PYD’s Preliminary Statement on the 2018 Harmonised Elections for Chipinge District

Introduction

As part of the work to promote peace and political tolerance, PYD carried out various activities in Chipinge District and this is a preliminary report on the 2018 Harmonised Elections. The activities were carried out in accordance with the principles and norms of peace, social cohesion, tolerance and peaceful co-existence. This report however, is derived from the data that PYD has been collecting during the electoral cycle period.

  1. Background

The 2013 elections were premised on the narrative of the June 2008 run-off elections that was characterised by high levels of violence, a reference point that is reminiscent of the “harvest of fear”. This produced subtle violence overtures in Chipinge District. This reference point was used by Zanu PF as a weapon of choice and a means to ensure retention of power by any means necessary.  Comparatively, the 2018 elections were held on the backdrop of the 17 November 2017 so called “soft coup” that culminated in the resignation of Robert Mugabe from the presidency.  The election period in Zimbabwe has been a very competitive and intolerant scenario that brings in diverse viewpoints to the fore, and the victims are normally the ordinary community dwellers.

PYD believes that it is necessary to promote peace and tolerance in Chipinge as it regards tolerance as one of the key community values before, during and after the 2018 harmonised elections. The elections in 2018 were a contest between the old order as represented by Mr ED Mnangagwa and the opposition which had two view points, one which was premised on Nelson Chamisa’s generational consensus whilst the other voice advocated for multi-party democracy as espoused by the other 21 Presidential candidates who contested the 30 July elections.

  1. #MugangaWedu2018 Project

PYD was instrumental in mobilising at least 63 000 young people in Chipinge District to register during the 2017 Biometric Voter Registration blitz. The mobilising exercise was to give young people in Chipinge District an opportunity to choose the political leadership of their choice, and at the same time making one’s voice being heard. This project was dubbed #MugangaWedu2018. The organisation was again influential in encouraging registered voters to inspect the voters roll so as to check information such as gender, date of birth and most importantly spell check and correct polling stations. PYD recorded at least 8100 people physically inspecting the voters roll in the district.

There were high impact activities that PYD conducted in the district that included 36 ward based and 3 constituency based sports tournament, 2 constituency based cultural festivals and 6 community based public meetings. The basic goal of these activities was to raise awareness on the electoral cycle within the district, and also to use them as a mobilising tool to harness the higher voter population.

As a community based organisation, PYD was active in observing the primary elections that were held by the two major parties in the Chipinge District. The primary elections in both MDC Alliance and Zanu PF were unfortunately turned into a turf related battle and was characterised by heavy contestations that resulted in chaotic, violent scenes and malpractices. This scenario, PYD attributed it to lack of organisational capacity within the respective political parties. PYD witnessed some losing candidates filing as independents at the nomination court. Again, it was noted with grave concern the low number of women candidates in the district.  There was only one woman candidate in a field of 22 Parliamentary candidates contesting in Chipinge District.

  1. Get Out and Vote Campaign and the Peace Pledge

As soon as the nomination process was completed, the Chipinge District was swung into a campaign mode by the contesting candidates. During the campaign period, PYD held a series of activities targeting at promoting peace and political tolerance. The organisation held the “GET OUT AND VOTE CONCERT” at Checheche growth point. It was graced by notable Zimdancehall stars that included Lady Squanda, Shinsoman and Tocky Vibes. The concert was an integration of peace, social cohesion and tolerance with elections.

The Get Out and Vote initiative encouraged registered voters to turn out in their numbers to vote on 30 July 2018, and also brought up a discussion of peace into the elections. At the same event, PYD committed contesting candidates to a pledge for peace, as the organisation strongly believes that peace and tolerance enhances the sovereignty will of the people. The peace pledge entailed that candidates were to be tolerant of diverse views and also desist from inciting or the use of hate language during campaigning and subsequently voting.

  1. Chipinge District Candidate Profile and Dialogue Series

As part of the voter education initiative, PYD ran a candidate profiling series. The series was intended to showcase from a non-partisan viewpoint each candidate’s individual skills, potential and possible development areas. The organisation managed to highlight profiles of 8 candidates from three political parties in the district and one independent candidate.

In addition to the candidate profiling series, PYD conducted and moderated political dialogue series in the district. This was an important aspect in political engagement and communication between the candidates and the voters. During the dialogue series, it was clear that the electorate was more focused on democratic accountability, and that they wanted a representative who will be answerable to them and represents their views and interests. There were 3 political dialogue series at constituency level and 4 at ward level.

  1. Election Observation

The election observation is the organisation’s civic duty in the district to ensure public confidence in the electoral process. PYD had 25 short term observers in the district with 10 being accredited under ZESN, 8 accredited under YETT and 7 observing unaccredited. The accredited observers had the responsibility of recording what was actually taking place whilst the unaccredited were responsible for observing the general environment around and within the wards. PYD observers managed to cover 56 polling stations. 10 observers accredited under ZESN were stationed at 10 polling stations, whilst those under YETT were mobile and observed 2 polling stations each and the 7 unaccredited observers were responsible for 3 polling stations each. At the same time, the PYD Director observed the whole district with an average of 3 polling stations per each of the 5 constituencies of Chipinge District. This makes a total of 56 polling stations that were under the observation of PYD team.

The observation process was aimed at assessing the legal and administrative conditions under which the elections were conducted.

The administrative framework has a direct bearing on how the sense of political efficacy develops and PYD considers that as an important aspect in the development of legitimacy and progression towards democratic consolidation within Chipinge District and Manicaland Province as a whole. In Chipinge District, the administrative framework took into account gender issues as there were women as presiding officers and also as election officials. At the same time, pregnant women, nursing mothers and the elderly were given first priority to vote including people with disabilities.

The legal framework provided clear provisions on the role of the party agents, observers and candidates during voting. It also lays out the qualifications of a voter and a candidate so as to ensure citizen participation in a peaceful, free and fair environment. In short, the spirit of the legal framework in regard to electoral process promoted simple, verifiable, secure and transparent voting system.

  1. Key Findings
  • PYD noted that the polling stations were opened and closed within the stipulated legal timeframe of 0700 hrs to 1900hrs, and no person was denied the opportunity to cast his or her vote when the polling stations were closed.
  • All the polling stations managed to paste their V11 forms outside the polling stations as required by the law governing elections in Zimbabwe.
  • The environment was generally peaceful and calm. It was refreshing to note that there were other civic organisations that were visible in election observation in the district. Political party polling agents were present at each and every polling station.
  • There was a concern over the number of voters who were assisted to cast their votes in the district (Mashumbi 240, Mabee 110 and Garahwa 80) and at Vheneka Mahiyana polling station 70% of those who had voted by 12 noon were assisted to vote, whilst at Rimbi the number stood at 45%.The number of assisted voters in the district was generally high, with Chipinge South toping the graph.
  • Traditional leaders played a vital role in swaying the pendulum of the voting patterns in the district as they instructed their subjects to profess ignorance of the voting process so as to get assistance. At the same time, after voting, a voter was required to report to the kraalhead that s/he has voted.
  • The traditional leaders made statements that the opposition was sympathetic to Robert Mugabe, and therefore voters were instructed not to vote for the opposition as doing so was bringing Robert Mugabe back into Zimbabwe politics.
  • At Rimbi polling station, a Zanu PF member was openly campaigning for his presidential candidate within the parameters of the polling station, a serious violation of the 300m radius stipulated for campaigning.
  • At Checheche Secondary School, a Zanu PF member was turned away for putting on party regalia.
  • Almost 90 percent of the women who registered to vote managed to cast their votes on the election day. This was evidenced by the fact that most women were already at the polling station even before the polling stations were opened.
  1. Limitations
  • PYD was only limited to 56 polling stations despite the fact that it has a strong presence in the district
  • Lack of adequate resources to be mobile and provide real time election updates. PYD would have wanted to establish a situation room where tabulation and real time reporting would be done to consolidate all statistics and important updates related to the election.

Conclusion

The 2018 harmonised elections in Chipinge District was a much improved process as compared to the past three elections of 2005, 2008 and 2013. There was no visible bussing of voters and groupings within the allowable radius as stipulated by the Electoral Act. The contesting candidates were tolerant and respectful of each other during the campaign period. They even attended political dialogue meetings in their commitment to peace and tolerance. Zanu PF that has been intolerant of community based organisations was very much appreciative of the role of PYD in promoting political dialogue and peace. Presiding officers and police officers conducted themselves well on the voting day. Contesting political parties were able to provide polling agents on the election day with Zanu PF having 100% of its agents and MDC Alliance had 90% presence. A significant number of civic organisations like ZESN, YETT, Zimrights, ZCC, CCJP among others were visible at polling stations in the district.

PYD observers did not report any serious incidence warranting attention during the voting process.

PYD takes note that the period preceding voting had a number of worrying cases amounting to vote buying and intimidation of voters. Vote buying was prevalent during the campaign period, and it was a notable trend by most of the Zanu PF candidates who had a well-resourced campaign through state facilities like grain, presidential inputs and abusing official government business. This was noticeable by the pattern of voting in the district. The ruling party in cohort with traditional leaders adopted a subtle intimidation strategy whereby voters were categorically told that it will be known on whom a person would have placed a vote. The opposition had a very subdued campaign as was witnessed by the number of rallies that they held with most of their candidate resorted to non-traditional form of campaign like using social media, door to door campaigns and even one on one campaigns. This approach proved to be ineffective as most people are used to big rallies and even seeing politicians on national television, an area that was maximised by Zanu PF candidates.

However, vote buying was not visible during voting due to the compliance by political parties and their candidates with paragraph 7 of the fourth schedule of the Electoral Act (Chapter 2:13) that cause cessation of campaigning two days before election day.

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