On May 30, 2018, a CiZC delegation held a meeting with the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security at the SADC Headquarters in Gaborone, Botswana explaining the current Zimbabwean situation and its possible implications on the credibility of the 2018 polls set to be held on July 30, 2018.
The delegation also submitted a letter outlining civil society demands ahead of the 2018 polls to the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Director, Retired Lieutenant-Colonel Tanki Mothae.
In the letter, which was also copied to the SADC Executive Secretary, Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax, CiZC implored the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security to ensure the upcoming 2018 polls in Zimbabwe meet the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.
The submission by CiZC takes into consideration the fact that Zimbabwe has a history of sham polls and little has been done to avoid a repeat of yet another disputed election.
CiZC raised concern that various election observer missions, including the SADC Election Observer Mission (SEOM) to Zimbabwe’s July 2013 general elections, highlighted some shortcomings regarding Zimbabwe’s electoral processes yet some of these issues remain unresolved and unattended.
The letter explicitly stated that the current government in Zimbabwe, led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, lacks legitimacy as it came in through a military coup disguised as ‘Operation Restore Legacy’.
The letter stated that since the coming in of the new government, there has been increased militarization of state institutions including the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) which has proved to be a captured institution that largely lacks the capability to run free, fair and credible polls.
Concern was also raised that ZEC was largely lacking in terms of transparency and accountability.
The letter noted several irregularities ahead of the elections and warned that unless these are addressed, Zimbabwe could be headed for yet another sham election.
“While Zimbabwe is set to hold elections during the second half of 2018 we raise key concerns around inadequacies on the part of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to administer a credible electoral process. The involvement of the military and traditional leaders in elections remains unaddressed.
“Based on pronouncements by the current government, there are valid fears that the 2018 elections will be highly militarized and traditional leaders are continuing on a partisan path to influence electoral outcomes in violation of Section 208 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which bars the former from engaging in partisan politics,” read part of the letter.
Regarding amendments to Zimbabwe’s Electoral Act, CiZC in its letter submitted that ‘the recent amendments to the Electoral Act do not represent the views espoused by citizens and civil society organizations as captured in previous documents submitted to ZEC and Parliament by civil society and that such amendments do not reflect the spirit and letter of genuine alignment of the Act with the Constitution’.
CiZC also submitted that the State media has largely been acting as a mouthpiece of the ruling party ahead of the 2018 elections and that law enforcement agents continue to use draconian legislation such as the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) to stifle fundamental freedoms.
In light of the challenges highlighted in the letter, CiZC made the following submissions to the SADC Organ on Defence and Security;
- a)That the military must reassert its commitment to upholding and protecting the constitution with respect to elections and electoral processes.
- b)That ZEC conducts itself in a transparent, accountable, professional, non-partisan and autonomous manner in all electoral processes. In this regard, civil society implores ZEC to publish names of its secretariat, their previous employers, experience and qualifications. This also includes publication of office bearers of the Elections Logistics Committee in the interest of transparency and accountability.
- c)That ZEC and the government ensure there is fair and equal access to public media by all competing political parties and candidates while ensuring that media practitioners and journalists are allowed to operate freely as enshrined under Section 61 of our Constitution.
- d)That ZEC, through its designated committees, and other concerned authorities, give unfettered access to key electoral processes to local, regional and international observers without undue restrictions such as imposition of prohibitive accreditation fees, criminalization of domestic observers, or cherry picking of regional and international ones.
- e)That ZEC, in line with the law principally and expeditiously avails the bio-metric voters’ roll to all stakeholders particularly contesting political players and other election related bodies once it is ready and clear times for such provisions be shared and committed to
- f)That ZEC urgently avails a clear and precise 2018 election road-map to all stakeholders in line with the principle of transparency and accountability
- g)That voter preferences take place without cohesion, manipulation or intimidation and the insulation of this choice through effective secrecy of the ballot.
- h)That the Police and prosecuting authorities allow civil society organizations and citizens to carry out their lawful activities without harassment, raids, restrictions and unwarranted arrests spurred more by political calculations than the dictates of the law