The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) is a coalition of 36 non-governmental organisations. It was formed in 2000 to co-ordinate activities pertaining to elections. The major focus of the Network is to promote democratic processes in general and free and fair elections in particular.
It was also established to standardise the NGOs election related activities and methodology as well as to ensure wider geographical coverage and co-ordination of activities. The broad aim of the Network is therefore to enhance the election process in Zimbabwe in order to promote democracy and good governance in general as well as free and fair elections in particular whilst adhering to internationally acceptable standards.
2. What is ZESN’s mission, vision and objectives?
ZESN’s vision is to promote the establishment and upholding of a democratic electoral environment and processes.
The mission of the organisation is to promote democratic elections in Zimbabwe.
The overall objectives that ZESN pursues are:
· To enhance citizen participation in issues of governance and democracy.
· To promote democratic free and fair electoral processes through objectively and impartially monitoring and observing elections.
· To promote the creation of a legal framework and an election culture conducive for free and fair elections.
· To effectively gather, disseminate and communicate objective information about elections and other democratic processes.
3. Do you think as an organisation you are achieving your objectives or it is just an employment creation for yourselves?
We have done tremendous work on advocating for electoral reforms some of which have formed the basis of some electoral legislation that we have in the country today. We have also raised awareness on voter registration, inspection of the voter’s and other electoral administrative activities through community workshops, public meetings, posters, fliers, print and broadcasting media.
We have also observed elections in Zimbabwe over the past years and produced reports that a lot of stakeholders have found useful and invaluable in policy review and recommendations.
4. What are ZESN’s programmes and major activities?
In order to achieve our objectives, members of the Network are grouped into taskforces, which implement activities all over the country with secretariat coordinating the work.
We focus on the 5 major areas, which are as follows;
· Election Monitoring and Observation
· Research and Advocacy
· Media and Information
· Networking and Capacity Building
5. Do you think your organisation is relevant and add value to the democratisation of Zimbabwe?
– Yes see 3 above.
6. Who funds ZESN?
The organisation is 100 % donor funded by both local and international funding partners.
7. Is ZESN part of any political party?
8. What about your members who are politically affiliated
The organisation does not prohibit members to be politically affiliated but when doing ZESN activities all members should be non-partisan when working under the banner of ZESN
9. What is the role of ZESN members?
ZESN members of the Network form taskforces, which provide volunteers who help in implementing activities, geared towards achieving our objectives. We also exploit on the diversified skills and resources obtaining among our members.
10. Can you outline ZESN’s organisational structure?
ZESN has a secretariat team led by the National Director who reports to the Management Committee. We also have taskforces whose Chairpersons sit in the Management Committee, which reports to the Board and the Board reports to the AGM..
11. What is the role of the ZESN board?
The Board formulates policy and oversees its implementation.
12. What are the taskforces and their roles?
They help secretariat in implementing programme activities.
13. What is the role of the secretariat?
The day to day coordination and implementation of ZESN’s activity to achieve the organisation’s goals and objectives.
14. In what ways are you different from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission?
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is a constitutional body while ZESN is a non-governmental organisation. Our role is to observe elections and election related activities with a view towards advocating for a free and fair electoral process in Zimbabwe, while ZEC is the electoral management body in charge of running the elections.
15. What is your relationship with ZEC, government, political parties?
ZESN has a professional working relationship with the aforementioned, which is based on ZESN’s principles of promoting democratic
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16. Is ZESN apolitical?
17. Then how do you explain your involvement in the Save Zimbabwe campaign, which is seen as an opposition political outfit?
We are not a member of Save Zimbabwe Campaign and where it seemed our roles converge it is only when SZC does activities directly linked to the promotion of democratic elections and processes. ZESN works with any stakeholder who endevours to promote democratic processes related to elections. As such we are observing the SZC as a democratic process within the country.
18. Are you saying you are not part of the Save Zimbabwe Campaign?
19. Why is Zanu Pf not part of the Save Zimbabwe campaign?
As ZESN we cannot speak on their behalf. ZANU PF or SZC can best answer such a question.
20. What are your minimum conditions for free and fair elections?
See link: http://www.zesn.org.zw/publications/publication_114.pdf
21. What would be your position if the conditions are not met?
Our position will remain the same. We will continue to promote for democratic electoral processes in Zimbabwe.
22. What is ZESN’s state of preparedness in light of the 2008 elections?
ZESN is prepared to observe the elections in 2008 as and when they are held. The organisation is currently training long-term and short-term observers and have already embarked on massive public outreach programmes to promote popular participation in the election.
23. How many observers do you intend to field in the 2008 elections?
At least one observer at every polling station.
24. What is your position as ZESN on harmonised elections, 2008/2010?
Our position is that harmonisation of elections is good but there is need for wider consultation and collaboration among stakeholders to ensure that the electoral process will be compromised by the harmonisation. There are lot of technical challenges that need to be prepared for by all stakeholders way before the election to ensure that it would be free of malpractices.
25. What is your comment on the debate about the postponement of the harmonised elections?
If postponement of the elections is to ensure that necessary reforms and technical logistics are put in place, as an organisation we will definitely welcome the postponement.
26. When is the most ideal date for election?
There is need consultation among stakeholders who would then agree, based on logistical and legislative requirements, on a suitable date for the election.
27. We understand that you are part of the civil society initiative on the SADC mediation process. What role do you think you can play as ZESN in that process?
We chair the Civil Society Committee that is making recommendations to the negotiating teams. We have outlined to the teams our expectations and conditions for free and fair elections.
28. Is it not true that you are funded on the basis of issuing negative reports on any election especially where the opposition would have lost?
No, our reports are objective and based on empirical evidence that we gather through our competent observers whom we assign to critically observe processes related to the election.
29. What would be ZESN’s role if elections are free and fair in Zimbabwe?
ZESN would continue to observe elections even where there are free and fair. Democracy needs nurturing, so we will continue to play a watchdog role as we try to nurture our democracy.
30. Do you think elections are there to change governments?
Elections are there to make citizens decide whose policies and based
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on that the citizens would then make informed choices on who should govern. This might or might not entail changing government, meaning that they have the mandate to renew, retain or remove governments.
31. Briefly describe Constitutional Amendment No 18?
The main objects of the Act are:
To change the President’s term of office and the method of electing a new President in the event of a President’s death or resignation.
To change the composition of the Senate and the House of Assembly.
To establish a Human Rights Commission.
To create the office of Deputy Chief Justice and altering the titles of the Commissioner of Police and the Ombudsman.
32. What is your position on the Constitutional Amendment No. 18?
– See ZESN position. http://www.zesn.org.zw/publications/publication_138.doc
33. What is your position on the work of the delimitation commission, you have talked about gerrymandering and the increase in the number of constituencies. What is your take on this?
– See ZESN analsysis. http://www.zesn.org.zw/publications/publication_130.doc
34. What is ZESN doing to ensure Zimbabweans in the Diaspora participate in the 2008 elections?
ZESN is lobbying for their inclusion but there is need for proper mechanisms to ensure transparency and credibility of the process.
35. Can you comment on the fact that only ZEC can do voter education?
It is not only ZEC that can do voter education, according to the law any local organisation or individual can carry out voter education with local funding.
36. In view of legislation prohibiting foreign funding. If you were to be allowed to do voter education where would you get the funding from?
We would get resources from local volunteers, our members’ subscriptions and local business people.
37. What is your position on the SADC principles and guidelines governing democratic elections?
We have always welcomed the principles and guidelines but we are concerned on the mechanisms that should be in place to compel member countries to enforce the guidelines. The guidelines should be put into local context and should be expanded to give clarity and easiness of implementation. They however remain an important yardstick in guiding the conduct of elections in the region.
38. What is your impression of opposition politics in Zimbabwe? How useful?
The idea of having opposition politics is essential as it promotes contestation in political processes, which is requirement in democratic governance.
39. How vibrant is opposition politics in Zimbabwe?
We believe it could have been better if the environment was conducive. If freedoms of association, movement, expression and assembly were not inhibited by legislative instruments like POSA, AIPPA, BSA, Interception of Communications Act and other pieces of legislation that curtail the aforementioned freedoms, we believe opposition politics and politics in general could have been more exciting.
40. What do you think is the role of the international community in the Zimbabwe situation and in elections?
Zimbabwe is a member of various international and regional organisations/groupings hence the interest that foreign players have in the Zimbabwe situation. It is not surprising therefore that we have efforts from the SADC to mediate on the political crisis by bringing ZANU PF and MDC to the negotiating table.
The international community can play an observer role in elections. This gives elections credibility since they are supposedly impartial. They can also play a general developmental role.
However Zimbabweans have the ultimate say on their political processes, elections and any other issues thereof.
41. How do you ensure that your observers are non-partisan?
We have strict and thorough selecting criteria where we look at issues like their general knowledge on elections, capacity to observe, political affiliation among others. ZESN does not recruit, as observers, people who have active political roles. We do not take in people who exude obvious bias towards any political group or who are agents of any political candidate.
42. How do you link the current economic hardships prevailing in the country to the electoral process in Zimbabwe?
Good electoral processes would always result in credible and indisputable elections whose results would not culminate in post electoral conflicts. Where such conflicts obtain, economies are bound to be affected although one cannot singularly explain the economic malaise in terms of disputed elections.
43. Which regional and international observer groups are you working with, and what are their roles?
We have observed elections in Africa under auspices of the African Union, the SADC PF, the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA) and we also work with SADC Parliamentary Forum, International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and Fair Election Monitoring Alliance (FEMA), Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) among others in information sharing.