Administrative barriers on accreditation of citizen observers in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) is taking lead in imposing administrative burdens on election observers. ZEC set 18 August 2023 as the deadline for applications for accreditation of observers after payment of prescribed fees.

The fees are as follows; local observers US$ 10, Observers from Africa US$ 100, Foreign Embassies in Zimbabwe US$ 300, and Observers from outside Africa US$ 400. Zimbabwe Media Practitioners accredited with the Zimbabwe Media Commission will be required to pay $10, those accredited with ZMC working for foreign media houses $100, and also $100 for media practitioners from the African Continent.

The accreditation fees are making it difficult for citizen observers and observer groups to fulfill their duties as human rights defenders. Leading citizen observation group, Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) which has released their second pre-election report, will need a budget of USD 50,000 to secure accreditation for 5,000 observers. This is very costly and intended the limit the capacity of the organise to deploy observers.

Money and Patronage Politics in Zimbabwe

ZESN’s second pre-election report further raises a red flag on the timing of the incumbent government’s US$400 000 housing loans for Judges. The housing loans bear the trappings of patronage scheme aimed at buying allegiance and support of the judiciary ahead of the August 23, 2023 harmonised elections. It brings into question the independence of the judiciary in the event of a petition against the results of a presidential election.

According to ZESN, this incentivising of the judiciary on the eve of elections who are supposed to preside over the Electoral Act, creates an environment of impartial judgments that will be passed in favour of the paymaster.

The role of the judiciary in resolving electoral petitions and disputes cannot be over-emphasized. October 2, 2023, has been set as the runoff date, in the event that none of the presidential candidates get 50%+1 votes.

Economic Political Analysis

The second pre-election report put out by ZESN further reveals that the punitive socio-economic environment remains prevalent unrelenting in Zimbabwe with the prices of basic commodities, goods, services and health delivery beyond the reach of many. These conditions were worsened by profiteering retailers who continued to price basic commodities using an exchange rate of the United States Dollar which was higher than the current prevailing bank and black-market rates.

Zimbabwe’s annual consumer price inflation skyrocketed to 175.8% in June 2023, up from 86.5% in the prior month, marking a continued deviation from the downward trend observed since the beginning of the year.

Genders Disparities

Overall, 14% of the candidates in this election are women compared to 17% in the previous election. It is critical that efforts be made to ensure more women and youth are on the ballot paper.

Actions that undermine the fairness of campaigns

On the political side, ZESN has observed events that impede free, fair and credible elections such as banning of political campaigns for opposition parties, vote buying, hate speech, violation of freedoms of information and access to information.

Afrobarometer survey paints a damning picture on Zimbabwe

Most Zimbabweans, nearly two-thirds (65%) say the country is going in the wrong direction. A large majority (69%) say the country’s economic condition is fairly bad/very bad. More than six in 10 (62%) of citizens say their living condition is fairly bad/very bad. An equal proportion of Zimbabweans (62%) both from rural and urban areas share the same sentiments that their living conditions are fairly bad/very bad.

Most important issues in the election campaigns

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Source: Afro Barometer survey on Zimbabwe released on July 10, 2023

The Afro Barometer survey further reveals that:

  • Political leaders are generally rated poorly.
  • Traditional leaders are rated better than any other leaders, with a plurality approving/ strongly approving their performance in the last year.

Performance Approval Ratings for President Mnangagwa

| Alliance for Finance Monitoring (ACFIM)

Source: Afro Barometer survey on Zimbabwe released on July 10, June 2023

Incorrect Result will be announced 

More than half of the Zimbabweans that participated in the Afro Barometer survey believe that an incorrect result will be announced. This means that the people do not trust that ZEC will deliver a genuine electoral result. It points to the perceived partiality of ZEC as the electoral umpire.

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Source: Afro Barometer survey on Zimbabwe released on July 10, 2023

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