Assessment for the 2023 election cycle is ongoing. Currently there is no movement on the election administration issues listed above. During the COVID -19 pandemic the ZEC had responded commendably by developing a COVID-19 Policy to guide the work of ZEC during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately the Policy was not put to the test as the Government, through the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare suspended by-elections indefinitely through the use of Statutory Instrument 225A of 2020.
Zimbabwe has conducted three sets of elections on the basis of one set of delimitation. 2008, 2013 and 2018 elections. Boundary delimitation for the 2023 elections should be timeously conducted. There is need to rationalise constituencies that are too big and those that are too small. Clear regulations for delimitation must be put in place.
There been significant improvement in the area of legislation that has an impact on the boundary delimitation process. The government accented to the Census and Statistics Amendment Bill of 2020. The Bill amended the Census and Statistics Act (Chapter 10:29) to allow for the national censuses to be conducted in a manner that will enable the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to take into account census data when delimiting electoral boundaries every 10 years as required by section 161 (1) of the Constitution. The Bill has also moved forward the Census that was due in 2022 to be completed by 1 July 2021.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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).
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.
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.
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). 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. 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.
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. 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” 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. 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.
 MDC Lawmakers Reject ‘Apartheid Duplicate’ Law see < https://allafrica.com/stories/201908150071.html >
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
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