October 29, 2010, – The Zimbabwe Election Support Network the leading independent network on elections in Zimbabwe, convened a conference in Vumba at Leopard Rock Hotel which brought together various organisations and partners working on elections to deliberate on electoral issues in light of the possible referendum on the new constitution and elections in 2011.
The conference was held under the theme: “Enhancing Mutual Cooperation and Interaction on election-related activities amongst (Civic Society Organisations) CSOs”.
Ninety participants attended the conference and deliberated on Zimbabwe’s preparedness for a referendum and elections in which they noted that the environment was not conducive for holding democratic elections particularly considering the following;
The political environment remains highly volatile, uncertain, and tense. The polarised environment-does not favour holding of elections as violence would most likely erupt.
The GNU has not repealed repressive legislation such as the Public Order Security Act, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Broadcasting Services Act.
These Acts have restricted people’s civil liberties and freedoms of expression and association and they are inimical to the holding of free and fair elections.
Institutions and infrastructure that support violence such as the youth militia, war veterans and a partisan security force remain unreformed and therefore a threat to democratic elections
The safety of human rights defenders and activists remains an issue of concern as this curtails the oversight function of civic society. Civic society organisations represented therefore demanded the following:
A total end and denunciation of politically–related violence and prosecution of the perpetrators of all forms of political violence;
That SADC ensures a non-violent, free and fair election that respects the will of the people of Zimbabwe;
That, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) be capacitated and resourced to improve its ability to manage elections efficiently and effectively;
That there is need for complete overhaul and restructuring of ZEC secretariat with a view to reform the institution into a professional body that is non-partisan;
That ZEC be in charge of all electoral processes including voter registration and control, compilation and updating of voters’ rolls;
That the ZEC be a truly independent electoral body that is accountable;
That there is need to do an overhaul review of the voters’ roll before the next elections;
That media freedoms be restored and guaranteed particularly the liberalisation of the state media and licensing of independent radio and television stations;
That police presence should be limited to outside the polling station where incidences of violence are most likely to occur;
That the presidential powers and temporary measures Act be made of no effect during election time as it gives unfair advantage to one particular political party;
That, the right of assembly be restored and guaranteed;
That, the legislative framework for the elections be clarified as quickly as possible, while ensuring the greatest possible degree of consensus between election stakeholders and participation of relevant local and international organisations;
The elections be administered at every level in an impartial and professional manner;
Parties in the inclusive government look at the interests and fears of the security chiefs and open negotiations with them with a view to making sure that they do not interfere with the electoral process;
That the inclusive government ensures that a national election communication centre is set up and accessible to all political players and stakeholders and that results be announced as they come from the various centres before there is any possibility for manipulation by those with access to the process;
Civic society also demanded reforms that provide for early accreditation and the safety of local and international observers;
The role of inviting and accrediting of all observers should fall under the election management body. Adequate numbers of observers need to be accredited early (as soon as proclamation is done) and deployed to all areas of the country;
The election should be monitored and supervised by regional and international bodies such as Sadc, the African Union and United Nations who are present well in advance of the polls, and post-polling day;
Emphasis was on the need for transparency in all processes of the elections which include: results management and announcement, transparency in the production of ballot materials and processing of special and postal votes;
Participation of Diaspora in the electoral process;
Guarantee of peace and mechanisms that ensure flawless installation of winners into government, with a view of improving future elections;
CSOs proposed that reforms are a matter of urgency and imperative before elections are held.
The present environment does not provide a conducive environment for the holding of democratic elections.
Nevertheless, if need be, ZESN and CSOs are ready and remain committed to monitor the process and advocate for minimum conditions before the referendum and next elections through effective coordinated interventions.
Zimbabwe Election Support Network