July 2013 Polls Shamed As Doubts Linger Over Credibility of 2018 Elections

Sij Ncube

HARARE,  December 2, 2015 – Zimbabwe’s 31 July 2013 harmonised elections were undemocratic, an influential non-governmental organisation, says, further casting big doubts about the credibility of the crunch 2018 polls.

The damning report by the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, a loose grouping of more than 300 NGOs in the country was released in Harare on Monday and states categorically that the Zanu PF administration and state actors deliberately “broke the chain of democratic choice.”  

The report titled: What happened on Election Day in Zimbabwe? New Empirics on 31 July 2013 chronicles incidents of political motivated violence, the alleged partisanship of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), the body charged with conducting and running all elections in the country and the general intimidation of votes by President Robert Mugabe’s state security agents.

The partisan reportage of the Zanu PF controlled public media is also laid bare, among a litany of electoral irregularities such as the abuse of the facility to assist incapacitated voters and multiple voting.

“This (report) is based on empirical evidence that shows systematic practices that undermined the election. These included undue partisan electoral officers, political intimidation and discrimination, multiple and illegal voting, displacement of voters, violence, vote buying and five pathways of undue voter influence,” reads part of the damning report perused by VOP.

Our emphasis on the two principles of integrity and insulation does not mean the state met the other principles of information and inclusion. This is far from it. Our argument here is based on our ethnographic data on mainly what happened on the actual voting day, which revealed more on the violations of integrity and insulation,” it said.

The Crisis in Zimbabwe Report, which analysts said “hit the nail on the head” about the outcome of the polls which were rejected by the mail opposition MDC-T, suggests further studies might substantiate on other principles which made the polls a monumental sham.

“Nevertheless, once one chain is broken, we can no longer measure up to a democratic election. This is more important given that authoritarian regimes now go through the motions of holding elections. They see a need—both domestically and internationally—to legitimize their rule with the regular holding of elections.

“However, we insist that regular and more so peaceful elections are insufficient to fulfill the promise of a democratic choice in Zimbabwe.Even though, the 31st July 2013 harmonised elections were just a participatory ritual, with the right interventions from stakeholders, these elections can serve as a foundational school upon which democratic elections can be built and the earlier the best.”

The report cast aspersions on Zec’s integrity and credibility to run future elections in the country, noting that despite being partisan in favour of the incumbent Mugabe and Zanu PF, it employed Zanu PF supporters as election officers.

“The military, traditional leaders, ZANU PF local leaders, ZANU PF activists and close relatives to ZANU PF candidates were polling officers. This was against ZEC’s pronounced values of professionalism, transparency, impartiality, commitment and independence. This compromised the integrity of the election and makes it impossible to qualify it as democratic.”

Zec needs to improve its independence and integrity if the country’s future poll outcomes are to be universally accepted, the report concludes, among other wide-sweeping electoral reforms