On 17 July 2013, Harare-based think tank Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) was banned by the High Court from launching a report with its analysis of the voters’ roll. RAU is a non-governmental organisation whose work focuses on women, displacements and governance. The Report can be accessed here:Audit of June 2013 Voters’ Roll 16 July 2013
RAU intended to host a launch event on the morning of 17 July 2013 at the Crowne Plaza, in the capital Harare. At 8.17am on that day, RAU received an interdict by the Registrar-General issued by the High Court to stop the launch event from going ahead. Crowne Plaza has been cited as the second respondent and received an interdict at approximately 8.30am.
On 16 July 2013, the Registrar-General Mr Tobaiwa Mudede had filed an urgent chamber application with the High Court seeking an order to ban RAU from launching its analysis of the voters’ roll. In his application, the Registrar-General argued that RAU was trying to assume powers which the Constitution gives to his office, and intended to cause chaos and anarchy within the country’s electoral system. The application was granted on 17 July morning by High Court Judge, Mr Justice Joseph Mafusire.
The interdict is reportedly tainted with procedural irregularities. The application was received and decided without a Certificate of Urgency, as required by law. Additionally, RAU was not served with the application when it was filed with the High Court, but only later at the same time as the interdict order was delivered.
The voters’ roll allegedly contains deceased voters, double entries and others false entries, and it is feared that the forthcoming general elections might produce a disputed result.
Front Line Defenders expresses concern at the interdict issued against Research and Advocacy Unit. It believes this act to be solely motivated by the organisation’s legitimate human rights work, and views this ban on launching a report on the voters’ roll as incompatible with the right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed under international law.
Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Zimbabwe to:
1. Immediately and unconditionally drop the interdict against the Research and Advocacy Unit, as it is believed it is solely motivated by their peaceful and legitimate work in defence and promotion of human rights and good governance;
2. Guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders and civil society organisations in Zimbabwe are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.