CSOs scale up fight for free, fair elections

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BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA

CIVIL society groups have resolved to take an integrated approach to ensure they fully participate in all stages of the electoral cycle ahead of the 2023 polls, and to demand electoral reforms that promote non-violent, free and fair elections.

In their submissions to the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) for the years 2020/21, the civil society organisations (CSOs) predicted violent 2023 polls if government does not implement the necessary electoral reforms that guarantee peace and a level political playing field.

They resolved that they needed to collectively approach the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) with a concrete position on the need for reforms.

“It is necessary that CSOs better co-ordinate their activities. This will enable them to approach Zec and policy-makers with one strong position rather than having different CSOs approaching government officials with diverse positions, which are sometimes contradictory to one another,” the report said.

“They should improve co-ordination on the placement of electoral observers. It is imperative that observer missions do not field many observers at easily accessible polling stations, such as those in urban centres, and fail to do so at inaccessible ones. Co-ordination will help to ensure that all parts of the country are evenly covered by observers.”

The CSOs bemoaned lack of independence on the part of Zec, and political interference in its operations, saying this would undermine credibility of the polls.

“One of the major outstanding issues with regards to the alignment agenda is the independence of Zec. Democracy hinges on the conduct of credible polls and the commission is the most important player in this regard. Zec is tasked with the management of elections and its independence from political interference is crucial for the conduct of free and fair elections,” the CSOs said.

They said they should participate at every stage of the electoral process and balance their participation throughout the electoral cycle.

Rights activist Dewa Mavhinga told NewsDay that CSOs should set up strong monitoring mechanisms to curb political violence during elections.

“For free and fair elections, CSOs should be allowed to freely do voter education campaigns, and monitor  public media to ensure it gives equal access to all political parties in an unbiased manner,” he said.

“Generally, Zimbabwean people are not violent. It is often the State that sanctions political violence on people.  The State often fails to protect citizens and to punish those who commit violence with impunity.”

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