17 June 2018

Africa: Zim Cannot Afford Another Charade

The African Union [AU] Observer Mission to Zimbabwe's 2013 harmonised elections in its final report recommended that "the integrity of the voters roll must be assured through greater transparency, accessibility and public communication with strict adherence to the provisions of the relevant statutes of Zimbabwe".

The AU Observer Mission further highlighted that "to this end, it is recommended that there be greater transparency on; and adequate provisions of logistics and resources to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission [ZEC] for organising elections as prescribed in the OAU Declaration on the Principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa (2002)".

The AU recommendations were in sync with recommendations from other observer missions within the Sadc region.

However, events on the ground ahead of Zimbabwe's July 30, 2018 election point to the fact that Zimbabwe has apparently failed to abide by the AU and Sadc recommendations on free, fair and credible polls.

The secrecy surrounding the issue of the voters roll is a huge cause for concern which certainly has negative implications on the credibility of the upcoming elections.

ZEC has apparently failed, or refused to avail the voters' roll to electoral stakeholders ahead of the elections and amid reports that the ruling party, Zanu PF, already has a copy of the voters roll, the integrity of the voters roll has already been thrown into disrepute.

With candidates for the 2018 elections going to the nomination court without a copy of the voters roll, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) launched an urgent application at the High Court on behalf of the National Constitutional Assembly seeking to compel ZEC to release the voters roll before the sitting of the nomination court on June 14, 2018.

ZEC's position on the voters roll, which is similar to the 2013 scenario, raises fears of yet another costly charade with pre-determined outcomes and our fear of yet another stolen election is compounded by the militarisation of the electoral commission whose personnel are mostly members of the intelligence, military as well as known Zanu PF sympathisers.

The National Logistics Committee, the committee which is tasked with the running of elections, remains a top secret amid indications that it is staffed with Zanu PF sympathisers.

In a nutshell, Zanu PF enjoys an overbearing influence as well as stranglehold on ZEC and consequently, the electoral commission's capacity to act in a transparent, accountable and impartial manner has become highly questionable.

The secrecy surrounding the printing of ballot papers is also another pointer that already, Zimbabwe is failing the litmus test on Sadc and AU guidelines on the conduct of free, fair and credible polls.

On top of that there is also the issue of piecemeal amendments to the country's Electoral Act and on May 30, 2018 Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition [CiZC], in a letter addressed to the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, raised concern that the recent amendments to the Electoral Act do not represent the views espoused by citizens and civil society organisations as captured in previous documents submitted to ZEC and Parliament.

Opposition parties have also submitted that a number of their concerns 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.

CiZC also highlighted in the letter to the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security that various election observer missions, including the Sadc Election Observer Mission to Zimbabwe's July 2013 general election, highlighted some shortcomings regarding Zimbabwe's electoral process yet some of these issues remain unresolved and unattended.

The military factor also continues to be another issue of concern regarding the credibility of the 2018 elections.

In December 2017, Presidential advisor Christopher Mutsvangwa publicly declared that Zanu PF would be campaigning with the assistance of the army and his sentiments were buttressed by Finance deputy minister Terrence Mukupe, who in May 2018 also publicly declared that the army would never allow the opposition to dislodge the ruling Zanu PF party from power.

The continued involvement of traditional leaders in politics as well as partisan coverage by the state media ahead of the 2018 elections are also some of the electoral irregularities that are pointing to yet another sham election.

Certainly, Zimbabwe cannot afford yet another sham poll.

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