Urgent Petition to SADC Heads of State on Zimbabwe Elections

INORDINATE DELAY IN ANNOUNCING RESULTS IS OF GRAVE CONCERN TO CIVIL SOCIETY

We the undersigned Civil Society groups whose names are listed below have found it necessary to send this urgent petition to your Excellences in order to save our country from potentially sinking into complete anarchy if election results are manipulated.

On 29th March, 2008 the people of Zimbabwe voted for the national president, members of parliament and councillors. The elections took place against the background of a serious political and economic crisis in the country, which has lasted for a decade. After brazen use of organized violence and torture of political opponents as Zimbabwe approached the 2008 election year, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) facilitated negotiations between the government and the opposition to end Zimbabwe’s crisis so that Zimbabweans can once again live in dignity.

President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa who was mandated by SADC to lead the dialogue stated clearly that his aspiration was that the March 2008 elections needed to be held in circumstances where the outcome of such elections would not be contestable. Even though the negotiations collapsed before reaching their final conclusion, there were some changes in the electoral laws that resulted in visible changes on the ground in terms of the election management process as follows:

The accreditation of journalists was smoother and earlier than in previous elections even though the government erred in being selective on whom it invited to observe.

There were less queues at polling stations and it looked like the majority of those who wanted to vote and whose names were on the voter’s roll managed to vote without undue delays or major hassles.

The general environment inside the polling station and around the polling station was not hostile unlike in previous elections where cases of harassment of local observers were reported. In this election there have been few reports of intimidation or harassment of human rights defenders during the election day and the period immediately after.

The counting and posting of results at the polling stations for all to see was very well received and ordinary people could be seen in numbers studying the results posted at the polling stations.

There were however some areas of concern as well. These will be enumerated in due course as various organizations do their individual and collective election reports as necessary. However the biggest concern that has emerged is the inordinate delay in the announcing of the election results. The counting was done immediately after the polls were shut generally around 7 pm on 28 March 2008 at the polling stations. The results were posted at the polling stations immediately and there is significant concern at the failure of the Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) to announce these results more than 36 hours after the voting stopped. There seems to be absolutely no justification for this delay and the tokenistic announcement of results for 109 contested positions by 8am on 1 April 2008 is wholly inadequate.

We as Civil Society are concerned by the failure to announce the results timeously. This creates a founded suspicion in the minds of Zimbabweans that the authorities are trying to manipulate the results in order to get their preferred party candidates to win. This is especially so given that the opposition has already been expressing public concern at what they saw as measures that were being taken to manipulate the vote and rig the elections.

This delay, if it persist will result in the real likelihood of the outcome of the elections being contested and in the process undermining what ever small gains may have arisen from the SADC efforts. We are naturally gravely concerned that any contestation of the outcome of the elections is also likely to lead to escalation of conflict. With the weak rule of law environment that has been well documented before, the elections may trigger serious and potentially widespread violations of human rights in Zimbabwe.

We are aware that the Zimbabwean government has already deployed police, army and intelligence units into the major cities in anticipation of potential trouble. Of significant concern are the unconfirmed rumours that allegedly from the security branches of government that the incumbent is preparing to declare a state of emergency after announcing inaccurate results. This is consistent with the threats by the security chiefs before the elections that they are not prepared to accept the election results if President Mugabe and ZANU PF lose the elections.

We the Civil Society Organisations from Zimbabwe therefore implore the SADC and AU heads of State and Government to urgently

Exert the necessary diplomatic pressure to force President Mugabe to ensure that the elections are as free and fair as possible.

Demand that President Mugabe and his government should allow the elections results to be released immediately without being tampered with.

Exert the necessary diplomatic pressure to President Mugabe not to declare a state of emergency.

Apply pressure on the military and intelligence in Zimbabwe not to manipulate the elections results and to accept the peoples verdict in the elections

CALL for SADC in conjunction with other international and domestic observers to investigate allegations of fraud, so that the ZEC announced results may be

correlated with independent tabulation processes.

THAT SADC together with the African Union should be prepared to urgently engage in a process to assist in resolving any dispute that may arise if the results of the elections are seriously contested – particularly since the domestic electoral courts process is itself not seen as legitimate by all but the ruling party.

Dated this 1 April 2008 by the undersigned Civil Society Organisations

CRISIS COALITION ZIMBABWE

ZIMBABWE LAWYERS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

ZIMBABWE NATIONAL STUDENTS UNION

ZIMRIGHTS

MANICALAND LEGAL PRACTITIONERS ASSOCIATION.

CHURCHES IN MANICALAND

ZIMBABWE HUMAN RIGHTS NGO FORUM

ZIMBABWE CONGRESS OF TRADE UNIONS

NATIONAL CONSTITUTIONAL ASSEMBLY

THE SAVE ZIMBABWE CAMPAIGN

PROGRESSIVE TEACHERS UNION OF ZIMBABWE

STUDENTS SOLIDARITY TRUST

COMBINED HARARE RESIDENTS ASSOCIATION

ZIMBABWE STUDENTS CHRISTIAN MOVEMENT

ZIMBABWE COALITION ON DEBT AND DEVELOPMENT

MEDIA INSTITUTE OF SOUTHERN AFRICA (ZIMBABWE CHAPTER)

MEDIA MONITORING PROJECT ZIMBABWE

YOUTH INITIATIVE FOR DEMOCRACY IN ZIMBABWE

Design and development supported by HURIDOCS.