NANGO was accredited as a local observer mission by Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), and had 364 local observers to cover the various sampled polling stations. NANGO endevoured to ensure that the election process becomes more transparent. Our position is that true democracy should reflect the voice of its people, with credible elections being a foundational element. NANGO extends its gratitude to ZEC for permitting us to participation in the 2018 harmonised elections as local observers.
Our mission provides an analysis of the 2018 harmonised elections covering the pre-election phase, polling day, counting and tallying of the votes, announcement of results, and the post-election phase. Further, the mission provides recommendations for future elections.
Guided by the International Standards for democratic elections referred to above, the legal framework for Zimbabwe and the observation undertaken through the specified methodological approach, the NANGO Observer Mission makes the following preliminary statement on the July 30 2018 harmonised elections in Zimbabwe;
NANGO, therefore, through this statement, pronounces the interim observation on the 2018 harmonised elections that was held on 30 July 2018. This pronouncement is underpinned by the founding objectives of the constitution of Zimbabwe, and is premised on:
- The political, structural and legal environment;
- The national, regional, continental principles and frameworks;
- The information which the NANGO Election Observation Mission collected and
- Recommendations on how the election process in Zimbabwe could be improved.
The Legal Framework, Principles and the Context
The Zimbabwean election has been held under the Zimbabwe Constitution (No.20) Act 2013, the Electoral Act 2018 (Chapter 2 6:2018) which, among others, made provision for Media dispensation, codes of conduct for the political parties, candidates, chief election agents, election agents and observers as well as the subsidiary piece of legislation namely Electoral Regulation 2005 (89/2013). This legal framework provides guidelines to be followed in the preparation and conduct of elections in Zimbabwe.
The regional and continental principles on elections, on the other hand, provide the basis for the establishment of the democratic electoral systems and procedures for member states, which Zimbabwe is a signatory. These principles find expression in both legislation and the political environment within which elections are conducted. The principles include:
- SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections
- The AU Charter on Democracy, Governance and Elections
- The AU Declaration on the Principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa
- The Principles for Election Management, Monitoring and Observation in the SADC Region
The NANGO Election Observer Manual equally informed by the said principles and standards provided practical guidelines through which civil society can assess the extent to which states adhere to the above principles. It is a firm belief of NANGO that assessment on the basis of this framework provides a reflection that could go a long way in ensuring democratic elections.
The NANGO observer mission methodological approach to observe the 2018 harmonised elections
The work of NANGO in relation to the 30 July 2018 harmonised elections were in five phases. The first phase involved setting up of policy engagement platforms to facilitate behaviour and attitude change, that put in place a community and national level infrastructure for peace. At the same time non-state actors interacted with key stakeholders such as political party leaders, independent commissions, development partners, traditional leaders, police amongst others.
The second phase involved CSO capacity building initiatives, on conflict prevention, management, resolution and transformation, voter education and election observation. The third phase involved dissemination of information on elections through various media platforms. The fourth phase monitored other stakeholders’ participation in the electoral process such as the independent commissions, media, political parties, CSOs and security sector. This work led to the fifth phase of election observation.
Composition and Deployment
The Observer Mission was made up of 364 civil society and church representatives from across Zimbabwe, deployed under 22 teams which were distributed in all the 10 provinces of Zimbabwe, with 9 teams predominantly in rural areas which are Binga, Zvimba, Mazowe, Mutoko, Lupane, Gwanda among others. Of these 342 were static observers whilst 22 were roving supervisors.
The NANGO Observer team had 342 static observers who manned 342 polling stations, whilst the long-term observers and roving teams visited additional ones and a total of 3244 polling stations were visited before the polls, during voting and at counting. In these places, the mission observed the preparedness of ZEC for voting in terms of availability of key material, environment under which people were voting and the manner in which officials conducted their work and other key observation issues as contained in the observer check list designed by NANGO.
Noting the improvements at ZEC such as BVR registration, there has been a huge concern ahead of the 2018 harmonised elections on the level of ZEC autonomy, resulting in lack of confidence in ZEC. This compromised ZEC’s independence and professional integrity. Although Sections 235 and 239 of the constitution attempts to establish guarantees of the commission’s independence, stating that “the Independent Commissions are independent and are not subject to the direction or control of anyone’ must exercise their function without fear, favour and prejudice. The commission seemingly was susceptible to influence by the ruling party, Zanu PF.
Concerns for ZEC during the 2018 elections include:
- The supposed bias of ZEC towards the ruling party;
- Lack of transparency in the printing, storage and distribution of the ballot paper and
- Late sharing of the voters roll with political parties and other stakeholders which resultantly
- disadvantaged prospective candidates just to mention a few.
- Women’s representation
NANGO noted with great concern the low representation of women as candidates in various political parties vying for public office. Further, the hostile political environment together with economic challenges militated against the full participation of women in politics.
- Media reporting and accessibility
Although the Electoral Act sections on Media Coverage of Elections resonates with the AU Charter on Democracy, Governance and Elections, SADC as well as other instruments listed above on the equitable access by contesting parties and candidates to state controlled media during elections, the election coverage by state owned media has been heavily biased towards the Zanu PF. Where opposition parties, especially the MDC Alliance, have received coverage the angle has been negative. In a like manner the election coverage by the private media has been biased towards MDC Alliance, with negativity towards the ruling party.
Of key observation in the 2018 elections is the increase in use of social media especially Twitter, Facebook and Youtube as discussion and campaign platforms for political parties and independent candidates.
However, concern has been on the subsequent use of hate and derogatory language often times levelled against women, spreading of false and sensational information and general disregard for the law in these platforms.
Of note, public media coverage was overwhelmingly focused on the presidential race, with scant attention being paid to the parliamentary and local government elections.
- The Electoral Act of Zimbabwe should make provision for the specific time within which voters’ roll should be complete and made available. The legal provision that ZEC will make the voters’ roll available ‘within a reasonable time’ that the law currently states leaves much to be desired;
- ZEC strengthen partnership with Civil Society Organisations and other independent commissions throughout the election period so that there is a clear election roadmap that covers the following:
- Improve voter education
- Education on human rights and conflict prevention ahead of elections
- Media monitoring and accountability
- Standardized election observation with static observers in each polling station for more focus in rural areas.
- Independent Commissions must be independent and not subject to the direction or control of any political party or organisation. Independent Commissions must exercise their roles without fear, favour or prejudice.
In consideration of the regional and continental principles, the Zimbabwe legal framework referred to above and the observation of its teams, the NANGO Observation Mission makes the following preliminary determination;
Though the scope and extent of the impact of the observed anomalies on the outcome of elections could not be immediately ascertained, they in themselves constitute serious electoral deficits. This Mission concludes that the credibility, legitimacy, free and fair conduct of the July 30 2018 harmonised elections and therefore their reliability as the true expression of the will of the people of Zimbabwe have been compromised.
Source: National Association of Non Governmental Organisations (NANGO)