Civil Society Minimum Conditions for the Holding of Democratic Elections in Zimbabwe
Following the resolutions of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Troika meeting issued on 31 March 2011, which called for the crafting of a Road Map to free and fair elections in Zimbabwe, Zimbabwean civil society organizations urge the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) to broaden their consultative process to ensure that views of a broader spectrum of Zimbabwean citizens, including those in civil society, are heard and taken into account.
Zimbabwe civil society organizations appended below make the following submissions:
1. Constitutional Reform
We recommend that;
- A new, democratic constitution that conforms to local and regional expectations and to international best practice and standards must be in place before elections are held.
- The new constitution must guarantee full and equal participation of all citizens in political processes including marginalized groups such as women, children, youths, people with disabilities and students.
2. Institutional Reforms - Security sector reform, restoration of the rule of law & respect for human rightsWe recommend that;
- All security agents including the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) and the Attorney General's Office must speak and act in a manner consistent with professionalism, independence and non-partisan conduct in the exercise of their constitutional mandate and be answerable to parliament in terms of the law.
- The role of the AG should be separated from prosecutorial role and there should be an AG who advises government and a new independent national prosecuting authority whose head is independently and freshly appointed through a public appointment process.
- Senior security and military structures in SADC and AU immediately engage the Zimbabwean security sector to establish a firm agreement and re-assurance on its constitutional role before, during and after elections.
- All military and security operatives currently deployed across the country be recalled immediately to the barracks and be confined there.
- All Security Chiefs must respect results of elections regardless of their outcome and refrain from interfering with, and making unlawful political pronouncements on political and electoral matters.
3. Legislative Reform AgendaWe recommend that;
- The Public Order and Security Act (POSA), the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), the Broadcasting Services Act, the Presidential Powers Temporary Measures Act and the Criminal Codification and Reform Act, among other repressive laws, be expeditiously repealed or amended to remove clauses that unreasonably constrain freedom of expression, association and assembly.
4. Electoral Framework and Political Environment
We recommend that;
- All political parties comply with the already existing code of conduct on violence and manipulation of the vote and make a public pledge to end all forms of political violence and dismantle all vigilante and militia groups.
- All structures of violence, including torture bases must be disbanded immediately.
The following should be addressed through amendments of Electoral Laws
- The independence, non-partisanship and professionalism of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) must be ensured. In this regard ZEC must be accountable to Parliament and not to a minister, as is currently the case.
- The Inclusive Government must ensure that ZEC is adequately resourced to efficiently administer a credible election.
- ZEC must be legally empowered to take full responsibility and control of the process to establish a clean and credible voters' roll.
- ZEC must be exclusively mandated to invite and accredit all election monitors and observers without the influence of the executive.
- ZEC must produce and publish an audit of its structures, personnel and operations and take appropriate actions to ensure that all employees are competent, non-partisan and professional.
- Voter education on electoral matters, currently a ZEC preserve, must be broadened and democratized to enable civil society and other stakeholders to carry out civic education freely.
- ZEC must take initiative to ensure youth representation in electoral administration and management.
- ZEC should take initiative to encourage youths to register to vote
We recommend that;
- The Inclusive Government must ensure a safe space for women's effective participation in all democratization processes, including the adoption of a mixed electoral system that provides for effective participation of women in politics.
- The proposed constitution must guarantee the 50/50 principle for women and men's participation in all decision-making processes.
6. People with Disabilities
We recommend that;
- The inclusive government and relevant authorities should create opportunities for people with disabilities to effectively and fully participate in all political processes.
- People with disabilities should be enabled and fully empowered, in line with the recent Supreme Court ruling on the matter, to select persons of their choice to assist them in voting and in all other electoral processes.
- Mechanisms should be put in place to address obstacles that hinder the participation of people with disabilities such as accessible polling stations, braille voting material and increased use of sign -language in the public media.
7. Transitional Justice and National Healing
We recommend that;
- The Inclusive Government takes urgent steps to hold accountable perpetrators of political violence and other human rights abuses and ensures justice for victims of abuse. Decisive action against perpetrators of violence demonstrates commitment to non-violence and ends the culture of impunity.
- The Inclusive Government must cause the Police Commissioner-General to ensure that all structures of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) to record and thoroughly investigate all complaints of politically motivated violence and other criminal acts.
- Traditional leaders, churches, and other community institutions should take the lead in promoting national healing, justice, accountability and non-violence.
8. Media Reform
We recommend that;
- The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) be reconstituted urgently and licensing of aspiring community and commercial broadcasters begins as an interim measure to open up the airwaves ahead of elections.
- The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Cooperation's governance board should be reconstituted urgently to ensure that the broadcaster fulfills its public service mandate and reflects all shades of Zimbabwean opinion.
- The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Cooperation, and the print media, affords all political parties and independent candidates contesting an election free access to their broadcasting services in line with all the robust provisions of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Media Coverage of Elections) Regulations.
- The coalition government, forthwith, takes robust measures to end the ongoing abuse of the public media by the present authorities and end its use as a tool of propaganda and hate language.
- The Mass Media Trust be resuscitated and be adequately resourced to insulate the ZIMPAPERS against political interference and manipulation by any political party.
- There be urgent repeal or extensive amendment of repressive laws such as AIPPA, BSA, Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act and the Interception of Communications Act that continue to impinge on free journalism enterprise, free expression and the right to information access.
- All individuals implicated in extra-legal media freedom violations should be arrested and prosecuted in order to eliminate wanton harassment of media practitioners and guarantee their security in the conduct of their duties.
- The Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) should fully execute its mandate to ensure professionalism in the media and rein in those violating the basic tenets of journalism that currently manifests in hate messages, abusive language and half-truths.
9. On the deployment of local, regional and international Monitors and Observers
We recommend that;
- SADC should ensure that Zimbabwe elections are held in full compliance with SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.
- SADC should deploy observers to Zimbabwe to closely assess the electoral environment before, during and after the elections.
- The invitation and accreditation of all observers should fall exclusively under the management and control of an independent ZEC and should be done timeously to allow other administrative processes to take effect.
- Given the abnormal situation obtaining in Zimbabwe where the pre and post election periods are characterized by widespread violence, SADC and the AU are urged to deploy long-term monitoring and observation teams six months before the election and for six months after the elections to monitor the prevailing conditions and prevent state-sponsored violence and intimidation.
- SADC must have a monitoring team that plays an interventionist role as opposed to just observing the elections.
- The registration and accreditation of local observers must be decentralized to the country's districts.
10. Civil Society Position on Resolving the Political Conflict.
We, the undersigned Zimbabwean civil society organisations, believe that the first credible step to a lasting solution to the continuing political crisis in Zimbabwe is a credible fresh election that is supervised by SADC and monitored by the AU and broader international community, and which adheres to SADC standards for conducting democratic elections. Such an election must be free of violence and acceptable to all.
- Achieve your Goal Trust
- Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association
- Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe
- Combined Harare residents association
- Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
- Doors of Hope
- Ecumenical Support Services
- Elections Resource Centre
- Gays and Lesbians Association in Zimbabwe
- General Agriculture and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe
- Heal Zimbabwe
- Institute for Young Women Development
- Legal Resources Foundation
- Media Institute of Southern Africa
- Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe
- Non Violent Action and Strategies for Social Change
- Platform for Youth Development
- Radio Dialogue
- Restoration of Human Rights
- Savannah Trust
- Students Solidarity Trust
- Transparency International Zimbabwe
- Uhuru Network
- Women's Coalition
- Women In Politics Support Unit
- Women of Zimbabwe Arise
- Young Voices Network
- Youth Agenda Trust
- Youth Alliance for Democracy Trust
- Youth Forum
- Zimbabwe Civic Education Trust
- Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights
- Zimbabwe Farmers Union Development Trust
- Zimbabwe Human Rights Association
- Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
- Zimbabwe National Student's Union
- Zimbabwe Peace Project
- Zimbabwe United Residents Association
- Zimbabwe Young Women Network for Peace-building