‘Adopt Sadc principles, guidelines’

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SOUTHERN African countries must make Sadc Principles and Guidelines on the Conduct of Elections legally binding by domesticating them into law in order to promote democracy and free and fair elections in the region, a new research has recommended.

BY OUR STAFF

It said the Namibian situation where Article 144 of the Constitution was clear that international agreements were binding, could be a good model for other Sadc countries.

The research dubbed “Strengthening Electoral Democracy in Southern Africa: Some lessons adoptable for Zimbabwe and the Sadc region from elections in Malawi, South Africa and Mozambique” was done by Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC).

It said Sadc must make it mandatory for member states to invite observers rather than leave it to the goodwill of the member states.

“Sadc member states should be encouraged to invite other impartial regional and international election observation teams,” said CiZC.

“This will increase the number of observers and also increase the weight of the observer reports. In this regard, countries should not be permitted to cherry pick observers that are likely to endorse the elections as in Zimbabwe. The case of Malawi shows that a wide pool of observers can help improve the quality of observation and subsequent recommendations to improve the country’s electoral process.”

It said Sadc must come up with an enforcement mechanism to ensure that member states comply with the guidelines and implement the recommendations made by the Sadc observer mission.

“Sadc must make the role of civil society clear in the proposed new guidelines. The current guidelines are not explicit on what role civil society can play. This can be enhanced through wider consultations with civil society in the ongoing process to review the Sadc guidelines,” said the research.

It said Sadc must be obliged to send a pre-election team made up of technocrats with monitoring functions at least three months before elections to allow proper technical assessment for readiness to hold elections and time for corrective measures.

In the case of Zimbabwe, CiZC said it was evident that the country’s electoral democracy was in the intensive care unit.

It said Parliament must amend Section 40 H of the Electoral Act to allow the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to have more autonomy in the invitation and accreditation of observers.

CiZC said the government must revert to its old practice of inviting monitors rather than just observers.

“Monitors would allow timely intervention in the electoral process if relevant national laws or standard regional and international procedures are being violated or ignored,” said CiZC.

It said political parties needed to create a database for party agents with enough knowledgeable persons to deploy to all polling stations during general elections as provided for in section 95 of the Electoral Act.

“Election-based CSOs (civil society organisations) must improve their long-term election observation and monitoring framework. This must be more decentralised and give room for community-based organisations to play a more proactive role for sustainability. Elections are not an event, but a process. CSOs must campaign and demand a clear monitoring role as defined in the AU guidelines,” said the research.

“The State is obliged to ensure that every Zimbabwean Citizen has the right to join, form and participate in the activities of a political party, campaign freely and peacefully, participate in peaceful political activity.”

It said the state must stop the harassment, intimidation and arrests of citizens, politicians and civil society activists for exercising their political rights as provided in the Bill of Rights.

“Citizens, political parties and civil society must demand their political rights from the state through various sustainable actions to ensure that they are not violated,” said the
research.

It said Zec must be accountable to Parliament and not to the executive as in Section 235 of the Constitution for efficient performance of its functions.