Citizen participation vital cog in electoral processes


ZESN as part of its ongoing drive on citizen participation conducted a workshop in Hatfield at St Joseph Catholic Parish on the 14th of April 2012.The workshop started at 09:00hrs and ended at 14:30hrs. The workshop was attended by 50 participants drawn mainly from the Roman Catholic Church. The participants displayed some knowledge about ZESN and the various electoral processes in the country.

The workshop facilitators emphasized the importance of citizen participation in electoral and governance issues as they have a direct bearing on other essential aspects of life. There was a lot of deliberation on a number of issues and below are some of the issues that participants raised:

• Participants highlighted the need for accountability in state institutions and for holders of public office.

• There were concerns raised over the requirement to produce utility bills or letters from landlords and chiefs during voter registration. Participants felt that this provision was open to abuse and could result in the disenfranchisement of would be voters.

• Participants agreed that participation in electoral and governance processes has dwindled over the years and Civic organisations like ZESN had a lot of work to do in civic education and encouraging people to participate.

• On the issue of the Voters’ Roll and its current state, there was consensus among the participants that ZEC must be given the mandate to conduct voter registration and come up with a fresh Voters’ Roll.

• Some participants agreed that the ZEC must be independently financed and must report directly to Parliament and not a single Ministry as there is a lot at stake politically in the administration of the body.

• State instruments such as the police are supposed to safeguard the electoral process and should desist from interfering with processes.

• It was emphasised that the electorate has the right to choose who to vote for and should express this freely without coercion or intimidation.

• Participants also bemoaned the lack of professionalism in the local media and called for sterner measure in dealing with breaches of professional media conduct.

In concluding the workshop the participants organised themselves into 3 groups as they were focusing on peace building and conflict transformation in relation to elections. The first group highlighted on the challenges involved in attaining peace and stated that selfishness and greediness, competition amongst political parties as well as the political, economic and social landscape greatly undermined and compromised peace in the electoral process.

The second and third group focused on the solutions and recommendations putting emphasis on the need to interact positively with regional and international organisations such as SADC and the UN. There has to be political will from all stakeholders in order to attain and achieve peace and conflict transformation. Citizens also need to pray about peace and conflict transformation as this is quite crucial.

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