ZESN-EOM-Report-Zambia-2021-General-Elections

The Zambia general elections held on 12 August 2021 were the seventh since the reintroduction of multiparty democracy in 1991. Hakainde Hichilema, President of the United Party for National Development (UPND) emerged the victor for the Presidential seat. This was the sixth time for Hichilema to contest as a presidential candidate and the third time in a row where he was contesting against Dr. Edgar Lungu. Hichilema won by a margin of 59.4% of the votes cast while the President of the Patriotic Front (PF), President Lungu received 38.3% of the votes and was seeking a second term.

Following the invitation from the Zambian Government, and during the period leading to the elections, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) deployed a learning observation mission which was accredited by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to observe the polling day processes and those at the National Results Centre. The ZESN Team comprised of three observers drawn from the ZESN board, the secretariat, and a representative of the ZESN provincial taskforce. To enhance the ZESN Team’s understanding of the socio-economic and political contexts as well as election-related procedures and processes, the Team interacted with various stakeholders’ mostly domestic election observer groups, media, and civil society organizations in Zambia.

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ZESN COMMEMORATES INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DAY

As the World celebrates International Human Rights Day today, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) implores all stakeholders to uphold fundamental human rights as they are integral to all human beings regardless of their nationality or gender. This is provided for in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) – “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” International Day of Human Rights commemorates the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948. ‘Human rights’ refer to basic rights or freedoms that include people’s right to live, health, and education, freedom of speech and thoughts as well as equal rights.

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ZESN PRESS STATEMENT ON IDs and MOBILE VOTER REGISTRATION

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has postponed the Mobile Voter Registration which was scheduled to commence on 6 December 2021 to February 2022, after realising that the Registrar General’s Office is currently not in a position to issue out national identity cards (IDs), citing lack of resources. ZEC has said that it cannot conduct its massive voter registration blitz, unless and until eligible voters have acquired national identity cards (IDs), which are a prerequisite for voter registration. Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) implores government to resource the Civil Registry in order to empower it to conduct an inclusive exercise of issuing national identity cards to eligible citizens.

Voting is a democratic right which only those who are registered to vote can enjoy. A national ID or valid passport is a requirement for one to be able to register to vote. Young people, citizens who lost IDs and those who have become eligible have been finding it difficult to get the IDs, threatening their disenfranchisement in electoral processes. Given that young people constitute the biggest demographic group in Zimbabwe, their participation in elections is critical as democracy is essentially about the participation of the majority.

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ZESN CONCERNED ABOUT THE CONTINUED SUSPENSION OF BY-ELECTIONS

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) is concerned about the continued suspension of by-elections in light of the observations made regarding religious, political and social gatherings around the country. The Network observed that, recently, there has been a hive of activity with multitudes of congregates at religious or church gatherings and camps in Zimbabwe where concern about protecting peoples’ health does not seem to have been given equal weight as in the suspension of by-elections.

The opening up of businesses, schools, restaurants, and bars; the recent elections in Zambia and the ongoing local government elections in neighboring South Africa in the context of Covid-19, are a clear indication that by-elections can be held under strict Covid-19 protocols.

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ZESN CONCERNED WITH THE SLOW PACE OF IMPLEMENTATION OF ELECTORAL REFORMS

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) has been tracking progress by the government in the implementation of electoral reforms premised on recommendations proffered by local, regional and international Election Observer Missions (EOMs) to the 2018 harmonized elections. Notably, parliament passed and the President assented to the Constitutional Amendment Number 2, which extended the women’s quota in the National Assembly for another ten (10) years, introduced a 30 percent women’s quota in local government, and provided for a quota for ten (10) youths in the National Assembly on a party-list basis and five (5) female youths within the current women’s quota.

While Constitutional Amendment Number 2 extended the women’s quota for another 10 years, introduced a 30 percent women’s quota in local government, ZESN is of the view that, notably this amounts to a change, however it is unlikely that gender parity will be attained in the 2023 elections based on this electoral framework. Concerning youth participation, the Amendment now provides for a youth quota system. While the constitutional change guarantees some youthful representatives in the National Assembly, it appears that the number of representatives provided for in the Amendment was not informed by a scientific approach or meaningful consultations with the affected youth. The quota is at odds with population demographics and official voter registration and participation statistics. Further, whereas the Amendment mentioned People with Disabilities (PwDs), it was short on details for implementation. The Zimbabwe Gender Commission adopted a Gender and Inclusion Policy, while it is a positive development, it cannot be enforced as law.

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Electoral Reforms Tracking Report Web

ZESN has been tracking the progress of the implementation of recommendations which were proffered by Election Observer Missions (EOMs) to the 2018 harmonized elections. ZESN noted that the government has made a few strides regards the implementation of electoral reforms premised on recommendations proffered on legal developments; women’s participation; youth participation; and media from the period after the 2018 harmonized elections up to July 2021. Some of the reforms include the passing of Constitutional Amendment Number 2, constitutional provisions relating to elections.

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ZESN IMPLORES ALL STAKEHOLDERS TO FOSTER PEACE TO ENSURE DEVELOPMENT

As we celebrate the International Day of Peace, running under this year’s theme, “Recovering better for an equitable and sustainable world,’ the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) implores all stakeholders to engage and work together in fostering peace building initiatives to ensure sustainable peace and development in the country.

The International Day of Peace or Peace Day is observed around the World annually on 21 September. Established in 1981 by unanimous United Nations resolution, Peace Day provides a globally shared date for all humanity to commit to Peace above all differences and to contribute to building a Culture of Peace.

As Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in commemorating this special day, ZESN strongly believes that Peace can be sustained through a multi-stakeholder approach and appreciation of the unique roles each stakeholder plays.

The Network calls for the strengthening of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC), Faith Based Organizations (FBOs), Civic Society Organizations (CSOs), Community Based Organizations (CBOs), Education Institutions, political parties and the media as they are critical stakeholders to fostering a culture of peace and tolerance in the society.

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ZESN STATEMENT ON INTERNATIONAL DAY OF DEMOCRACY

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) joins Zimbabwe and the World at large in commemorating the International Day of Democracy on this 15th day of September 2021 running under the theme, “Strengthening democratic resilience in the face of future crises.” Democracy Day is celebrated annually to review the state of democracy in the world and uphold and promote democracy and its principles.

The United Nations defines democracy as a state where the people have rights, especially to vote for and elect their government and regulation from among themselves, rather than being controlled by a government over whom they have no right of dissent, election or protest. Lack of democracy can lead to lack of rights or a voice, and this impacts on human rights as set out by the UN.

This day comes amid the battle with the COVID-19 pandemic which has led to fatalities, surge in infections and the closure of so many multi-sectoral spaces. Democracy has also suffered a huge blow especially in Zimbabwe; with the indefinite suspension of by-elections and other electoral activities. This has led to the quarantining of democracy and prevention of equal participation of citizens in democratic electoral and governance processes.

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ZESN STATEMENT ON CENSUS DATES AND DELIMITATION

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) expresses concern over the new dates that have been set by the government for the conducting of the population census and delimitation exercise. The new dates were announced in the latest post Cabinet press briefing, in which the government indicated that the country remains on course to conduct the Census within the prescribed time frame for the 2023 Elections. The actual population census commencing in April 2022, and the results expected in August 2022, paving way for the Constituencies Delimitation in October 2022 (31 December 2022 being the last day allowed for delimitation).

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ELECTORAL BILL, 2020

ARRANGEMENT OF SECTIONS PART I PRELIMINARY

Section

1 Short title and date of commencement.

2 Application.

3 General principles of democratic elections.

4 Interpretation.

PART II ZIMBABWE ELECTORAL COMMISSION

5 Corporate status and ancillary power of Commission.

6 Immunity of Commission, Commissioners etc.

7 Additional functions and powers of Commission.

8 Delegation of functions.

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