Statement from Regional Southern Africa Civil Society

Statement from Regional  Southern Africa Civil Society Workshop about  the Zimbabwe Harmonised Elections 31 July 2013 held at Cresta Lodge, Gaborone Botswana, 10 August 2013.

1.         On 10 August 2013, representatives of civil society organisations in the SADC region, met to discuss the electoral process, which led up to and including the Zimbabwe Harmonised Elections of 31 July 2013.

2.         We welcome the adoption of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance as well as the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.

3.         We reaffirm our commitment, in accordance with the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance as well as the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, to the development and deepening of democratic governance and the importance of regional standard setting of such, in Southern Africa.

4.         We note and fully support Article 2.2 of The SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections which states that ‘SADC Member States shall adhere’ to the following:

2.1.1    Full participation of the citizens in the political process;

2.1.2    Freedom of association;

2.1.3    Political tolerance;

2.1.4    Regular intervals for elections as provided for by the respective

National Constitutions;

2.1.5    Equal opportunity for all political parties to access the state media;

2.1.6    Equal opportunity to exercise the right to vote and be voted for;

2.1.7    Independence of the Judiciary and impartiality of the electoral

institutions; and

2.1.8    Voter education.

2.1.9    Acceptance and respect of the election results by political parties

proclaimed to have been free and fair by the competent National

Electoral Authorities in accordance with the law of the land.

2.1.10 Challenge of the election results as provided for in the law of the

land.

5.         We also note and fully support Article 4.1 concerning Guidelines for the Observation of Elections for SADC Member States to determine the nature and scope of election observation:

4.1.1    Constitutional and legal guarantees of freedom and rights of the

citizens;

4.1.2    Conducive environment for free, fair and peaceful elections;

4.1.3    Non-discrimination in the voters’ registration;

4.1.4    Existence of updated and accessible voters roll;

4.1.5    Timeous announcement of the election date;

4.1.6    Where applicable, funding of political parties must be transparent

and based on agreed threshold in accordance with the laws of the

land;

4.1.7    Polling Stations should be in neutral places;

4.1.8    Counting of the votes at polling stations;

4.1.9    Establishment of the mechanism for assisting the planning and

deployment of electoral observation missions; and

4.1.10  SADC Election Observation Missions should be deployed at least two days before voting day.

 

6.         We fully support the desire of the peoples of Zimbabwe, to enjoy free, fair and credible elections within a peaceful environment.

7.         We recognise that the election was not held in accordance with Zimbabwe’s own Constitution and electoral legislation, SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.

7.         We deeply regret that in spite of evidence of several irregularities which militated against the elections being  free, fair  and credible, within a genuinely peaceful environment, The SADC and AU Observer Missions declared them ‘free and peaceful’ and the Electoral Commissions Forum of SADC Countries (ECF-SADC) commended the people of Zimbabwe for a  ‘peaceful, credible and efficient electoral process which was conducive for the people of Zimbabwe to freely participate in the 2013 Harmonised elections’.

8.         We strongly condemn the election process leading up to the Zimbabwe Harmonised Election of 31 July 2013 due to a number of serious irregularities during:

            The Pre Election process. Irregularities included the voter registration process which was systematically biased against urban voters, including voters’ names missing from the voters’ roll and the party political bias of traditional leaders; failure of the State to facilitate equal opportunity for all political parties to access the state media; the lack of peaceful conditions for the holding of free, fair and credible elections; the lack of integrity of the Voters’ roll and its late release.

            The Election Day - 31 July 2013. Irregularities included failure of the State to facilitate full participation of the citizens in the political process; the suspiciously high number of assisted voters; the bussing of people from outside constituencies; the excessive printing of ballot papers; the presence of police inside polling stations; the voting of police officers on 31 July 2013 (no full proof way of determining whether they had not already voted as special voters) and the use of voter registration slips.

            Details of these irregularities are appended to and are part of this Civil Society Statement.

9.         We are convinced that the 2013 Harmonised Elections were heavily compromised and fall far short of meeting the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections as well as the provisions of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.

10.       We are not convinced that the 2013 Harmonised Elections were free, fair, credible and peaceful. In spite of the absence of violence in the form of violence experienced in the 2008 Presidential Elections, the environment was not peaceful and not conducive for the conducting of a free, fair and credible election.

11.       We remain committed to ensuring the setting of and adherence to regional standards of human rights, democracy and good governance based on citizens' participation in the decision-making processes and consolidation of democratic practice and institutions.

12.       We also recognise the importance of ensuring that SADC citizens retain their trust in democratic election processes.

13.       We therefore call upon SADC:

1.         to commit to a qualified acceptance of the 2013 Harmonised Election results and

2.         to undertake a comprehensive audit of the election process, including all factors which affected the ability of all eligible citizens to have an opportunity to register to vote, to inform themselves and to freely exercise their choice without fear of retribution.

APPENDIX OF OBSERVED ELECTION IRREGULARITIES

PRE-ELECTION PHASE

  1. The voter registration process was ‘systematically biased against urban voters’ (Zimbabwe Election Support Network - 2013 Harmonised Elections Preliminary Statement 1 August 2013). The Voters’ Roll of 19 June provided by the Office of the Registrar General, indicated that ‘urban voters had systematically been denied the opportunity to register to vote. 99.97% of the rural voters were registered. Only 67.94% of the urban voters were registered. Over 750 000 urban voters were missing on the voters’ roll. In rural areas where proof of residence is supplied by the traditional authorities, some of these traditional authorities refused to authenticate people who were not supportive of ZANU-PF e.g Mudzi West in violation of one of the principles of the GPA that traditional authorities should be non-partisan. (Zimbabwe Election Support Network Pre-Election Report, Harmonised Elections 2013)
  2. The State failed to facilitate equal opportunity for all political parties to access the state media. According to the Electoral Act 3 (c), every party has the right to reasonable access to the media and public broadcasters must give all political parties and independent candidates free access to     their services as prescribed in regulations made by the ZEC with the approval of the Minister (Electoral Act, 3(c)(4); Electoral Act, 160E-160K). The regulations must specify total time to be allocated to each and the areas and time periods when broadcasts may be made; the allocations must be fair and provide all with a reasonable opportunity to present their views. However there was an imbalance of the media coverage of the electoral process, in favour of ZANU-PF.
  3. Lack of peaceful conditions. There had been campaigns of intimidation linked to the 2008 elections. The 2008 elections led to approximately 12 500 people being beaten, hospitalised and requiring surgery as well as about 270 people being abducted and murdered. The intimidation of voters in the run-up to the 2013 elections drew upon the 2008 experience. Freedom of speech and association was limited especially in particular communities in the rural areas. Many people in Zimbabwe’s rural areas reported that they did not feel free to read certain private newspapers or even wear the regalia of their parties. And people’s freedom of association have been violated when they were forced to attend ZANU-PF meetings and buy ZANU-PF cards. In many areas, people were also forced to buy ZANU-PF party cards before receiving food, loans and other necessities. (Zimbabwe Election Support Network). Physical violence was replaced with psychological and emotional violence. Across the country war veterans working with ZANU-PF supporters   threatened communities with post-election retribution. Traditional leaders in Chikomba West, Masvingo province, Manicaland and Mashonaland West showed partisan support in favour of ZANU-PF. It has also been reported that a Mashonaland ‘torture base’ disappeared upon it being reported to Election Observers. There is fear that ‘torture bases’ are able to reappear within hours. People do not have peace ‘in their hearts’. The lack of meaningful voter education and harassment of civil society (Zimbabwe Election Support Network – 2013 Harmonised Elections Preliminary Statement 1 August 2013) compounded the fear.
  4. Lack of integrity of the Voters’ Roll and its late release. In terms of sections 20 and 21 of the Electoral Act, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is required to provide a copy of the Voters’ Roll within ‘a reasonable’ period of time. It was only in hard copy and was only made publicly available two (2) days before the election date. This made it impossible for it to be used by voters, political parties and candidates, for verification purposes. The Voters’ Roll included names of deceased persons. There are well over one million people on the roll who are either deceased or departed’ (The Research and Advocacy Unit, a Zimbabwean NGO). According to the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, over 750,000 urban voters were missing on the voters’ roll (2013 Harmonised Elections Preliminary Statement 1 August 2013).

ELECTION DAY - 31 July 2013

1.         The State failed to facilitate full participation of the citizens in the political process.  The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has said that nearly 305,000 voters were turned away from the polls. Some of the voters who went to the voting stations where they had voted in previous elections, were told that they had been moved to a different constituency. This fact was unknown to them and could not be challenged due to the lateness of the release of the Voters’ Roll. At 82% of urban polling stations, many were turned away. At 38% of rural polling stations, the same occurred. (Zimbabwe Election Support Network 1 August 2013.) The Southern Africa Regional Civil Society and Social Movements Observer Mission  (4 August 2013) noted that reasons provided included voters being at the wrong polling station and not having the correct identification documents.

2.         Suspiciously high number of assisted voters. At 38% of the polling stations, 25 or more people were assisted to vote. At 49% of rural polling stations, more than 25 people were assisted as opposed to 5% of the urban polling stations. Zimbabwe has a literacy rate of 90.70% (African Economist 6 July 2013). The high number of assisted voters is difficult to understand. By way of illustration, in Buhera West Constituency, Manicaland Province, 16 out of 23 polling stations had more than 45 people each assisted to vote. At Dzarova primary School, 111 voters were assisted to vote.

3.         Bussing of people from outside constituencies. The Southern Africa Regional Civil Society and Social Movements Observer Mission  (4 August 2013) noted this in  different places, including in Mazowe (Mashonaland Central Province) and Mt Pleasant (Harare Metropolitan Province) constituencies. There is concern that people who were not registered or not resident in a constituency may have ended up voting in wards to which they had been bussed.

4.         Contested election timing and rules. On 31 May 2013 Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court, in a contested judgment, ruled that Zimbabwe’s next general election had to be held before the dissolution of Parliament on 29 June 2013. Since this date was no longer feasible, the court ordered that the election be held as soon as possible, that is, by 31 July 2013. In making this order, the court appears not to have been alive to  either the time constraints set by the Electoral Act, or the logistical difficulties caused for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, by the deadline. This, and other factors, resulted in a failure to comply with several provisions of the Electoral Act and the Constitution. President Mugabe proceeded to proclaim 31 July 2013 as the election date, without consulting other Principals of the Global Political Agreement (GPA), as required by law.

We believe that the imposition of the 31 July 2013 election date by way of presidential decree, usurped the role and function of Parliament and the investment made by the region and continent in the GPA.

We note that SADC itself had reservations about the sufficiency of the time set for the holding of credible elections. As was stated in the Maputo communiqué from the Extraordinary SADC Summit in June 2013:

       8.4.      Summit endorsed the report of the Facilitator and its recommendations               which includes, among others, the following issues

                1.            Media Reform;

                2.            Upholding the Rule of Law;

                3.            The role of the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee                                                             (JOMIC);

                4.            Election Date, Validity of Electoral Regulations; and

                5.            Deployment of SADC observers

 

       8.5       Summit acknowledged the ruling of the Constitutional Court of                               Zimbabwe on the elections date and agreed on the need for the                                   Government of Zimbabwe to engage the Constitutional Court to seek                more time beyond 31 July 2013 deadline for holding the Harmonised                        elections.

       8.6       Summit urged the three parties of the GPA to undertake immediate                      measures to create a conducive environment for the holding of peaceful,                  credible, free and fair elections

            The SADC Facilitator’s report to the Summit (which was accepted by all parties to the      GPA) made explicit reference to the need for adherence to the SADC Principles and     Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.

            Contrary to the wishes of the SADC Summit in June 2013, the possibility of an       extension to the time period for the elections was undone by the decision of the Constitutional Court, and, to date, this decision has yet be graced by a detailed judgement from the Court.

5.         Failure to implement agreed reforms.  Key reforms agreed to were not implemented before the elections. Failure to implement reforms resulted in, for example, the evident partisan and biased reporting by the state media, which acted as part of the propaganda machinery for ZANU PF. Implementation of agreed media reforms could have prevented this.

6.         Excessive printing of ballot papers. 8.7. million ballot papers were printed. This is 35% higher than the number of registered voters (6.4 million). ZEC must account for both the used and unused ballots.

7.         Presence of police inside polling stations. The Southern Africa Regional Civil Society and Social Movements Observer Mission (4 August 2013) observed that there was an ‘abnormally high’ number of police officers on duty inside and outside the polling stations. At some polling stations, such as Bindura Primary School in Mashonaland Central, police officers were running a parallel register of statistics of voters and observer visits, duties solely bestowed upon the presiding officer’. At 38% of the polling stations, police officers were stationed inside the polling stations. (Zimbabwe Election Support Network 1 August 2013).

8.         Voting of police officers on 31 July 2013. In accordance with the decision of the Constitutional Court to uphold the right to vote, police officers who had not used their Special Vote on 14 and 15 July 2013, were able to vote on 31 July 2013. However, during the Special Vote on 14 and 15 July 2013, the names of those who had voted ‘were not crossed in the voters’ roll as required by the Electoral Act section 56(4) but only recorded on site (SADC Council of Non-Governmental Organisations SADC-CNGO 2 August 2013). There was no foolproof mechanism to check that the uniformed forces had not already voted on 14 and 15 July 2013.

9.         Use of voter registration slips. The Southern Africa Regional Civil Society and Social Movements Observer Mission  (4 August 2013) noted that ‘an abnormally high number of voters’ used these. The use of registration slips was supposed to have been the exception but seemed to have become the norm (Malawi Election Support Network). The Southern Africa Regional Civil Society and Social Movements Observer Mission  (4 August 2013)  noted an incident in Hatfield Constituency where at least 20 fake voter slips were recovered from people who intended to use them for voiting, as confimed by ZEC at a press conference held on 1 August 2013. The registration slips system was a porous one, which may have been abused.  It noted that in some cases, voting slips were returned to the voters after the votes had been cast. ZEC did not record the detail of the slips.

13 August 2013

Gaborone

Submitted by:

Action Support Centre (South Africa)

Counselling Services Unit (Zimbabwe)

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition 

Malawi Electoral Support Network – Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Church and Society of the CCAP Nkhoma Synod, Public Affairs Committee (PAC), Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCIP- all dioceses through ECM national office), Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM), NGO Gender Coordination Network (NGOGCN), Youth Net and Counselling (YONECO), Pan African Civic Educators Network (PACENET), Malawi Council of Churches, Church and Society CCAP Livingstonia Synod, Civil Liberties Committee (CILIC), Muslim Forum for Democracy and Peace, Northern Region Women Forum, Mbawemi Women Group, Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (CHREAA), Malawi Union of the Blind (MUB), Islamic Information Bureau (IIC), National Elections System Trust (NEST), The Story Workshop, CCAP Blantyre Development Commission (Blantyre Synod), Tiphedzane Community Support Organisation (Nsanje), Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM), Young Politicians Union (YPU), Quadria Muslim Association of Malawi, Ntchisi Organisation for Youth Development, New Restoration Ministries International and Neno Youth Work Organisation.

The Botswana Civil Society Solidarity Coalition for Zimbabwe (BOCISCOZ) - The Botswana Council of Churches (BCC), The Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO), The  Botswana Secondary Teachers Trade Union (BOSETU), DITSHWANELO – The Botswana Centre for Human Rights, The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Botswana Chapter, Botswana Coalition on Education for All (BOCEFA) and Kgolagano College.

National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO) (Zimbabwe)

Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN)

Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights