BY PRIVELEDGE GUMBODETE
PREGIONAL grouping of civil society organisations, Citizens in Action Southern Africa (CIASA), has urged opposition parties and stakeholders in the country to lobby for electoral reforms before elections expected next year.
In a position paper produced last week titled Electoral Reforms? Taking Stock of Observer Mission Findings, CIASA called for implementation of 2018 recommendations made by electoral observer missions before the elections. Some of the reforms they said were imperative include a code of conduct for chiefs to rein in unethical conduct.
In past elections, chiefs and headmen in the country were accused of force-marching their subjects to vote for the ruling Zanu PF party, despite that the Constitution prohibits chiefs from being members of any political party or participating in partisan politics.
“Sections 280, 281 and 282 of the Constitution provides for the establishment, status, role, principles, and functions of traditional leaders. Section 281(2)(a) provides that traditional leaders “must not be members of any political party or in any way participate in partisan politics. This has been upheld by the courts: Election Resource Centre vs Charumbira and two others.
“Section 287 of the Constitution requires the establishment of an Integrity and Ethics Committee through an Act of Parliament. This Act must provide for the establishment, membership and procedures of the Committee to develop and enforce integrity and ethical conduct on the part of traditional leaders and to deal with complaints against traditional leaders,” CIASA said.
On vote buying, it said the Electoral Act barred the use of State resources to gain unfair advantage for the incumbent in an election.
“However, previous elections have witnessed the use of State resources such as government vehicles, buildings, money and active involvement of government workers in campaigning for the incumbent. There is need to introduce deterrent sanctions to mitigate the abuse of State resources for the incumbent to level the playing field.
“Sadc Parliamentary Forum Norms and Standards for Elections in the Sadc Region are clear that in ‘promoting the integrity of the electoral process, parties should not use public funds in the electoral process. The electoral law should prohibit the government from aiding or abetting any party in gaining unfair advantage,” it said.
CIASA said multi party liaison committees were also critical to monitoring and evaluating the electoral environment.
“There should be insistence on their long term if not permanent sitting,” it said.
On the code of conduct for political parties, candidates, and other participants in an election CIASA said in practice there were no clear enforcement mechanisms in the event of violating the code of conduct.
“In Zambia for example, there are enforcement mechanisms that can lead to the disqualification of a candidate from participating in an election in the event of violating the code of conduct. ”