SADC: Lay Out Clear, Firm Pre-conditions To Ensure Democratic Elections in Zimbabwe

crisis_zim_coalitionWe, Zimbabwe civil society organizations under the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition banner, strongly urge the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to urgently lay out in clear terms, firm pre-conditions to ensure democratic elections in Zimbabwe that are without violence and intimidation and that fully comply with SADC principles and guideline

We reiterate that, despite talk to the contrary, Zimbabwe is not ready for elections in 2011 and that on her own, without direct assistance from SADC and the AU, Zimbabwe lacks capacity to deliver a free and fair election. We state unequivocally that the conditions obtaining in Zimbabwe such as widespread state-sponsored violence, partisan application of the law, increased deployment of soldiers across the country openly intimidating citizens and campaigning for ZANU-PF and increased arrests and harassment of rights activists and MDC leaders all confirm that key state institutions remain unreformed and extremely partisan and politicized.

We therefore call upon SADC to put on public record minimum pre-conditions that Zimbabwe must meet in order to create an environment conducive to holding free and fair elections where violence and intimidation play no part and to inspire confidence in the people of Zimbabwe, in SADC and the wider international community. In crafting a credible roadmap to Zimbabwe elections, SADC must endeavour to make the process as broad and as inclusive as possible. SADC must state clearly what appropriate steps it will take to ensure full compliance with its resolutions and directives regarding Zimbabwes preparations for elections. For the roadmap to be meaningful and to inspire confidence in the people of Zimbabwe, it must directly address the following five critical pre-conditions:

A new, democratic constitution which includes critical electoral reforms such as an updated and accurate voters roll, guarantees for media freedoms, promotes gender equality and equal access by all political parties to state media while repealing or amending all legislation that hinders free political activity. The roadmap must layout contingency plans of steps to be taken in the event that a credible constitutional referendum produces a NO Vote.

All soldiers currently deployed across the country must be returned and confined to their barracks and all service chiefs must issue a public statement commitment themselves to restricting their activities to their constitutional mandate and to totally separate themselves from politics and from interference in political and electoral affairs.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and its Secretariat Staff, charged with elections management, must be completely demilitarized, independent, professional, adequately resourced and has direct technical support from the SADC Electoral Commissions Forum to enable it to impartially discharge its mandate.

In the context of its on-going mediation in the political conflict in Zimbabwe, SADC must independently examine and certify that the environment is conducive to holding free and fair elections before an election date can be set, and SADC must supervise the elections to ensure full compliance with SADC principles and guidelines governing democratic elections. The elections must robustly monitored and observed by local, regional and international groups who should have unfettered access to all parts of the country.

Together with the AU and the UN, deploy peace-keeping monitors at least three months ahead of elections to prevent state-sponsored violence and intimidation and to guarantee peaceful transfer of power to the eventual winner of the elections. The peace-keeping monitors should remain on the ground a further three months after elections have been held.

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