Observer missions saw through Zanu PF’s chicanery

Election observers attending an observers’ briefing organised by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission in Harare before last Wednesday’s elections. Picture: Shepherd Tozvireva

The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (The Coalition) has taken note of and welcomes the preliminary findings of various international election observer missions (EOMs) to the Zimbabwe harmonised elections held on August 23 and 24, 2023.

Like all the EOMs, we would also want to commend Zimbabweans for turning out in their numbers to peacefully participate in choosing a government of their choice, albeit under conditions which were far from free, fair or credible.

As of August 25, the African Union — Comesa EOM; the Sadc EOM, the Electoral Commissions Forum of Southern Africa, The Carter Centre EOM, Commonwealth EOM, and the European Union EOM had released their preliminary findings in the wake of voting as the nation awaits finals announcement of results.

While the elections have been heralded as largely “peaceful and calm” by all the EOMs, the groups also highlighted and pointed out the numerous ways in which the elections fell short of our national and regional statutes.

This dovetails with earlier assertions by civil society warning that Zimbabwe was embarking on an electoral journey, whose context and environment was bound to result in an election that would qualify as neither free, fair, nor credible.

The elections as conducted by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) fell far short of norms and best practice on elections management and were found to be in breach of the constitution of Zimbabwe, the Sadc Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections as well the the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.

Importantly, the EOMs were able to pierce through the veil of electoral chicanery by the incumbent government and ruling party, Zanu PF, where they had managed to heavily tilt the electoral playing field way before voting day.

In addition, many of the EOMs also saw for themselves how the logistical shortcomings of the Zec betrayed an election management body that was not fully prepared to conduct a credible election.

The actions by Zec, as roundly noted by the observer missions, suppressed voters, and put into question the credibility of the entire electoral process.

As of voting day, the following were noted as issues of concern by the EOMs:

  • Failure by the Zec to commence voting on time at some polling stations in Harare, Bulawayo and Manicaland, leading to the extension of voting period by a day.
  • In some polling stations, not all ballot papers were available; it was also noted that at some polling stations, the V11 forms were not immediately available immediately after counting, prompting fears of attempts to manipulate the results.
  • The activities of the pro-Zanu PF shadowy group, Forever Associates Zimbabwe (Faz), which set up desks near some polling stations and intimidated voters in the full glare of the public.

Importantly, it is a welcome move that many of the EOMs have seen through the chicanery involving the Zanu PF government and the Zec in tilting the electoral playing field in favour of Zanu PF.

The findings of many of the EOMs confirm what we have raised all along regarding elections being used to mask authoritarian practices by a member state of the AU and Sadc; many of these practices go against the dictates of both the AU Charter and the Sadc Treaty, especially as read with their instruments on elections, the Sadc Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance respectively.

It is, therefore only right and just, that true to their mandates, the EOMs have pointed out the irregularities dogging the August 23 elections, and why these could potentially compromise its overall credibility.

This is exactly what the citizens of Zimbabwe have been trying to tell the Zanu PF government and the Zecto do the right thing in terms of ensuring a credible election - as dictated by our constitution, and as supported by the Sadc Principles and the African Charter.

The Zec must now expedite the release of the final results, and not further compromise their credibility by holding them in perpetual abeyance. - Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition

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