Zimbabwe Electoral Commission dilly-dallying to accredit citizen observers
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is procrastinating to accredit citizen election observers to conduct voter education and long-term observation of the campaign process. The harmonised elections are now under eight weeks away with eleven candidates certified by ZEC to run in Zimbabwe’s presidential election due in August 2023. Incumbent president Emerson Mnangagwa is one of the candidates as he seeks election for a second term in office.
By procrastinating to accredit citizen election observers in Zimbabwe, ZEC is infringing on the right of citizens to participate in their country’s electoral processes. Last year (2022), the United Nations’ Special Rapporteurs on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Associations, and on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders’, underscored the significance of citizen election observation, and explicitly recognised election observers as human rights defenders. The Rapporteurs called upon all member states to take all necessary steps to establish conditions that protect and allow observers to work without inhibition.
MILITARISATION OF ZEC
Secrets Known has learned that more than 15% of the staff at the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission are former military officers. In a context where the ZANU-PF regime in office started as a revolutionary movement before taking over power and has stayed in office for over 40 years, it is inevitable that state institutions get to be fused with the party structures. It is a secret known that current president Emerson Mnangagwa’s coming to power through a military takeover which had all the trappings of a coup except it was not named as such. It is also a known secret that the ultimate aim of the ZANU-PF government and President Mnangagwa is regime survival and longevity. Hence the appointment of military officer to the electoral management body is not to make the institution more independent and impartial but to ascertain that it serves the interests of the regime.
CIVIC SPACE RESTRICTIONS
Civic space in Zimbabwe is not just restricted but almost closed. Parliament’s passing of the two draconian bills namely the Patriotic Bill and the Private Organisations Voluntary (PVO) Bill has caused disquiet within civil society organisations working on democracy, elections, and governance, driving them into self-censorship on a scale and magnitude that has not been seen before.
The Patriotic Bill criminalizes any acts interpreted as “wilfully injuring the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe”. The PVO Bill will require all civil society organisations and groups operating in Zimbabwe to register afresh, and the granting or denial of registration will be at the discretion of government. And it is the desire of government to silence all forms of dissent.
Civil society organisations are fearing to criticize government, or engage in any actions or make statements that may be misconstrued as anti-government, or getting on the wrong side of the ZANU-PF regime because it might result in denial of registration. Whilst the Bills are lying on the president’s desk awaiting assent, by driving the targeted citizen groups into self-censorship, the laws are taking effect even before they become law.
ONLY 10%OF WOMEN WILL BE ON THE BALLOT PAPER IN ZIM
Secrets Known has learned that only 10% of women have made it to the list of candidates to contest for Parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe’s August 2023 harmonised elections. This means that participation of women in electoral spaces remains an issue of concern in this country.