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Gweru CSOs speak out on legislative and electoral reforms

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition held a public meeting on Electoral and Legislative reforms under its Transitional dialogue Series (TDS) in Gweru on the 17th of July 2010.

The meeting was attended by forty five (45) people representing a cross section of the Gweru community. The Deputy Mayor of Gweru and his councilors   attended the meeting. There were also representatives from Zimbabwe National Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) politburo, Zimbabwe National Students Union(ZINASU),Gweru Residents Association, Zimbabwe Election Support Network(ZESN),National Youth Development Trust(NYDT),Youth in Democracy Trust(YIDEZ), National Association of Non Governmental Organisations(NANGO),Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human rights(ZLHR) and Murombo Munhu Trust.

The objective of the meeting was to build consensus among state actors, civil society, legislators and key stakeholders on key legislative and electoral reforms in Zimbabwe. The meeting provided a platform for experts to share their views on electoral and legislative reforms in a bid to create a platform for further robust debate on these key reforms. The meeting also discussed the progress of the inclusive government in implementing the Inter-party Political Agreement.


Key issues raised:

Legislative reforms

1.  Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), Public Order and Security Act (POSA), Interception of Communications Act (ICA), Broadcasting Services Act and other repressive laws should be overhauled rather than having piece meal amendments.
2.  The current proposed amendments to the Public Order and Security Act(POSA) will still give police unfettered powers to sanction meetings and hence making Zimbabwe a police state.
3.  The Broadcasting Services Act still gives Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH) a monopoly over other players while it makes it difficult for new players to register and hence must be repealed.
4.  AIPPA does not give access to information but actually hinders those who gather information from getting and disseminating it. It protects public office bearers from criticism, infringing on people's right to information. It is ultra virus the constitution of Zimbabwe and must be repealed.
5.  The constitution making process should be done in a transparent and accountable manner since all laws ride on the constitution. This process should lead us to free and fair elections supported by legislation that opens up the political environment for people to express themselves freely without fear or favor.

Electoral reforms

1.  Civil society welcomes the proposed electoral reforms but there is a great feeling that the reforms will not fully address the probloems of the past since they are a piece meal solution to a bigger problem.
2.  The polling station specific registration exposes people to intimidation, violence and voter censoring. It may also give advantage to other areas while disadvantaging others.
3.  Parties and other players are not given ample time to inspect the voters roll prior to elections thereby allowing a flawed voters roll to sail through without critical amendments
4.  History has it that election results have been released within forty eight hours and hence the proposal to announce results within five (5) days falls short of people's expectations.
5.  The government of Zimbabwe must stop cherry picking of international observers since elections are not a wedding where only relatives and friends are invited.
6.  The capacity of the Zimbabwe Election Commission is questionable and measures must be put in place to make it more independent in its operations.
7.  The new electoral reforms must address transparency in postal voting and introduce Diaspora vote since these people contribute immensely to the national fiscus.
8.  The reforms must also address the role of the police in elections since previously they have been associated with intimidating potential voters and vote rigging.

Recommendations

1.  Parliamentarians should understand the pivotal role they play in shaping a better Zimbabwe through vibrant debate and law enactment and hence must actively debate these reforms and push them to sail through.
2.  There should be an independent electoral commission and priority should be put on having a fully funded and capacitated Zimbabwe Electoral commission (ZEC) that is debugged from political interference and influence.
3.  The Presidential temporary powers Act is an authoritarian piece of legislation that has always interfered with the running of free and fair elections and hence must be repealed.
4.  The electoral Act should safeguard women's rights before, during and after elections.
5.  The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission should be gender sensitive both in its composition and behavior.
6.  Language used in the Electoral Act should not be discriminative and should pay regard to the visually challenged needs.
7.  The electoral and other legislative reforms should be hastened before the constitutional referendum and elections so as to create a conducive environment for free and fair elections.
8.  Political parties that are signatories to the IPA should carry out reforms that will address the polarized and vicious political environment.
9.  A national Healing bill should be tabled in Parliament so that it gives direction the national healing road map.
10.  If diplomats and civil servants working abroad are allowed to vote, then the electoral act must allow all registered Zimbabweans in the diaspora to vote.

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