A 40member civil society grouping called the Election Situation Room (ESR) on Tuesday, July 24, 2018, publicised its findings on the political environment in Zimbabwe ahead of the harmonised 2018 elections scheduled for July 30.
At a stakeholder briefing held in Harare on Tuesday, ESR said that its preelection statement contained the most significant findings of its members.
The findings concern processes such as nomination court proceedings, representation of women, and voters’ roll, intimidation, lack of tolerance, and misuse of administrative resources, postal votes, secrecy of the ballot, and inclusiveness to special interest groups, and tallying and announcement of results.
The ESR noted that the nomination process occurred without much incident, except few disruptions caused by candidates, who contested the results of party primary elections.
“However, the voters’ roll was not made available to political parties prior to the sitting of the (nomination) Court which meant that aspiring candidates were unable to check that they were correctly included on the roll beforehand.
“This led to the disqualification of at least six candidates on the grounds that their names were not on the roll or were incorrectly captured on the voters roll,” said ESR.
Representation of women
The ESR said women’s representation had fallen compared to previous elections with female candidates for the National Assembly and local authorities standing at 15 percent and 13 percent respectively.
“This low participation is the result of a hostile operating environment evidenced by higher levels of intimidation directed at women standing as candidates and a lack of regulatory incentives for political parties to promote women’s candidature,” said ESR, urging citizens to stop abuse of women on all forms of media.
The civil society grouping noted with concern “the delays in availing the voters’ roll to stakeholders and the fact that changes continue to be made and stakeholders are unsure of when and if the final version will be issued to them,” adding this has fomented “unnecessary suspicion and mistrust” especially among political parties.
While overt violence had been limited, intimidation was rife across the country, the ESR said, with intimidation including prevention of people from attending or leaving rallies, and threats on how one should vote based on the idea that voting will not be secret.
Said ESR: “Much of the intimidation reported has been by traditional leaders alongside allegations of military activities in communities, which are reminders of the June 2008 run-off elections.”
“Many of the citizens have received campaign messages on their phones with specific details of their constituency and their wards from Zanu PF,” ESR said.
“This has caused citizens to wonder how one party had access to accurate personal information on their registration and has increased fears and feelings of intimidation.”
Misuse of administrative resources
The ESR said organisations had received reports of misuse of administrative resources, which they said had been put at the disposal of Zanu PF including government vehicles and candidates campaigning at government events.
This added the advantage given to the ruling party by the biased state media, ESR said.
“The ESR is concerned by the lack of transparency of Zec through its failure to notify contesting parties, observers and the public regarding the postal voting procedures,” said ESR, noting that the lack of transparency had created mistrust.
“The contradictory statements by ZEC and the police have not helped the situation.”
Secrecy of the vote
The ESR said that the manual on the layout of the polling station and repositioning of the polling booth had compromised the secrecy of the vote, but noted that Zec was reversing the decision and training polling officers accordingly.
The ESR said since Zec had made no formal announcement, civil society organisations would continue monitoring for consistency, including on Election Day.
Inclusiveness of the process
“We also note, with dismay,” said ESR, “the dismissal of the High Court case in which Advocate Mateta, who is virtually impared, was seeking an order to compel ZEC to ensure that visually impaired persons use braille ballots or tactile ballot system,” which visually impaired people interpreted as the discriminatory nature of Zimbabwe’s judicial system.
Results tallying and announcement
The ESR said the fact that Zec had not issued procedures for tallying and announcement of results at the different levels for different electoral contests made it difficult for civil society organisations and political parties to appropriately train observers and polling agents respectively.
“The ESR calls upon ZEC to make these procedures available immediately and to commit to posting all results on their website for verification. If these measures are not implemented the election results will risk not being accepted,” warned the ESR. DailyNews