Harare – February 4, 2014- The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) has welcomed the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) report on the July 31, 2013 Harmonised Elections in Zimbabwe. ZESN has also commended the ZHRC for its candid observations of the electoral processes and its broad recommendations for future elections despite their operational deficiencies noted in the report.
The ZHRC report raises pertinent issues regarding irregularities in the electoral processes which include the inadequate and delayed funding of the elections, voters’ registration and voters’ roll challenges, inadequate voter education, dearth of intra-party democracy and the low participation of women.
Of interest to note, the report states the unilateral proclamation of the election date by the President that compromised other key processes that were prevailing such as the alignment of the laws with the new constitution, media and electoral reforms. ZESN also commends the ZHRC’s report for highlighting the timing of debt cancellation by the Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development which the Commission argues gave an unfair advantage to ZANU PF.
On the issue of funding, the Commission acknowledges the lack of adequate funding of the process by the treasury which undermined the capacity of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to fully deliver on its mandate.
In addition, the Commission acknowledged the controversial nature of the voter registration process which resulted in thousands of potential registrants especially in urban areas failing to register. The report also states that, “The ZHRC is concerned that the reports of arrests of people with fake voter registration slips presents a possibility of a large scale use of fake documents”. These observations are most welcome as they reinforce the observations of other observer groups such as ZESN and regional observer missions to Zimbabwe’s 2013 Elections.
Furthermore, ZESN welcomes the ZHRC observations on the issue of voter education. The Commission noted that the exercise was largely inadequate and the failure by ZEC to incorporate civic society organisations to assist in voter education despite the fact that the electoral body was heavily under-resourced worsened the situation.
ZESN applauds the ZHRC for compiling such a report and urges the responsible authorities to consider the recommendations in the report which include;
– The need to strengthen ZEC as a credible and independent electoral commission.
– Timely proclamation of election dates
– The need to ensure proper custody and maintenance of the voters ‘rolls and registers
– Comprehensive voter education.
– Equitable access to public and private media by all political parties and candidates
– Strengthening of internal political parties democracy
– Enhanced participation of persons living with disabilities in elections.
– The need for legal reforms in respect to laws that impact on electoral processes
– Strengthening of electoral dispute resolution mechanisms.
Though the report concludes that the elections were generally free, peaceful and fair, the failure by the Commission to report on the credibility can be attributed to the irregularities that were observed in the July 2013 elections. In light of the human rights challenges that face Zimbabwe, ZESN urges the Commission to uphold its constitutional mandate of protecting and promoting human rights of which the right of citizens to choose leaders is paramount. The government should ensure that the Commission is fully resourced with technical and financial resources to enable it to function more effectively. ZESN calls upon the Commission to abide by the principles of objectivity, independence, impartiality and open-mindedness in the discharge of their mandate.