls.
CiZC stands in solidarity with democratic forces calling for free, fair and credible polls.
In light of the above, CiZC demands the following as minimum conditions for free, fair and credible polls:
That the military to reassert its commitment to upholding and protecting the constitution with respect to elections and electoral processes.
That ZEC conducts itself in a transparent, accountable, professional, non-partisan and autonomous manner in all electoral processes. In this regard, civil society implores ZEC to publish names of its secretariat, their previous employers, experience and qualifications. This also includes publication of office bearers of the Elections Logistics Committee in the interest of transparency and accountability.
That ZEC and the government ensure there is fair and equal access to public media by all competing political parties and candidates, while ensuring that media practitioners and journalists are allowed to operate freely as enshrined in Section 61 of our Constitution.
That ZEC through its designated committees, and other concerned authorities, give unfettered access to key electoral processes to local, regional and international observers without undue restrictions such as imposition of prohibitive accreditation fees and criminalization of domestic observers.
That ZEC, in line with the law, principally and expeditiously avails the biometric voters' roll to all stakeholders particularly contesting political players and other election related bodies once it is ready and clear times for such provisions be shared and committed to
That the Registrar General, Mr. Tobaiwa Mudede and his staff , in particular stop interfering with the compilation and finalization of the new biometric voters roll in line with separation of duties and mandate
That voter preference takes place without cohesion, manipulation or intimidation and the insulation of this choice through effective secrecy of the ballot.
That the Police and prosecuting authorities allow civil society organizations and citizens to carry out their lawful activities without harassment, raids, restrictions and unwarranted arrests spurred more by political calculations than the dictates of the law.
Source: Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition