CISOMM PRE-ELECTION REPORT 29 JULY 2013
Zimbabwe will be going to the polls on 31 July 2013. In the building up towards elections, three major processes required in terms of the electoral laws have taken place; that is:
a) the mobile voter registration,
b) nomination of candidates
c) the special voting.
As Civil Society, we observed several issues that impact negatively on the holding of a credible free and fair election. These are as follows:
Mobile Voter Registration
- This process commenced on the 10th of June and ended on 9th of July 2013.
- A significant number of people were not able to register to vote due to the failure to provide a ward based mobile registration exercise.
- As such, there were long queues and inordinate delays in the registration exercise. This fact was not disputed by ZEC; which attributed the slow pace of registration to scant resources.
- In spite of the consensus over the failure to register all those who sought to be on the voters’ roll, ZEC stated that it would not be extending the voter registration period. This was made worse by the provision of just two voter educators per ward. This was inadequate given the size of some wards and the number of people who needed information about the requirements for registration and the location of the registration centres.
- The effect of this lack of efficiency was the disenfranchisement of people who sought to register and participate in the harmonised elections.
- The nomination court itself proceeded without much incident.
- However, there was limited time for appeals against the nomination process, resulting in some appeals being finalised a day before the holding of the Special Voting.
- Consequently, ZEC complained that details from some of the contested areas were brought to them by Friday 12 July 2013, leaving no time for the printing of sufficient ballot papers.
- This is a corollary of the judgment of the Constitutional Court setting 31st July 2013 as the deadline to hold elections. Previously, ZEC indicated it required 42 days between nomination court and Election Day, which was placed in the Electoral Act.
- This was changed through S.I. 85 of 2013 subsequent to (and purportedly to comply with) the Constitutional Court order in the Jealousy Mawarire case, which inevitably, led to this chaos.
- Special voting took place from the 14th to the 15th of July 2013.
- The process was decidedly chaotic. It was characterised by logistical challenges that exposed ZEC’s lack of preparedness to conduct credible free and fair elections.
- ZEC itself apologised for the inconvenience caused by the special vote and admitted that it “was unable to post to each successful special voter his or her requisite ballot paper in the time frame fixed for the special vote.”
- This acknowledgment of failure does not allay fears of an even more chaotic voting day on the 31st of July 2013. It is feared that if ZEC failed to manage a two-day poll for just 63,268 over two days, it will be even more onerous to manage a poll with at least six million registered voters in a single day
- These unfortunate circumstances are consequences of the failure to heed the recommendation that a postponement is sincerely sought from the Constitutional Court by the Minister of Justice, leaving ZEC to conduct an election without enough time to prepare.
- Following the granting of the order for officers who failed to cast their ballot during the special vote to vote on 31 July 2013, it remains unclear how this will be ascertained and double voting avoided.
- Some attempts were made to open up the public media to political parties other than ZANU-PF as evidenced by broadcasting of advertisements from the MDC-T and presentation of manifestos by various political parties on the State broadcaster
- However, the public media remains openly partisan and unprofessional particularly in its deliver of new.
- Journalists from the independent media continue to face intimidation and harassment.
- ZEC must not only ensure that there is fair and equal accesses to the public media, but also that their reportage is fair and balanced and ensure that journalists are allowed to operate freely.
- ZEC has repeatedly claimed that it is ready for the elections. The special vote was an opportunity to exhibit such preparedness. However, ZEC showed itself to be without the technical, financial and material capacity to conduct credible harmonised elections as evidenced by the chaos that ensured during voter registration and the special voting.
- The updated and audited voters roll is still not available for public inspection.
- The current voters roll is in shambles and has a lot of irregularities. A preliminary analysis of the voters roll by ZESN has under-registration of voters, particularly in the urban wards. For instance ZESN has found that there are about 750 000 missing urban voters and at least 400 000 missing young voters from the voters’ roll.
- The political environment remains tense in some parts of the country and sporadic cases of violence have been reported mostly in the form of harassment and intimidation.
It is the opinion of CISOMM that the possibility of a truly free and fair election in Zimbabwe remains as remote as in any election period in the last ten years. Despite some legal reforms and procedural adjustments, the realities of our history, including significant factors such as the attitudes of the incumbents and their well-documented subversion of State power and resources to service their partisan interests, coupled with the shockingly limited access of people to a diversity of opinion, lead to a conclusion that the immediate future may be fraught with danger for the Zimbabwean people.
In light of the foregoing, CISOMM makes the following recommendations
To all Political Parties:
- To refrain from all acts of violence and to move swiftly to censure party members who engage in violence or threats to others
- To commit themselves to accepting the results of a “reasonably” free and fair election
- To use established methods of resolving electoral disputes through the Courts
To the ZRP
- To respond swiftly to reports of election violence and to curtail these irrespective of the party affiliations of the instigators
- To behave in a professional and non-partisan manner throughout the election period, ignoring the biased declarations of allegiance by their senior commanders
- To recognise that they have a duty to protect all the people of Zimbabwe from criminal activity
To the Security Forces
- To act impartially as the defenders of the Zimbabwean people and to ignore the partisan pronouncements of their commanders
- To respect the outcome of the election
- To defend the Constitution of Zimbabwe as the ultimate law of our country
To International Observers
- To carry out their duties fairly and without bias irrespective of their personal or political sympathies
- To protect local observers and polling agents who may be subjected to intimidation, particularly when reporting the polling station results to their election officials
- To ensure that the ZRP and other State officials behave professionally and impartially throughout the election period
- To remain in Zimbabwe until such time as the election results are announced and accepted by all parties.
- In the event of a run-off for the Presidential elections to remain in Zimbabwe to minimise the possibilities of violence and intimidation
- In the event of an opposition victory to encourage the incumbents to accept the result and to promote the peaceful transition of power
To Civil Society Organisations
- To continue to participate in the political processes of the country despite the intimidation and persecution to which they have been subjected.