Bulawayo – CIVIL society organisations which gathered in the city last week to broadly review the election systems in the country have put considerations forward for the possible adoption of technologically advanced ways of capturing election data such as biometric systems.

 

The meeting, which was attended by over 100 local civil society leaders, including delegates from East Africa and Southern African Development Community (SADC) was organised by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN).

“With regards to voter registration the conference noted that biometric voter registration should instil trust and confidence in the electoral process,” ZESN said in a post-conference statement on March 14.

“As such, if Zimbabwe chooses to adopt biometric systems there is need for adequate planning and provision of adequate resources timeously.”

 

The participants highlighted that the use of technology in electoral systems had its positive and negative aspects, which needed to be fully studied before applying it to the Zimbabwean electoral system.

Though technology can enhance the integrity of an election, there is need to explore its applicability in the context of Zimbabwe as it has its pros and cons.

“The conference therefore reinforced the need for ZEC [Zimbabwe Electoral Commission] and other stakeholders to interrogate the different approaches and methodologies to voter registration and their applicability to the Zimbabwean context.”

 

Since 2010, several countries on the African continent have adopted new technologies in the conduct of elections, including Kenya and Ghana.

 

Kenya adopted the biometric voter registration system in 2010 to minimise election conflict after deadly violence related to vote rigging broke out in the Rift Valley, killing over 1,200 people and leaving 600,000 internally displaced in 2007.

 

Ghana, after adopting the system in 2012, reportedly registered and verified 13 million people, the equivalent of the population of Zimbabwe, in just two days.

 

Biometric systems use unique personal attributes such as fingerprints, palm prints, and facial features to identify and verify voters to prevent electoral fraud – the biometric technology itself has widespread use, and has prominently been successful in avoiding fraud in financial institutions such as banks.

 

The last harmonised election held on 31 July saw the registration process being characterised by long queues, and an estimated 300,000 prospective voters failing to register for the election in the capital Harare alone.

 

There were also outcries over the use of fake voter registration slips, as well as alleged bussing of voters, which dented the fairness of the election in the eyes of many observers.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014 02:00

Corruption hits hardest on the poor

Harare – CORRUPTION and mismanagement in the public sector affects Zimbabweans who are already living in dire conditions of poverty, civil society has said.

Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) said this month that information gathered by its Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre (ALCAC) revealed that corrupt activities are denying the most vulnerable citizens access to a better life.

 

The ALCAC initiative, which receives graft complaints from the public on a daily basis, gathered that people are willing to report corruption, but the information is often suppressed by government agencies implicated, or supposed to combat the vice.

The sectorial analysis of corruption cases received by ALAC shows that the poor and vulnerable continue bearing the brunt of corruption,” the organisation reported.

In all 3 TIZ regional offices [in Harare, Bulawayo and Mutare], it has become apparent that it is the low and middle income citizens who are most willing to report corruption.

ALAC continues to be determined to let these voices be heard.”

 

TIZ said corruption continued to affect the livelihoods of ordinary people who are short-changed by the shadowy dealings performed by public officials.

“The complaints received continue to implicate senior government officials and security agencies in mines and other mineral related corruption,” TIZ said.

“Through gross abuse of public office for private gain, officials grab mines belonging to ordinary citizens.

“Other complaints received implicate hospital officials in theft of essential drugs from hospital coffers for sale on the black market.

“Anti-retroviral (ARVs) drugs and cotrimoxazole tablets meant to be provided for free to People Living with HIV and/or AIDS are being siphoned out of hospitals by syndicates involving top ranking hospital officials into the black market.

“These pills become available at $60 for a monthly supply in flea markets and in the homes of hospital staff.

“Officials in urban local authorities of Harare, Chitungwiza and Mutare continue manipulating the housing and stands allocation system for their private gain. 

Matters to do with dispossession of land and eviction from communal land are also still coming through to ALAC.

“This has been particularly the case in rural areas where the public alleges that political and traditional leaders are dispossessing them of their land.

“In all instances, the displaced communities do not receive any compensation for the buildings which they would have left behind.”

 

Also, speaking at a public accountability dialogue series, dubbed ‘Frankly Speaking!’ organised by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) in Harare recently, human rights lawyer, Belindah Chinowawa, said if the public sector operated efficiently it would uplift the poor.

“A well-functioning public sector is critical for development and poverty alleviation,” Chinowawa said.

It must deliver quality public services that match the needs of its citizens, foster private market-led growth while managing fiscal resources prudently, and be accountable to its citizens for all its actions.

“It is therefore crucial to state at the onset that public money is not the same as private money; therefore the parameters of accountability should be more rigorous and strident.”

Chinowawa said public accountability should be enforced without failure since taxes are compulsory.

 

She blamed the lack of political neutrality and patronage in the civil service, and results based management, plus bureaucracy for the widespread corruption in the country.

 

The lawyer said there were inadequate powers given to institutions that should enforce accountability in the public sector.

Neither the Constitution of Zimbabwe…nor the enabling legislation gives the Auditor General powers to compel Ministers, departments and other public agencies to observe and comply with Treasury instructions.

“The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) has no powers of arrest, neither is there a dedicated Anti-Corruption Unit within the police force.

“There is no specific crime of corruption, but that rubric is the offences of Bribery, Corruptly using a false document, corruptly concealing a transaction from a principal, a personal interest in a transaction and Criminal abuse of duty as a public officer.”

 

Chinowawa suggested, among other recommendations, the need for greater parliamentary oversight in the public sector, and use of access to information laws as supported by the new Constitution by citizens to enforce disclosure of corruption.

Bulawayo – THE Zimbabwean government’s continued dragging of feet in implementing the devolution of governance to the provinces violates the Constitution; this was said recently by participants at a civil society meeting in the province.

National Youth Development Trust (NYDT) reported last week that youth who had attended its forum at St. Peters’ Hall in Pumula called into question the government’s continued delay in enacting the law, which would establish provincial councils.

 

 

They said the current form of governance was unconstitutional.

 

Godwin Phiri, director of the youth group, Intscha.com said: “As things stand, devolution of power is hanging.

It is there in the new Constitution, but it is not there on the ground, and it’s almost a year since we’ve had the new Constitution.

“What is happening is actually a violation of the new Constitution.”

 

Section 264 provides for the devolution of government powers and responsibilities to the council which should be established in the 10 administrative provinces of the country.

 

The objectives of devolution outlined in the new Constitution include: to promote equitable sharing of local and national resources; recognise the right of communities to manage their affairs; and promote unity, peace and the indivisibility of Zimbabwe, among others.

 

The new Constitution became fully operational in August 2013, after the swearing-in of President Robert Mugabe for a seventh consecutive term.

 

Celani Ncube, who represented the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Professor Welshman Ncube, said devolution was necessary to ease the widespread of poverty in some provinces viewed as exploited, marginalised or receiving little attention from central government.

“Devolution of power is not about Matabeleland only, even people in Marange should have a say in it and benefit from diamonds,” Ncube said.

“Living on government hand outs is unsustainable.”

 

Hector Chikowore, a Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) youth leader, said there was need for unity by all Zimbabweans in calling for devolution to be brought into life.

There is need for people to speak with one voice, different political parties and civil society should work together for devolution to be implemented,” Chikowore said.

 

The ruling Zanu-Pf party was in opposition to the decentralised governance formula during the writing of the new Constitution, which was done under the Government of National Unity (GNU).

 

After winning elections that were not pronounced as fair by many observers, President Mugabe appointed Provincial Ministers of State, a move which was viewed by analysts as aimed at suppressing devolution and further centralising power.

 

The clause on devolution is among many other provisions aimed at enhancing democracy and good governance, which have not been implemented since the inception of the new government in August 2013.

Harare – THE trial of 12 Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) activists was postponed to the first three days of April after some of the students failed to attend court in time due to logistical challenges on Wednesday morning.

 

The students were arrested, detained and allegedly assaulted in custody by police for staging a peaceful protest, calling for extension of the deadline for paying registration fees at Harare Polytechnic College in February 2014.

 

Gift Mtisi, a member of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), who is representing the students, said those who failed to attend were issued with warrants of arrest, while others later arrived when there was time to have warrants cancelled.

 

He said that if the students had attended, the matter would have been postponed as some of the state papers had not been submitted to the defense counsel.

“If my clients had attended, the matter would have still been postponed because the state papers had not been fully furnished to me.

“I have since been given the full state papers, but I would have still needed time to look at them,” Mtisi said.

 

Meanwhile, Mtisi said the students who were issued warrants of arrests will not receive their bail money if they are acquitted since it has been surrendered to the state due to the absence.

 

Students across the country who are at state institutions continue to struggle to raise tuition fees and sustain their daily needs amid little government support after government scrapped loans and grants over five years ago, which has repeatedly sparked demonstrations at several institutions across the country.

Zimbabwe may have a new Constitution, but old habits still rule quite firmly and will probably die very hard.

 

More than six months after the new Constitution fully became law, police continue to thwart public expression in form of peaceful marches and protests, using a familiar combination of illegal bans and violent disruptions.

 

Where marchers have sought for police clearance, before embarking on protest, like Chitungwiza Residents Trust (CHITREST) did, a few days ago, police have denied clearance without reason.

(Dewa Mavhinga)

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) Chairperson Dewa Mavhinga said human rights defenders in the country are fast losing faith in the government’s commitment to safeguard the freedom to protest and demonstrate outlined in Section 59 of the new Constitution.

It means that nothing has changed in terms of the Zanu-Pf government’s attitude towards human rights.

“It shows that we are still a long way to go in terms of the realisation of a democratic Zimbabwe.

“We should not think that the elections last year ushered in a new era,” Mavhinga said.

 

Mavhinga said it was a sign that civil society must step up efforts to demand a democratic governance culture.

“It presents a challenge for civil society to move more forcefully to demand the implementation of the new Constitution.

“It is a message for civil society to push for a democratic Zimbabwe,” he said.

 

The new constitution became fully operational in August 2013, with the swearing-in of President Robert Mugabe, for a seventh term since Independent gained in 1980.

 

 

Since the adoption of the new Constitution, police have broken up several peaceful marches with brutality; they have often assaulted demonstrators most of them women, leaving them injured and needing to be hospitalised.

 

On February 15, police assaulted Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) activists, who were peacefully demonstrating at Parliament.

 

In the same month, police assaulted 12 students belonging to the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) and arrested five civil society leaders from ZIMRIGHTS, CHITREST, CHRA, and CCDZT over peaceful protests.

 

In late 2013, the police savagely attacked women, who demonstrated at the Hwange Colliery offices for their husbands’ unpaid salaries; some who are reportedly still nursing injuries.

 

Government demands that protesters should seek police clearance purportedly in line with the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), although the law is clearly in violation of free public expression as espoused by the new constitution and seems to merely mention that demonstrators must notify the police of such protest.

 

 

Early this year the Zimrights Director Okay Machisa revealed at a press conference in Harare that police had denied civil society organisations clearance to demonstrate over obscene salaries and tender corruption in state enterprises and parastatals.

 

Jessie Majome, chairperson of the parliamentary committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs blamed it on the delay by the Zanu-PF led executive to align laws with the new Constitution, which she says has caused uncertainty as police continue to apply old laws which are “unconstitutional”.

The police are continuing to trample on people’s rights because of this ambiguity.

“They have been holding on unconstitutional powers that they did not even have under the old Constitution, but were actually prohibited by the new Constitution,” Majome said.

 

Majome further castigated the continued conduct of government business under old laws as “unconstitutional”, calling the whole thing “a constitutional crisis”.

 

She however suggested that the ruling party benefits from oppressive laws and the current state of affairs.

“It is totally unconstitutional, and strikes a legal blow to the rule of law in the country,” Majome said.

This government is operating unconstitutionally.

“It is promoting a continued culture of the neglect of the rule of law.

“We see the abnormal becoming normal because Zanu-Pf feels safe with laws that limit citizens’ rights.”

Friday, 14 March 2014 02:00

Police goes after GALZ again

Harare – POLICE yesterday arrested and detained for a few hours at Harare Central Police Station two people, Natasha Dowell and Tawanda Maguze, who are linked to the Gays and Lesbians Association of Zimbabwe (GALZ), allegedly for holding a public meeting without notifying them.

 

GALZ Director Chesterfied Samba described the arrest as the usual targeting of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the country.

 

“We think that it’s the usual harassment that goes on between the State and GALZ where the state is trying to intimidate us,” Samba said.

 

Dowell, a volunteer youth coordinator, was arrested allegedly for contravening Section 25(5) of the Public Order Security Act (POSA) chapter 11:17.

 

The police indicated that they would proceed by way of summons after making the GALZ official sign a warned and cautioned statement.

 

Tawanda Maguze, who had been arrested along with Dowell, for facilitating training in digital storytelling for multimedia content at the meeting, was released without any charges.

 

Dowell, who was being represented by Tonderai Bhasatara, a member of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), denied contravening the law and insisted that GALZ did not have to comply with the provision of POSA as it is in violation of the new constitution.

 

About 50 members of the GALZ have been arrested and detained by the police since 2010 on various allegations, but none of them have been convicted.

 

Police, at one time in the company of a soldier, have severally raided GALZ offices in vain attempt to lay hands on subversive material and drugs.

 

Meanwhile, the state has filed court papers seeking the rescission of the High Court order issued in January 2014 to return GALZ property, which was confiscated in 2010.

 

The property was confiscated after police charged GALZ chairperson Martha Tholanah for allegedly running an unregistered organisation in terms of the Private Voluntary Organisation (PVO).

 

Judge Justice Priscilla Chigumba who had presided over the case at the High Court ruled that the organisation did not have to register under the Act, ordering the State to return of its property.

Harare – CIVIL society energies are at their lowest point, and there is need for urgent reinvigoration. Former Finance Minister and current MDC-T Secretary General Tendai Biti made the remarks indicating that civil society organisations may need to reenergise their structures at a discussion forum held at the SAPES Trust in Harare on Thursday, March 6, 2014.

“I don’t remember a time in Zimbabwe where civil society, the trade unions, the traditional NGOs were as paralysed as they are,” Hon. Biti, Harare East Member of Parliament, said.

 

Biti highlighted that Zimbabwe had the “weakest” government in its 34 years of independence and that the government is failing to improve the lives of ordinary people.

(Hon. Tendai Biti)

Biti was talking on the future of opposition politics in Zimbabwe, barely a month after Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) Acting Director Joy Mabenge also called on civil society to reinvigorate its structures.

 

Mabenge said the previous Government of National Unity (GNU) also played a role in weakening and demobilising civil society which in turn slowed down efforts towards democratising the country at a meeting hosted by the Zimbabwe United States Alumni Association (ZUSAA) in February .

“The Global Political Agreement itself had a demobilising effect on civil society,” Mabenge said.

 

Mabenge called upon civil society to shake off partisan politics, or “compartmentalisation” into backers of political parties, as a way of re-energising its constituency, and playing an effective watchdog role in the country.

 

Biti said the national leadership crisis was being evident in the business sector, religious community and academic circles.

“I don’t remember a time [like now] when there was virtually a vacuum either in business, either in church… where we did not have figures that the country would look up to,” Biti said.

“I remember the days of icons like Pius Ncube, the ZCTU [Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions] with the likes of Morgan Tsvangirai, the likes of Gibson Sibanda, the likes of Jeffrey Tandare; a strong student movement, [with] the likes of Arthur Mutambara, some of us, and so on.

“I don’t remember a time [like now] when the university did not play some kind of influential role.”

 

Biti said the country was experiencing an economic and governance crisis, which needed a coherent response from the democratic movement.

“What worries me is a lack of coherent response to the crisis,” he said.

“It is important that we actually have a strong democratic opposition, strong civil society, and strong unions.”

 

Biti called upon civil society and opposition parties to adhere to democratic principles and values in their internal processes.

“We can’t create movements to champion democracy in the ruling party, and not in our own organisations,” he said.

The democratic movement, all of us must go back to basics.

“And say number one, can we go back to value systems?

“It’s values that made us run away from the ‘big man’s party’ at the first instance; the culture of corruption, the culture of violence, the culture of purging, [and] the culture of predatoriness.”

 

He also said Zanu-PF as a ruling party was at its weakest point in 34 years.

“You have a serious succession crisis in the ruling party,” Biti said.

“So the ruling party is at its weakest since independence.”

 

Biti said the ruling party in its current form could be the weakest authority in the country since 1891.

 

Political scientist and lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ), Shakespeare Hamauswa, said the democratic movement had to face a difficult choice, akin to which an eagle may face after a long life-journey – to die or go through radical transformation.

When the eagle is about to die it has to either die or go through a painful transformation,” he said.

It has to remove the beak and it develops a new beak, it has to remove the feathers and it develops new feathers, it will remove the talons.

“And it can live for another 40 years.”

 

Hamauswa said the transformation in the democratic movement should not only focus on leadership debates, but even ideological renewal.

Masvingo – FORMER Minister of State Enterprises and Parastatals Dr. Gorden Moyo has sensationally said that President Robert Mugabe protects corrupt government officials.

 

Speaking at a public discussion forum jointly organised by Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) and Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) as part of the public accoutability Dialogue series in the southern provincial capital Masvingo on March 6, 2014, Dr moyo castigated President Mugabe for shielding his corrupt ministers from prosecution .

“In as much as corrupt ministers can’t let go of their corrupt parastatal bosses, corrupt Mugabe can’t let go of his corrupt ministers,” Moyo said.

 

Mugabe’s official spokesperson, George Charamba, admitted in January his own erring by being involved in drawing of tens of thousands of dollars from the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) as a board member.

 

This was at a time employees went unpaid for over half a year, and the institutions had no basic equipment such cameras.

 

Charamba had immediately indicated he would be ready to be fired by his boss, although President Mugabe who has always indicated that he does not tolerate corruption did nothing beyond talk amid the salacious revelations.

(Dr Gorden Moyo)

Dr Moyo further said that President Mugabe was always aware of the hefty salaries before they burst into the media, sensationally adding that the nonagenarian president is not guilty of complacency, but complicity.

There is nothing novel about what has been exposed by the media”, Dr Moyo said.

 

Moyo said he had more evidence of corruption than what has been reported in the media, adding what has been revealed in the past months was a fraction of what is yet to be “excavated from the minefield of corruption.”

 

Moyo said a survey done by his former ministry during the Inclusive Government revealed that the average salary for parastatal bosses had been US20, 000.00.

 

Cabinet had recommended the salaries to be lowered to US5000.00, but “the outliers were shocking” because they were very high; and yet the line ministers did not act allegedly because they wanted to protect their appointed heads of parastatals.

 

Dr Moyo said the involvement of military personnel aligned to the Zanu-PF party heightened the levels of corruption in parastatals.

 

The former minister claimed that 2000 military personnel had been seconded to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) during Operation Maguta, and they are allegedly double dipping.

 

He alleged that more soldiers were corruptly benefiting from other parastatals and diamond mines allegedly because Zanu-Pf owed them the election “victory” of 2008.

 

Moyo added that about 70 000 ghost workers allegedly linked to Zanu-Pf remained on the government payroll.

 

He also said that the State Procurement Board was actually the most corrupt entity in the country.

 

Gladys Hatshwayo, the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) Board member and Zimbabwe Civic Education Trust (Zimcet) Director who chaired the meeting said citizens must not derive “comic relief” from corruption revelations, but must demand accountability and good governance.

 

Citizens who attended the meeting said the accountability dialogue should be taken to the rural areas, that a commission of inquiry should be set up to investigate corrupt entities, and that the African Peer Review Mechanism to monitor corruption under the NEPAD framework must be adhered to in Zimbabwe. Participants also agreed to take corrupt officials to task by protesting and demanding for their dismissal and prosecution.

Page 6 of 29

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