We present this briefing paper to the Sadc community and media in view of their role in standing in solidarity with the citizens of Zimbabwe and the quest for your continued support and assistance in the ongoing crisis.
It is eight months since the exit of former president Robert Mugabe from state power and Zimbabwe is set to hold elections between.
The exit of Mugabe from the echelons of state power saw the ascendancy of President Emmerson Mnangagwa with the blessings of the military after a week-long military coup veiled as a military operation codenamed “Operation Restore Legacy”.
It is clear that the new president, who is heavily backed by the military, did not rise out of a popular democratic process and our previous initiatives have always called for security sector reforms to undo the militarisation of civilian and electoral politics in Zimbabwe.
While Zimbabwe is set to hold elections on July 30, 2018, we raise key concerns around inadequacies on the part of the Zimbabwe Election Commission [ZEC] to administer a credible electoral process, the involvement of the military and traditional leaders in elections remaining unaddressed.
Based on pronouncements by the current government, there are valid fears that the elections will be highly militarised and traditional leaders continuing on a partisan path to influence electoral outcomes in violation of Section 208 of the constitution of Zimbabwe, which bars the former from engaging in partisan politics while the latter’s role is regulated by Section 281 barring them from aligning to political parties in the discharge of their duties.
We believe this has a direct bearing on citizens’ freedoms to choose a leader of their choice in the upcoming elections.
We, however, seek to draw attention to the urgent need for electoral reforms in Zimbabwe with a view of enhancing the possibility of a credible, free and fair election that subscribes to the Sadc Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections and takes corrective measures cited in the 2013 Sadc Election Observer Mission Report on Elections in Zimbabwe.
The undersigned CSOs acknowledge some reforms that have been implemented since the July 31 2013 general elections.
We, however, contend that they are piecemeal, inadequate and have not been fully implemented. Detailed below are the issues of concern:
l That since the take-over of the state through a military coup, there has been an unwarranted ubiquitous presence of the military in all spheres of the state, including public spaces and glaring interference with the day-to-day duties of other entities such as local authorities.
l That the military involvement in civilian politics poses threats to human security, democracy and regional security and stability in Sadc, and if left unaddressed, it threatens to destabilise the Sadc region and violates the spirit and letter of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.
l That the state has literally been captured by the military and that critical autonomous entities such as ZEC have been compromised and cannot execute their mandate independently.
l That ZEC continues to conduct its business in an opaque manner by failing to avail the full and detailed 2018 electoral roadmap including availing to the nation the details of crucial election personnel who are at the centre of key election processes in the spirit of transparency and accountability.
l That ZEC has failed to produce a verifiable, transparent and complete voters roll in terms of the Electoral Act as amended in 2018 ahead of the 2018 elections.
l That the recent amendments to the Electoral Act do not represent the views espoused by citizens and civil society organisations as captured in previous documents submitted to ZEC and Parliament by civil society and that such amendments do not reflect the spirit and letter of genuine alignment of the Act with the constitution.
l That the media, particularly the state-controlled media, continues to act as a mouthpiece of the ruling party by not giving equal access to other political players who will be contesting in the 2018 watershed election.
l That the Zimbabwe Republic Police continues to cling to unconstitutional legal provisions and misinterpreting other pieces of legislation such as the Public Order and Security Act in denying citizens their right to peacefully demonstrate and present petitions as stipulated in Section 59 of our constitution
l That while Zimbabwe is a signatory to both the Sadc Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections and the African Charter on Democracy and Elections, there is no political will to domesticate and implement these protocols in letter and spirit
l That while Mnangagwa continues to preach the gospel of peace, the ruling party leaders continue to harass and intimidate citizens by demanding presentation of voter registration slips, an act that is against the law.