Joint civil society press briefing on the Zimbabwe 2018 elections: Priorities for reform, challenges and opportunities

We, the undersigned Civil Society Civil Organizations (CSOs) convening under the banner of Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and other stakeholders, representing various interest groups in Zimbabwe, wish to share the following concerns and accompanying resolutions with citizens and leaders in the SADC community, as part of the our collective effort to seek urgent electoral reforms ahead of the general elections in 2018.

2018 General Elections: Is Zimbabwe Prepared?

We present this briefing paper to the SADC community and media in view of your role in standing in solidarity with the citizens of Zimbabwe and the quest for your continued support and assistance in the ongoing crisis. It is 8 months since the exit of President Robert Mugabe from state power and Zimbabwe is set to hold elections between July and August 2018. The exit of President Mugabe from the echelons of state power saw the ascendancy of President Emmerson Mnangagwa with the blessings of the military after a week-long military coup veiled as a military operation code named “Operation Restore Legacy.” It is clear that the new President, who is heavily backed by the military, did not arise out of a popular democratic process and our previous initiatives have always called for Security Sector Reforms to undo the militarisation of civilian and electoral politics in Zimbabwe. While Zimbabwe is set to hold elections on 30 July 2018 we raise key concerns around inadequacies on the part of the Zimbabwe Election Commission to administer a credible electoral process, the involvement of the military and traditional leaders in elections remaining unaddressed. Based on pronouncements by the current government there are valid fears that the elections will be highly militarised and traditional leaders 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 while the latter’s role is regulated by Section 281 barring them for aligning to political parties in the discharge of their duties.

We believe this has a direct bearing on citizens’ freedoms to choose a leader of their choice in the upcoming elections. This briefing paper, however, seeks to draw your attention the urgent need for electoral reforms in Zimbabwe with a view of enhancing the possibility of a credible, free and fair election that subscribes to the SADC Principles & Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections and takes corrective measures cited in the 2013 SADC Election Observer Mission (SEOM) Report on Elections in Zimbabwe. The undersigned CSOs acknowledge some reforms that have been implemented since the July 31, 2013 general elections. We however contend that they are piecemeal, inadequate and have not been fully implemented. Detailed below are the issues of concern;

  • That since the take-over of the state through a military coup, there has been an unwarranted ubiquitous presence of the military in all spheres of the state including public spaces and a glaring interference with the day to day duties of other entities such as local authorities.
  • That the military involvement in civilian politics poses threats to human security, democracy and regional security and stability in SADC, if left unaddressed, it threatens to destabilize the SADC region and violates the spirit and letter of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance
  • That the state has literally been captured by the military and that critical autonomous entities such as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) have been compromised and cannot execute their mandate independently
  • That ZEC continues to conduct its business in an opaque manner by failing to avail the full and detailed 2018 electoral roadmap including availing to the nation the details of crucial election personnel who are at the centre of key election processes in the spirit of transparency and accountability.
  • That ZEC has failed to produce a verifiable, transparent and complete voters roll in terms of the Electoral Act as Amended in 2018 ahead of the 2018 elections
  • That the recent amendments to the Electoral Act do not represent the views espoused by citizens and civil society organisations 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
  • That the media particularly the state controlled media continues to act as a mouthpiece of the ruling party by not giving equal access to other political players who will be contesting in the 2018 watershed election
  • That the Zimbabwe Police Services continues to cling on to unconstitutional legal provisions and misinterpreting other pieces of legislation such as the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) in denying citizens their right to peacefully demonstrate and present petitions as stipulated in Section 59 of our constitution
  • That while Zimbabwe is a signatory to both the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections and the African Charter on Democracy and Elections, there is no political will to domesticate and implement these protocols in letter and spirit
  • That while President Mnangagwa continues to preach the gospel of peace, the ruling party leaders continue to harass and intimidate citizens by demanding presentation of voter registration slips , an act that is against the law

Based on the above background, which should be understood in the context of the ongoing political crisis bedeviling the country, we propose the following for the urgent attention:

1. That the SADC community together with other global players discuss the situation in Zimbabwe through considering the concerns raised in this press briefing and assist the PEOPLE of Zimbabwe in demanding from the Government of Zimbabwe the following:

a) That the military to reassert its commitment to upholding and protecting the constitution with respect to elections and electoral processes

b) That the military and the Government of Zimbabwe must guarantee a peaceful transfer of power in the event of a disputed result

c) That Zimbabwe must conduct a peaceful and nonviolent electoral process that allows for optimal citizen participation

d) 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.

e) That ZEC must avail election results timely (up to five days) in accordance with the Electoral Act

f) 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 in Section 61 of our Constitution.

g) 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.

h) That ZEC, in line with the law principally and expeditiously avails the complete and verifiable biometric voters’ roll to all stakeholders particularly contesting political players and other election related bodies

i) That voter preferences take place without cohesion, manipulation or intimidation and the insulation of this choice through effective secrecy of the ballot.

j) 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

2. That, in preparation for the next election, which is just one month away, the Government of South Africa as Chairperson to SADC and SADC member state and citizens support and seriously consider the concerns raised by civil society, political parties and other stakeholders on electoral reforms and insist on Zimbabwe meeting SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections. The various election observer missions, including SADC Election Observer Mission (SEOM) to July 2013 general election, highlighted some of the concerns and to date, most if not all, remain unresolved and unattended.

It is our hope that you will continue to stand in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe at a time when the foundations of our electoral democracy are under threat.

Thank You,

Rashid Mahiya

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Chairperson

Endorsed and Signed:

Achieve Your Goal Trust (AYGT)
African Self-help Assistance Programme (ASAP)
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union Zimbabwe (ARTUZ)
Artists for Democracy Trust (ADZT)
Build a Better Youth Zimbabwe (BABY Zim)
Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA)
Bulawayo Vendors Traders Association (BVTA)
Bulawayo Youth Arise (BUYA)
Centre for Community Development Zimbabwe (CCDZ)
Centre for Natural Resources Governance (CNRG)
Centre for Youth Development Trust (CYDT)
Chinhoyi Residents Trust
Chitungwiza Centre for Community Development (CCDN)
Chitungwiza and Manyame Rural Residents Association (CAMERA)
Chitungwiza Residents Trust (CHITREST)
Christian Legal Aid Society
Christian Voice International Zimbabwe (CVIZ)
Civic Education Network (CIVNET)
Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA)
Community Working Group on Health (CWGH)
Community Water Alliance (CWA)
Disability Amalgamation Community Trust (DACT)
Disability Centre in Zimbabwe
Doors of Hope
Ecumenical Support Services (ESS)
Election Resource Centre (ERC)
Federation of African Women Media in Zim (FAWMZ)
Female Students Network (FSN)
Gays and Lesbians Association in Zimbabwe (GALZ)
General and Plantation Workers Union in Zimbabwe (GAPWUZ)
Godlwayo Community Development Trust
Gwanda Residents Association
Gweru East Residents Association
Habakkuk Trust
Heal Zimbabwe Trust
Human Rights Watch
International Revolutionary League (RILFI)
Institute of Young Women and Development (IYWD)
Japa Edutaiment Trust
Katswe Sistahood
Masvingo Human Rights Trust
Masvingo Research Institute (MRI)
Masvingo Residents Trust (MRT)
Masvingo United Residents and Ratepayers Association (MURRA)
Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA)
Media Monitoring Project in Zimbabwe (MMPZ)
Mission to Live Trust
Mutasa Youth Forum Trust
National Movement of Catholic Student (NMCS)
National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe (NAVUZ)
National Youth Development Trust
News of the South
Nhimbe Trust
Non-Violent Actions for Social Change (NOVASC)
Platform for Youth Development (PYD)
Plumtree Development Trust (PDT)
Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe
Reconciliation Trust
Restoration of Human Rights (ROHR)
Savannah Trust
Shalom Trust
Student Christian Movement in Zimbabwe
Students and Youth Working on Reproductive Health Rights (Saywhat)
Students Solidarity Trust (SST)
Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ)
Uhuru Network
United Mutare Residents and Ratepayers Trust (UMRRT)
Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET)
Victory Siyanqoba Trust
Wedza Community Development Trust (WERDIT)
Women in Leadership Development (WILD)
Women in Politics Support Unit (WIPSU)
Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ)
Women’s Trust
Young Voices Network (YVN)
Youth Empowerment and Transformation Trust (YETT)
Youth Agenda Trust (YAT)
Youth Agrarian Society (YAS)
Youth Alliance for Democracy (YAD)
Youth Dialogue Action Network (YODAN)
Youth Dialogue Network (YODAN)
Youth Environmental Management and Protection Trust (YEMAP)
Youth Forum Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe Christian Alliance (ZCA)
Zimbabwe Civic Education Trust (ZIMCET)
Zimbabwe Coalition of Debt Development (ZIMCODD)
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU)
Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI)
Zimbabwe Doctors’ for Human Rights (ZADHR)
Zimbabwe Farmers Union Development Trust
Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZIMRIGHTS)
Zimbabwe Institute (ZI)
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
Zimbabwe Liberators Platform (ZLP)
Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU)
Zimbabwe Organisation of Youth in Politics (ZOYP)
Zimbabwe Pastors Forum (ZPF)
Zimbabwe Poets for Human Rights (ZPHR)
Zimbabwe United Residents Association (ZURA)
Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA)
Zimbabwe Young Women’s Network for Peacebuilding (ZYWNP)
Zimbabwe Youth Movement (ZYM)

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