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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.