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2012... A YEAR FOR KEY DEMOCRATIC REFORMS

2012... A YEAR FOR KEY DEMOCRATIC REFORMS

2011 was an extraordinary and dramatic year in African history. The year saw the demise of dictatorships in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and the 'cautioning' of the Malawian Presidency by its electorate through successive protests, the peaceful transfer of power in Zambia and the successful penning of a new constitution in Kenya. For countries where autocratic governments were given the red card and where democracy prevailed, citizens showed how people power can overcome tyranny and long incumbency.

For Zimbabwe the year will be remembered for its negative political drama and continued authoritarian repression. 8 Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) activists including the Youth Assembly Chairperson, Solomon Madzore who were arrested in 2011 are currently languishing in prison. Journalists, civil society representatives and perceived opponents of ZANU PF were arrested, harassed and intimidated by ZANU PF and its functionaries. Violence continued to rear its ugly head in Zimbabwe while impunity was the order of the day. Protection by the law, which is a right for all citizens and is important in any society, remained a pipe dream for most Zimbabweans.

As Zimbabweans enter 2012, the political environment remains untenable in spite of commitments made to promote and protect basic rights by the inclusive government in 2008 during the signing of the Global Political Agreement (GPA). Despite continued utterances by political players that elections should be held in 2012, civil society organisations in Zimbabwe have declared that the year 2012 is a year for key democratic reforms which are essential if the country is to successfully hold free and fair elections. Elections held under the current environment will undoubtedly be predetermined and a negation of the right of citizens to freely express themselves and to chose a government of their choice.

Judging from the continued disregard of the rule of law as exemplified by the disruption of a COPAC meeting by war veterans on the 14th of January 2012 and the continued detention of the MDC activists, it is clear that 2012 should be a year set aside for critical democratic reforms which will lead to the holding of democratic, free and fair elections. War veterans

At the close of 2011, 8 Civil Society Coalitions issued a statement on the 20th of December 2011 in Harare reiterating that elections should be held after the following benchmarks are met;

1. Constitutional Reform

2. Institutional Reforms - Security sector reform, restoration of the rule of law & respect for human rights

3. Legislative Reform

 

4. Reform of the Electoral Framework and Political Environment

 

5. Participation of marginalised groups which include women and people with Disabilities in national processes

 

6. Transitional Justice and National Healing

7. Media Reform

8. Creation of conditions for free and fair elections in line with the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Principles and Guidelines for Democratic Elections

 

As the New Year begins, the inclusive government is urged to ensure that democratic reforms are put in place as a precursor to free and fair elections. Elections held devoid of critical reforms will be an exercise in futility, leading to challenges similar to those of 2008 and an unqualified negation of the essence of universal adult suffrage and self determination both key reasons for the struggle for independence.

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