Election Observation

The ZESN Petition notes that the structure of the Observer Accreditation Committee must be reviewed in keeping with the principle of the independence of the Commission.
 
Assessment:
The observer accreditation process must be managed by the ZEC, any consultations with the security services should be done on the side-lines.  However this needs to be provided for at law.

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The Right to Vote and Inclusivity

The Constitution grants every Zimbabwean the right to vote. This the Electoral Law does not give life to, as it excludes millions in the Diaspora, remand prison and hospital. In keeping with the thrust of the new dispensation to include citizens in the Diaspora in national development, the selective inclusion of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora and those in places of confinement and hospitals must be reviewed. This also includes citizens’ hospital staff, nurses and doctors who will be on duty on Election Day. The expansion of special voting must be considered to cater for these groups.
 
Assessment:
Special Voting rights have not yet been expanded. The ZESN draft Electoral Amendment Bill under review in Parliament, has provisions for special voting and recommend that the special vote be done in a more transparent manner and be accessible to a wider range of voters who may not be able to present themselves physically at their assignment polling stations on Election Day.

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Provision of Voter Education

  • Voter Education (VE) should be linked to the secrecy of the ballot and other misinformation by electoral stakeholders.
  • VE should reach institutions of higher learning and secondary schools, and target those have reached/about to reach the legal age of majority.
  • VE must emphasise the importance of other elections, apart from presidential elections.
  • The VE methodology and curriculum must facilitate easy access by people with disabilities including those visually impaired.
  • Electoral Law must provide for continuous voter education by a broad range of actors that include the ZEC and Civic Society Organisations (CSOs).

Analysis:
There has not been any noticeable improvements on the quality of voter education processes since the 2018 Harmonised Elections. However the Commission has engaged electoral stakeholders in the development of more inclusive voter education curriculum and methodologies.

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Voter Registration and the Voters’ Roll

  • The Electoral Law must compel ZEC to inform registrants who are removed from the voters’ roll.
  • Those put on the exclusion list must be notified, and there must be a less cumbersome process for redress.
  • Access to the final voters’ roll must be guaranteed for all contestants as provided by law, and within a specific time-frame.
  • Ease of registration in urban areas in view of the lowest registration statistics in Harare and Bulawayo in particular, and in urban areas in general.
  • There should be more permanent registration centres established and these should be open throughout the electoral cycle.
  • Copies of the roll must be availed to party agents at polling stations.
  • There is need for procurement of integrated systems that allow one gadget to be used for multiple purposes, such as enrolling voters, voter verification on Election Day and transmission of results.
  • The law must provide for the publication of the results of the de-duplication process to enhance transparency. ZEC must focus on continuous voter registration and cleaning of the voters’ roll.
  •  
    Assessment:
    There has not been any movement on the gaps listed above, save for marginal improvements with regards to transparency on the voters roll as the ZEC during 2019 and 2020 by-elections has been displaying the voters roll outside polling stations. However ZEC has been seized with the task of cleaning up the voters roll but the results of such processes has not been made public.

    ZESN produced a draft Electoral Amendment Bill which has since been submitted to parliament for consideration. A number of the gaps listed above are included in the Bill, such as provisions requiring the ZEC to inform registrants that are put on the exclusion list, facilitating redress for parties who grievances are related to the voter registration process.

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    The Political Environment

  • There is need for an enabling political environment, which supports the holding of free, fair and credible elections.
  • Statutes as the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) reinforces the existing political environment.
  • There is need for an enforceable Electoral Code of Conduct for traditional leaders so as to ensure that Traditional leaders discharge their duties in a non-partisan manner.
  •  
    Assessment:
    The political environment remains in a state of flux, and unconducive to the holding of credible elections. The conflation of the state and ruling party continues to deepen as recently illustrated by the range of elaborate strategies that the party in government has employed to weaken the main opposition political party. The strategy includes co-optation, repression and legitimation.  For instance, on 17 May 2019, the government launched the Political Actors Dialogue (POLAD), which comprised some of the parties that contested the 2018 presidential elections. While the main opposition political party the MDC Alliance did not join, the majority of political parties in the opposition were co-opted under this arrangement. In a move that further weakened the main opposition political party, the Government, through the judiciary gave legitimacy to a faction of the MDC. The MDC-T was given a favourable judgement in its dispute with MDC-Alliance leader, Nelson Chamisa where it argued that Chamisa’s appointment as vice president and his subsequent rise as president of the MDC-T party was illegal and unconstitutional. Armed with this judgement the faction of the MDC has proceeded to recall MPs that were elected under the MDC-Alliance party. Consequently the oversight and legislative power of Parliament has been weakened, as the ruling party’s dominance in Parliament is unchecked, increasing the likelihood of bills being passed without adequate scrutiny.

    Some of changes to legislation that regulate the enjoyment of civil and political rights have been changed. The Public Order and Security Act which was replaced by the Maintenance of Peace and Order (MOPA) Bill is a case in point. Although the Bill became an Act on 14 November 2019, some stakeholders view it as a missed opportunity as some of the provisions in the new law were considered more repressive than those in the POSA which it sought to replace. Some in the opposition have even likened the MOPA to the South African Apartheid era law, the Regulation of Public Gathering Act (No. 205 of 1993)[1].  Media Institute of Southern Africa-Zimbabwe is of the view that MOPA retains and in some instances adds to the restrictive provisions that were in POSA[2]. In addition the MOPA was passed without addressing the various adverse comments that were raised by the Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC) on the Bill, which in the view of the PLC were in conflict with the Constitution[3].

     The Independent complaints mechanism that the members of the public can report human rights abuses by members of the security services has not yet been instituted, seven years after the Constitution was enacted and five years after the lodging of a constitutional application calling on the Government to gazette a Bill to set up the Complaints Mechanism envisaged by section 210 of the Constitution. However, recent developments suggest there could be movement on this issues as Cabinet approved the Zimbabwe Independent Complaints Commission Bill, in November 2020[4]. It remains to be seen if the provisions in this Bill sufficiently capture the essence of provisions of section 210 of the Constitution.

    On the other hand the government created the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) whose mandate is, among other things, “to develop mechanisms for early detection of areas of potential conflicts and disputes, and to take appropriate preventive measures”[5] the NPCRC is yet do develop the early warning system, with efforts to hire a lead consultant to assists with this process commencing as recently as August 2020[6]. NPRC was also required to developed procedures and institutions at national level to facilitate dialogue among political parties, communities, organisations and other groups, in order to prevent conflicts and disputes arising in the future. Perhaps institutions like POLAD ought to have been created and facilitated by the NPRC. In addition the Commission has not mediated in disputes between various rural communities and commercial entities for instance[7].

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    [1] MDC Lawmakers Reject ‘Apartheid Duplicate’ Law see < https://allafrica.com/stories/201908150071.html >

    [2] https://zimbabwe.misa.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/13/2020/04/MISA-Zimbabwe-Annual-Report-2019.pdf

    [3] http://kubatana.net/2019/07/29/parliamentary-legal-committee-adverse-report-on-mopa-bill-watch-39-2019/

    [4] https://www.chronicle.co.zw/cabinet-approves-zimbabwe-independent-complaints-bill/

    [5] http://www.nprc.org.zw/mandate/

    [6] https://twitter.com/NPRCZim/status/1293911067312050177

    [7] http://kubatana.net/2020/08/17/rise-in-forced-eviction-cases-in-masvingo-province/

    The independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC)

  • The independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is provided for under Section 235 of the Constitution. Provisions of the Electoral Law that offend this principle must be reviewed. These include sections 192(6) and (12) of the Electoral Act, which permit Executive interference with the ZEC.
  • Pursuant to its signature of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG) in February 2018, Zimbabwe should proceed to give life to the Charter through its domestication and implementation.
  •  
    Assessment:

  • The Electoral Act does not empower ZEC to make and approve electoral regulations. ZEC still needs get approval from the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for the Commission to introduce regulations for use by the institution’s staff.
  • In October 2020, the overturning by the Government of a decision by ZEC to lift the suspension of by-elections demonstrated that the institution could not make decisions independent of approval by the Government and the Ministry of Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs (ZEC’s parent Ministry).
  • Zimbabwe is one of the 25 African states that are yet to ratify the ACDEG. Signing is not enough when consent to be bound is to be expressed by ratification. Ratification of ACDEG will demonstrate that Zimbabwe is committed and serious about the promotion of democratic principles and institutions, popular participation, human rights, the rule of law, good governance, condemnation and unconstitutional changes of governments, sustainable development, peace and security as enshrined in the AU Constitutive Act and ACDEG[1].
  • According to the Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on the Alignment of Legislation to the Constitution (IMT) the alignment of Electoral Act [Chapter 2:13] to the Constitution is complete. ZESN is of contrary view and has made submissions to both government and Parliament bringing to their attentions areas where the current Electoral Act is not in sync with the Constitution.
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    [1] http://aga-platform.org/sites/default/files/2017-08/Africa%27s%20Governance%20Dividends%20%26%20Deficits%20-%20Newsletter%20%28Jan-June%202017%29.pdf

    ZESN WELCOMES RESUMPTION OF VOTER REGISTRATION

    25 March 2021 – The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) commends ZEC for adhering to the dictates of the law as espoused in the Electoral Act on the need for continuous voter registration. ZEC announced the resumption of electoral activities through a Press Statement, published in the mainstream media and its social media platforms on Tuesday 23 March 2021.

    The Network is however irked by the continued suspension of by-elections without consulting stakeholders. ZESN calls on the ZEC to publicize and implement its COVID-19 Policy on Electoral Activities and outline how the Policy will be used to administer by-elections under COVID-19. Accordingly, selective application of the law by allowing for “some” electoral processes to be conducted at the peril of others is  unendurable given the fact that the continuous suspension of by-elections closes up what is left of the shrinking democratic space and undermines the civil and political entitlements of citizens.

    ZESN notes that the umbrella ban on electoral activities issued on 2 January 2021 through the promulgation of Statutory Instrument 10 0f 2021 by the Minister of Health and Child Care which moved Zimbabwe to level 4 from level 2 of the National COVID-19 lockdown affected the voter registration exercise which had resumed during the last quarter of 2020. Voter registration, being a key component of the electoral cycle, has to be conducted on a continuous basis to keep the voter’s roll up to date.

    The Network will continue to advocate for the institution of electoral reforms that are key in ensuring the holding of credible and fair electoral processes. Some of these reforms include; strengthening of the ZEC Independence and building trust and confidence; provision of continuous and more robust and inclusive voter education; transparency in key electoral processes delimitation; and representation of Special Groups (women, youth, and people with disabilities) among others.

    More so, ZESN will continue to enhance the capacity of youths, women and People with Disabilities to advocate for electoral reforms by 2023 by facilitating sustained engagement between the ZEC and key electoral stakeholders such as political parties, Civil Society Organisations and relevant institutions supporting democracy throughout the electoral cycle. Further, in view of the COVID-19 context; ZESN will prioritize provision of Civic and Voter Education through media campaigns virtually and using radio since physical campaigns cannot be held at the moment mobilizing eligible voters, women, youth, and people with disabilities as well as marginalized groups to register to vote and if need be to transfer their registration. The move is meant to ensure enhanced and informed citizens’ participation in the voter registration exercise.

    The government of Zimbabwe must not negate its obligation to adequately fund the Electoral Commission and to institute the necessary reforms to meet the constitutional benchmarks and regionally and internationally agreed standards.///ENDS

    PROMOTING DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS IN ZIMBABWE

    ZESN Chairperson: +263772234891

    ZESN Acting Director: +26377219462

    +263 (242) 791443, 798193, 791803, 250736

    zesn2011@zesn.net, info@zesn.net

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    ZESN STATEMENT ON INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY COMMEMORATIONS

    8 March 2021 – As we commemorate International Women’s Day running under the theme, “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.” ZESN calls on all electoral stakeholders, the government and traditional leadership to end the exclusion and marginalization of women and girls in governance processes in Zimbabwe. International Women’s Day comes at a time when the country is making strides to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and women are bearing the brunt as they are at risk of transmission from care giving with some not even being able to take care of themselves when sick leading to  fatalities.

    ZESN notes with concern that notwithstanding the legislative framework to ensure gender equality and equity as well as gender mainstreaming in electoral processes to enhance women’s participation in democratic governance processes, Zimbabwe has not yet achieved equal representation in public office including the Presidium and other decision making positions. Political parties are also genderblind in their composition as there are no measures in place to ensure they adhere to the Constitutional dictates for their appointments and candidate selection. Furthermore, there are barriers that women face such as physical, verbal, cyber, emotional and sexual abuse which discourage participation in democratic electoral and governance processes.

    The COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity for the government to take stock of the implementation of a plethora of domestic laws, regional and international conventions and protocols on according women equal opportunities in governance processes. Women’s Day comes at a time when ZESN and other CSOs are lobbying government and political parties to increase women’s representation in the government and participation as political candidates as a way of empowering women to achieve gender parity. This is important because when women do not express their voice or participate fully, their needs will remain unattended to and society as a whole falls short of realising its full potential.

    International Women’s Day is celebrated annually on 8 March and offers an opportunity to reflect on progress made with regards to gender equality, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history and development of their countries and communities.

    The Zimbabwe Constitution under Section 17 calls on the State to promote full gender balance in Zimbabwean society, and in particular – with regard to promoting the full participation of women in all spheres of Zimbabwean society on the basis of equality with men and to take legislative and other measures to ensure that both genders are equally represented in all institutions and agencies of government at every level; and that women should constitute at least half of members of all Commissions and other elective and appointed governmental bodies established under the Constitution or any Act of Parliament.

    ZESN calls upon the government to sincerely promote gender balance and to take positive measures to rectify gender discrimination and imbalances that continue to exist. The Network acknowledges and applauds the work that is being done by women organisations and other CSOs in ensuring that women remain engaged in electoral, governance and democracy issues. Happy International Women’s Day to all women.//ENDS

    PROMOTING DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS IN ZIMBABWE
    ZESN Chairperson : +263772234891
    ZESN National Director : +263712415902
    zesn2011@zesn.net, info@zesn.net
    Facebook: ZESN1
    Twitter:@ZESN1
    Website: www.zesn.org.zw

    January February Newsletter 2021

    THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has revealed it had commenced voter registration,transfers and voters’roll inspection during the last quarter of 2020 before the recent suspension of all electoral activities.The ZEC revealed this following concerns that it closed its doors to the public after President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced the initial phase of lockdown measures. Read More Here

    ZESN STATEMENT ON NATIONAL BUDGET ON KEY ELECTORAL ACTIVITIES

    Press Statement

    ZESN STATEMENT ON NATIONAL BUDGET ON KEY ELECTORAL ACTIVITIES

    16 DECEMBER 2020 – The Zimbabwe Election Support Network is deeply concerned by the allocation of an inadequate budget to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission which militates against the capacity of the Commission to administer free, fair, and credible elections thus undermining democracy. ZESN implores government to demonstrate political will by sufficiently supporting ZEC financially.

    The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs has revealed in a report on the 2021 National Budget that ZEC was allocated $2.3 billion instead of $12.4 billion that the Commission had indicated it would need for the year 2021.

    ZESN expresses dismay at ZEC’s paltry budgetary allocation which MPs said would not be adequate to enable the Commission to conduct the much awaited process of delimiting electoral boundaries ahead of the 2023 elections. Members of Parliament indicated that ZEC would need $8.6 billion for the delimitation process, yet only $1.744 billion was appropriated. In general, the delimitation of electoral boundaries is a challenging technical endeavour that is usually lengthy and costly.

    Delimitation is a key electoral process with implications for electoral outcomes, including the fairness and credibility of elections. A properly conducted delimitation exercise ensures equality of voting strength, fair and adequate representation of the electorate, contiguity and compactness in the geometric shape of constituencies and, importantly in the case of Zimbabwe, that the variance in the number of voters in all constituencies falls within the +/-20% constitutional threshold.

    ZESN is of the view that the move by government to leave a variance of 81% between ZEC’s proposed budget of 12.4 billion and the actual allocation of $2.3 billion further weakens democracy in the country given that, a few months ago, by-elections were indefinitely suspended on account of the COVID-19 pandemic despite the fact that in recent months many countries, including in Africa, have been holding elections under similar circumstances.

    Zimbabwe stands guided by the tenets of democracy which are based on, among others, respect for the Constitution, rule of law, fundamental human rights and freedoms, good governance and regular elections, all rooted in the watershed elections of 1980 which marked a transition to independence.

    There is therefore need for the government to uphold the tenets of the democracy through availing adequate resources to enable the holding of all key electoral processes in-between general elections and during general elections that should be held every five years as stipulated by the supreme law of the country.

    ZESN reiterates that there is need for government and all institutions supporting democracy to create a conducive environment that ensures that the basic pillars of democracy are upheld. The Network restates its call for the holding of free, fair, peaceful, and credible elections; and extending the scope of right to vote in Zimbabwe. //ENDS

    PROMOTING DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS IN ZIMBABWE
    FOR COMMENTS AND FURTHER DETAILS CONTACT
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    ZESN Chairperson: +263772234891
    ZESN National Director: +263 712415902
    +263 (242) 791443, 798193, 791803, 250736
    info@zesn.net or zesn2011@zesn.net or visit www.zesn.org.zw
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