Zimbabweans ready for elections

As the lifespan of the inclusive government draws to an end in February 2011, Zimbabweans are geared up for another plebiscite in 2011 although the environment remains highly compromised by cases of repression and intimidation. This was said during a public meeting held by Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition in Harare on Wednesday, 21 April 2010 under the topic '2011- Is Zimbabwe ready for elections'. Panellists at the meeting included, Dr. Ibbo Mandaza (Southern Africa Political Economy Series), Ms Irene Petras (Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights), Theresa Mugadza (Feminist Political Education Project), and Mr Tinoziva Bere (Zimbabwe Election Support Network).

Speaker after speaker highlighted that if elections are announced, Zimbabweans would go and vote en masse as they are yearning for a change in leadership however, because of the administrative nature and the political environment, the country could witness another stolen election. It was further noted that to avoid such a scenario, there is need for institutional and legislative reforms before any plebiscite takes place. Key institutions, including the public media should be independent, objective and non partisan. Repressive laws such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and Public Order and Security Act (POSA) should be reformed such that political parties are free to campaign.

Among the institutions which need reformation ahead of the elections in Zimbabwe, is the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), which is responsible for the administration of elections. According to the panellists, the ZEC secretariat needs to be competent enough and the institution should be funded outside government to enable it to be fully functional. It was further noted that state institutions should be demilitarised and soldiers should not be allowed to patrol at polling stations since this intimidates the voters.

Although the panellists noted that Zimbabweans, as a people, are ready for the 2011 elections, it was highlighted that the environment in Zimbabwe does not permit for free and fair since ZANU PF has already began setting bases to intimidate people in some provinces of the country. It was highlighted that there is need to remain cognisant of the fact the same people who perpetrated violence against perceived enemies, burned houses and looted property will do the same if ZANU PF instructs them to. In these circumstances, the police will not arrest perpetrators of violence and the Attorney General will protect the perpetrator

Mr Bere recommended that civil society and political parties need to be ready for elections and come up with mechanisms that counter the rigging of elections, stop violence and above all ensure that there is no chaos during and after elections. There is also need for national healing and reconciliation such that if those in power lose elections they will not refuse to leave office for fear of prosecution. Dr Mandaza complimented Mr Bere by saying that Zimbabweans have to learn that there is a situation whereby those in power cannot afford to lose power and there is need to come up with strategies that do away with the situation. He noted that the solution lies in the political party with the strongest support base brokering a deal with the securocrats to ensure that they respect the outcome of the elections.

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