Civil Society Threatens Referendum Boycott



CIVIL society has threatened to boycott the imminent referendum over the exclusion of some civic players by Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) from accreditation for observing the plebiscite on March 16.

In a letter copied to the Inclusive Government (IG) Principals President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Aurthur Mutambara dated March 11, 2013 that was signed by the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) Director McDonald Lewanika on behalf of the Heads of Coalitions - the CSOs registered disgruntlement over "the continued harassment of our members and consequent criminalization of our legitimate activities. €

"We wish to place on record our collective outrage at the refusal by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to allow our fellow CSOs to accredit as domestic observers ahead of the constitutional referendum scheduled to take place on 16 March 2013. €

The communication noted the refusal was reportedly on the grounds that the said organisations were "under criminal investigations € and need to produce proof of acquittal before their applications for accreditation can be considered.

"It is our unequivocal contention that ZEC acted outside the purview of its constitutional mandate, in presuming to assign guilt to parties who have not been pronounced guilty in competent courts of law and who should, for all intents and purposes - including the purpose of accreditation to observe the referendum, be presumed innocent, until proven otherwise. €

The civil society cited in particular the turning down of the application by ZIMRIGHTS to observe the forthcoming referendum. The decision and the supposed reasons were all confirmed by the acting ZEC chairperson, Mrs Joyce Kazembe to the State media on March 8.

Further, the civil society told the three Principals that there were inconsistencies in the treatment of the organisations as COPAC had actually signed a Memorandum of Understanding with them in popularizing the draft Constitution, making the organisations agents of the Select Committee.

The three Principals have until Wednesday 13 March to respond, in particular to reverse the ZEC decision and "return to compliance with the Constitution and the Referendums Act, Electoral Act and relevant regulations €,  the civil society declared.

"If it does not materialise, we will have no option but to take the regrettable step of placing your high office, and ZEC, by copy of this letter, on notice, that we will proceed to mobilise our members to withdraw from observation of the process and put into motion various actions that we deem to be an appropriate response to what we see as ZEC's ludicrous stance on the accreditation of ZimRights and other organisations in similar circumstances. €

Further the letter called for an end to the criminalization of the civil society and their work, arguing that referendum and the next elections should be held in line with national laws, good practice and international guidelines, such as values of SADC and the AU.

The missive ended by emphasizing that "the action by ZEC puts the last four years of the Global Political Agreement and the positive work of the Inclusive Government at great risk €.


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