Sokwanele - Enough is Enough - Zimbabwe
PROMOTING NON-VIOLENT PRINCIPLES TO ACHIEVE DEMOCRACY
Zimbabwe Referendum Watch - Issue
Sokwanele : 14 March 2013
In Issue 1 of Zimbabwe Referendum Watch we commented on the limited time the political parties have allowed Zimbabweans to prepare for the referendum. At the time of writing this, Issue 2, the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) have released a statement saying that they have lost their appeal to the Supreme Court to have the referendum date extended, and in so doing confirm that the referendum date remains Saturday, 16 March 2013. Zimbabwe Referendum Watch has recorded 195 breaches for the SADC guidelines, with the Zanu PF party being by far the most responsible for the breaches.
The limited time allowed produces further issues that conflict with the 'SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections'. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights released a statement on 11 March that the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) passed a provisional measure directing the government to allow Zimbabwean citizens living abroad to vote in the referendum and the forthcoming election - inclusive of Zimbabwean citizens other than soldiers and embassy staff stationed abroad. However Joyce Kazembe, chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) had already confirmed that the time allowed for the referendum did not even allow Zimbabweans on National Duty the opportunity to vote by post.
As well as conflicting with the ACHPR measure, this is a clear breach of SADC's guideline that there should be 'full participation of the citizens in the political process' (2.1.1) and it absolutely breaches the SADC directive that there should be 'equal opportunity to exercise the right to vote and be voted for' (2.1.6). Significantly, it also conflicts with Zimbabwe's own electoral laws, a point Veritas elaborated on in detail in their mailing of 1st March, and which is worth repeating here in full for those who will be most affected:
Although the Act specifies that anyone who “is 18 years or above and is eligible to be registered as a voter” has the right to vote in a Referendum, potential voters outside the country will not be able to cast postal votes in the coming Referendum on the draft constitution. According to the Electoral Act, Part XIV, there has to be a period of two weeks for people to apply for a postal vote; and, filled-in ballot papers have to be received by the Chief Elections Officer two weeks before the Referendum polling date. By giving only one month’s notice of the Referendum date the government has effectively disenfranchised persons who might have wished to cast postal votes. Those normally entitled to a postal vote are Zimbabweans outside the country on duty in the serv ice of the Government and their spouses, e.g., diplomatic and consular officials, civil servants travelling outside the country on Government business, and police officers and military personnel serving abroad on UN peacekeeping missions. This opens the way for challenges in the High Court, although it is unlikely that Government employees will take legal action against their employer. (Full Veritas mailing available online here: http://bit.ly/16tMOGT)
We also flagged in ZRW Issue 1 that the police raids taking place against civic organisations were contributing to a climate of fear in Zimbabwe, and we noted that the actions would remind Zimbabweans of the torture and unlawful detention of Jestina Mukuko, director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), in 2008. Not long after we released Issue 1 the persecution of Mukoko intensified, and police harassment sunk to new depths when the police organised a full-scale media appeal, claiming Mukoko was 'wanted' and 'on the run' and asking citizens to contact the police if they spotted her. In fact, her lawyers were in constant communication with the police, and when a bemused Mukoko turned herself in at a police stat ion, her 'interrogation' in relation to allegations of 'espionage' lasted a short four hours.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiCZ) Director noted that this was an example of the police melodramatically going 'out of their way' to criminalise civil society. This level of public sensationalism lays the groundwork for future repressive measures, by helping to entrench a perception in unwitting public minds that the police actions - current and future - are somehow justifiable. And it has to be noted that the use of the state media in this way is also a violation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) 19.1 (e) which states that the parties agree
that the public and private media shall refrain from using abusive language that may incite hostility, political intolerance and ethnic hatred or that unfairly undermines political parties and other organisations. To this end, the inclusive government shall ensure that appropriate measures are taken to achieve this objective [emphasis added].
This is a very important clause. The power of the media to whip up hatred and anger cannot be understated - in Rwanda, for example, an extreme political abuse of the media contributed to genocidal mass slaughter in that persistent systematic hate speech promulgated the perception that this 'hate' was normal and acceptable. Zimbabwean media should not be used as a tool to circulate the perception that civic actors are criminals trying to sabotage the nation, and this is especially critical given the violence and torture that accompanied the elections in 2008.
The baseless harassment of civic organisations by the police has had a widening ripple effect: ZEC, for example, has refused to accredit ZimRights to observe the referendum on the grounds that the organisation is 'under police investigation'. In response, the CiCZ, which has about 300 members, has threatened to withdraw from the referendum observer process unless this decision is reversed. The heated nature of the engagement fosters an intimidating environment and undermines SADC's guideline to ensure a 'conducive environment for free, fair and peaceful elections' (4.1.2).
A sense that repressive actions against civic organisations are supported by the security sector, gathered momentum when the Provincial Governor, Titus Maluleke, summoned over 45 civic organisations in the province to a meeting to announce a range of restrictions on their work, and directed that in future all of them would have to work closely with government departments and the security sector. The Zimbabwean reported that he made the announcement "flanked by the Assistant Provincial Policing Officer, Deputy Provincial CIO boss and Assistant Provincial Administrator Chitsika".
And Radio Dialogue, a Bulawayo community-based radio initiative, was raided by the police who seized 180 shortwave radios. The programming head, Zenzele Ndebele, is currently facing charges of being in possession of 'smuggled' radios related to a 'regime change agenda'. In all cases the language being used by the police is sensationalistic, provocative and inflammatory, and in the context of media and broadcasting it violates SADC's guideline to ensure that citizens in the SADC region have their human and civil liberties safeguarded, which including access to the media (7.4).
Attacking the media further undermines the opportunity for all political parties to have access to information dissemination technologies, restricting their abilities to fully participate in the electoral process (2.1.5). The necessity to ensure access to all the media for full political participation by all parties is perhaps exemplified by the fact that Job Sikhala, firebrand leader of the MDC-99 party, was denied an opportunity to express his views on the constitution in a ZBC (state-controlled media) interview. In August 2012 Sikhala announced that his party would be campaigning for a 'No' vote (http://bit.ly/15O5W10) - a position at odds with the three main political parties in Zimbabwe. ZBC invited him to participate and then withdrew the invitation saying: "they are no longer able to air the interview because ‘ma shefu’ ati (the bosses said) it should not be aired". Similarly, the NCA was denied the right to hold a 'No vote' meeting, with the police telling them that the meeting was 'illegal'. Both of these violate SADC guideline 2.1.5 which seeks to ensure that all can freely participate in the electoral process.
And despite being in harmony with Zanu PF on the constitution issue, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai found himself unable to launch the MDC-T's 'Yes vote campaign' despite the police having been informed in advance. The campaign was called off when the party's leader realised supporters would be placed at risk: the police threatened to break up the rally using teargas. It is a timely reminder, perhaps, that regardless of the united 'Vote yes' position, the MDC-T is one of Zanu PF's political opponents, and the Zanu PF stalwarts still control the security sector.
In ZRW Issue 1 we referred to internal-party political violence when Zanu PF legislator Sarah Mahoka was assaulted by thirteen Zanu PF youths. In this issue it is the turn of the MDC-T party to be held to account for violence within their own party. Councillor Kenneth Sithole was attacked by six members of his own party. He said the group accused him of addressing a meeting without their consent. The lack of irony regarding their justification for their violence is perhaps an indicator that the systematic suppression of freedom of association is becoming normalised in Zimbabwe. Violence internal to political parties is a sure indicator that the principals who signed the Global Political Agreement have not done enough between 2008 and now to "promote the values and practices of tolerance, respect, non-violence and dialogue as means of resolving political differences&quo t; (GPA clause 18.5(a)).
Finally, SW Radio Africa reported earlier this month that in a meeting at the end of last year, Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri had ordered senior members of the police force, ranking from Assistant Commissioner to Deputy Commissioner, to ensure that Zanu PF won the next elections. They were implicitly threatened with dismissal from the force if they did not do what they could to ensure this. Chihuri's speech was read out in cabinet and the contents, as reported by SWRA, perhaps serve to contextualise some of the events currently taking place now:
During the retreat the police officers discussed tactical strategies to subdue political opponents, disrupt rallies or meetings and target influential individuals in rural areas. They also discussed how to target non-governmental organisations as ways to ‘safeguard the revolution.’
No postal votes for Zimbabweans abroad ~ http://bit.ly/10Ef6Oq
SW Radio Africa (ZW): Monday, 11 March 2013
Zimbabweans on national duty outside the country will not be able to vote in the constitutional referendum to be held on Saturday. This was revealed by the acting chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Joyce Kazembe at a briefing for poll observers on Friday. According to freelance journalist Lenox Mhlanga, who attended the briefing, Kazembe said the time period for the application process for postal votes as specified in the Electoral Act could not be accommodated in this referendum.Mhlanga said Kazembe’s announcement confirmed fears raised by some that the time allowed for the preparations for the referendum was too short. “This gives the impression that the whole process is being rushed to avoid answering certain questions about the contents of the draft charter if a longer period of time was given, such as the 6 months that some were asking for,&rd quo; Mhlanga said.
Jestina Mukoko hands herself in to the
police ~ http://bit.ly/12LhFj3
SW Radio Africa (ZW): Friday, 8 March 2013
Prominent human rights defender Jestina Mukoko handed herself in to the police morning of Friday 8 March, after claims by police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri on state media saying they wanted to interview Mukoko for operating an “unregistered” and “unlawful” organisation. Mukoko is a director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project Trust (ZPP), the target of recent intimidatory raids by security agents. Kumbira Mafunda of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said Mukoko went to the police station and was charged with “running an unregistered organisation, taking part in the running of an unregistered organisation, possessing smuggled radios and cellphones, and failing or refusing to register as a dealer”. Mukoko was interrogated and released. On Thursday lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa confirmed to SW Radio Africa that the ZPP was registered, and that she had provided its registration papers and Constitution to the police last month. She said: “We informed the police that ZPP was represented by its chairperson, Dr Solomon Zwana, as Mukoko is simply an employee. However, police rejected this and insisted they were interested in no-one else but Mukoko. They intend to use her as an example as part of election-time intimidation.”
ZEC refuses to accredit ZimRights to observe
SW Radio Africa (ZW): Monday, 11 March 2013
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has refused to accredit the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) to observe this Saturday’s referendum, because the organisation is under police investigation. At a media briefing on Friday 8 March ZEC’s acting chairperson, Joyce Kazembe, said ZimRights’ application had been turned down. In January police laid charges of fraud and forgery against ZimRights and the group’s director Okay Machisa. The authorities alleged that ZimRights was involved in an illegal voter registration exercise. The organization denies participating in any illegal activities. More importantly, according to Machisa, ZimRights has not been convicted of any offence and they will be approaching the courts to see if ZEC acted within their jurisdiction. ‘I don’t know why they decided to react like that, we are facing all egations that we strenuously deny. Our law in Zimbabwe says you are innocent until proven guilty, so why are they jumping the gun? Asked Machisa.
Governor puts restrictions on 45 NGOs in
Masvingo ~ http://bit.ly/12SnoUk
Zimbabwean, The (ZW): Sunday, 3 March 2013
Masvingo Resident Minister and Governor Titus Maluleke on Friday 1 March summoned over 45 non-govermental organisations to a meeting at his offices during which he announced wideranging restrictions on their work. Maluleke, according to the CiZC, said that such meetings would be held every month. Community Tolerance Reconciliation and Development Coordinator, Gamuchirai Mukura, said: “We were told that NGOs should now work with the district police officers and line ministries in implementing our programs. He added: “They told us they are going to be monitoring our donors and what programs we are being funded for and what programs we are doing saying NGOs should not be involved in election related programs.” At its 13th Annual National People’s Conference in Gweru in December 2012, ZANU PF resolved to urge government to shut down all NGOs [as they wer e seen to be] seeking regime change.
Police raid Radio Dialogue studios, seize
180 radios ~ http://bit.ly/15WqO79
SW Radio Africa (ZW): Thursday, 28 February 2013
On the morning of Thursday 28 February, police in Bulawayo continued their countrywide campaign to seize ‘illegal’ radios, by raiding a local community radio station and seizing more than 180 wind-up radio sets. The police raided the Hillside based Ingwe Studios, a subsidiary of the community radio station initiative Radio Dialogue. The officers, armed with a search warrant, scoured the premises and seized the wind-up radio sets. They also detained Radio Dialogue programming head Zenzele Ndebele and held him for questioning for most of the day. According to Ndebele’s lawyer, Kucaca Phulu, his client was charged with possession of ‘smuggled’ radios, as well as possessing a radio receiver without a ZBC license. He was interrogated about the source of the radios, which were recently declared illegal by the police.
ZBC bosses ban Job Sikhala
Interview ~ http://bit.ly/Z5uVtK
Nehanda Radio: Wednesday, 13 March 2013
The Zanu PF controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) was on Tuesday accused of banning an interview their journalists had conducted with former St Mary’s MP and MDC-99 faction leader Job Sikhala. Sikhala told Nehanda Radio “The ZBC invited me to the programme to air my views on the COPAC constitution on their own volition. The recording was done today from 2:30pm and was supposed to be aired today at 9pm.” Sikhala claims he received a call Wednesday 13 March from the ZBC Programmes Manager telling him “they are no longer able to air the interview because ‘mashefu’ ati (the bosses said) it should not be aired”. A furious Sikhala said “I never asked the ZBC to invite me to the programme. “I was really moderate and for ZBC to ban the interview to be aired is evil and satanic. Media reforms NOW is our clarion call, ” he added.
bar NCA ‘no vote’ meeting ~ http://bit.ly/WH2oYD
SW Radio Africa (ZW): Tuesday, 5 March 2013
Chipinge Police on Tuesday 5th March told the NCA they could not go ahead with their meeting, which was set for Friday 8th March at the Chipinge Town Council Boardroom. The police said the meeting was “illegal”. The Commanding Officer for Chipinge contacted NCA Officer Terrance Maoneke on Tuesday and said that the meeting could no longer take place as initially agreed, because the police were not informed on time. Blessing Vava, the NCA spokesperson, told SW Radio Africa that they had informed police last week of their plans to hold the meeting. He said they believe the move to bar the meeting is an attempt at “intimidation.” “We feel this was an attempt by ... ... the state to ... cow the people of Zimbabwe into voting for their fraudulent draft constitution in the referendum,” Vava said.
Zimbabwe Police Block Tsvangirai
Constitution Campaign Rally ~ http://bit.ly/XotV4T
VOANews (USA): Tuesday, 5 March 2013
Zimbabwe police on Tuesday 5 March stopped Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai from addressing a meeting in Highfield suburb where he was set to officially launch the 'Yes Vote' campaign in Harare ahead of next week’s constitutional referendum. The Movement for Democratic Change’s Harare spokesperson, Senator Obert Gutu, told VOA the meeting had been given the green light by the police as required by the country’s Public Order and Security Act. "I was surprised when we arrived in Highfield to realize that the police were saying that the prime minister should not address the meeting ... This despite the fact that they had been notified by Honourable Ian Makone from the Prime Minister’s Office” said Gutu. Gutu said the MDC leadership at the venue decided to stop holding the meeting after noticing that there were too many people at risk because the police threatened to use teargas to break up the rally.
MDC-T activists nabbed for political
violence ~ http://bit.ly/WeEUOK
Chronicle, The (ZW): Sunday, 3 March 2013
Police in Gweru have arrested six MDC-T activists for assaulting a fellow party member who is a local councillor over allegations of holding a political meeting without their consent. Councillor Kenneth Sithole, the victim, said he was attacked by some members of his party on Sunday. He said the group accused him of addressing a meeting without their consent. “I was .... attacked by six members of our party. In fact, it was not even a meeting but a get-together with one of our party’s aspiring councillors. They accused me, then started assaulting me without even giving me a chance to explain myself,” said Clr Sithole. He said he sustained injuries all over his body as a result of the assault. MDC-T information and publicity officer for Midlands South, Mr James Tsuro confirmed the incident.
Chihuri orders police force to
ensure ZANU PF wins elections ~ http://bit.ly/Z1nH6I
SW Radio Africa (ZW): Friday, 8 March 2013
At the end of last year Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri ... told senior cops if they are not going to support ZANU PF in this year’s elections, ‘they’re not fit to wear the uniform ...’. Chihuri also ordered them to ensure that ZANU PF wins the next elections. He was speaking to senior officers, ... gathered at a retreat in the Vumba last December. He told them: ‘The time to leave is now, if you are not going to toe the line,...’. Chihuri’s address was a major topic of discussion in cabinet this week where a copy of his speech was read out for ministers. The release of Chihuri’s speech during Cabinet proceedings was designed to emphasise how partisan the police force is. According to the Mail and Guardian, the meeting, convened to strategise for the referendum and elections, ended up discussing tactical strategie s to subdue political opponents, disrupt rallies or meetings and target influential individuals in rural areas. They also discussed how to target non-governmental organisations as ways to ‘safeguard the revolution.’
We have a fundamental right to freedom of expression!
ENHANCING CITIZENS’ PARTICIPATION IN
ACCESSING INFORMATION IN THE CONSTITUTION MAKING PROCESS
Draft constitution and imperatives for legislative reforms
The COPAC draft constitution explicitly provides for the following:
58. Freedom of assembly and association
Every person has the right to freedom of assembly and association, and the right not to assemble or associate with others.
61. Freedom of expression and freedom of the media
Every person has the right to freedom of expression, which includes: freedom to seek, receive and communicate ideas and other information; freedom of artistic expression and scientific research and creativity; and academic freedom……
62. Access to information
Every Zimbabwean citizen or permanent resident, including juristic persons and the Zimbabwean media, has the right of access to any information held by the State or by any institution or agency of government at every level…..
The foregoing is an extract of constitutional provisions that regulate aspects of assembly, association, freedom of expression, media freedom and access to information.
The afore-mentioned provisions thus bring into the spotlight several laws that presently govern the parameters within which these rights can be exercised. These laws include pieces of legislation such as Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, Public Order and Security Act, Interception of Communications Act, Official Secrets Act and the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform Act), among others.
It is critical to note that legislative Acts of Parliament are only valid to the extent of their consistency with the supreme law of the land, i.e. the constitution.
This means that should the constitutional draft be duly endorsed following the convening of the Referendum on 16 March 2013, these Acts of Parliament ought to be in sync with the new constitution as any other inconsistent provisions thereto become ipso facto unconstitutional.
Premised on this factual reality, it is clear that there is dire need to address pertinent provisions within the aforementioned pieces of legislation if there is to be harmony between the constitution and the Acts of Parliament.
Pertaining to the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, there is urgent need to revisit Section 31 which deals with the publication of false statements prejudicial to the state as well as Section 33 which deals with insulting the Office of the President including Section 96 on criminal defamation.
There is also imperative need to relook the Official Secrets Act in as far as the provisions of Sections 3, 4, & 8 on espionage, prohibition of communication of certain information and communication with foreign agents.
The danger with these provisions is that they place very little burden of proof on the state in determining the presence of intention in the commission of the offence, and they effectively stifle free flow of information.
AIPPA also contains a host of provisions in the realm of access to information and media regulation that inevitably require amendment. These include: sections 9-11 on access to information, Section 65 on the Minister’s unchecked discretionary registration powers where it pertains to foreign investment in the mass media, among a raft of other provisions.
These provisions need to be revisited as they are likely to run foul of the new constitution. This is on account of their direct impingement on the fundamental rights to access to information, freedom of assembly and association, freedom of expression and the media.
Suffice to say these pieces of legislation are too widely drawn to the point of indiscriminately criminalising free expression or conduct one might otherwise deem innocent in a democratic society.
The Constitutional Digest is a MISA-Zimbabwe initiative to stir debate on the contents of the draft constitution thereby assisting citizens to make informed decisions and choices in the Referendum slated for 16 March 2013.
For your comments and contributions please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org,www.misazim.co.zw, https://twitter.com/MisaZimbabwe orwww.facebook.com/MisaZimbabwe.
HARARE — As the referendum on Saturday approaches, many of you have asked us
to help you understand more about the voting itself, asking what documents
must you present to vote, where can you vote, what will the ballot look
like, and other questions. So VOA Studio 7 has prepared what we're calling
our voting guide to the constitutional referendum.
This guide makes no judgment about the draft, but simply describes the
voting procedure and other aspects of the referendum for all those who wish
to vote on Saturday.
This referendum guide will address 7 questions. The first is, simply, who
can vote in the March 16 referendum?
According to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), all Zimbabwean
citizens who are 18 years of age and older may vote in Saturday's
referendum, so long as you are also eligible to register to vote in national
elections later this year. However, you do not need to be registered to vote
in order to cast a ballot in the referendum.
The second question is what documents do you need to show at a polling place
in order to be allowed in to vote?
Acting ZEC chairperson Mrs. Joice Kazembe said during an observers meeting
at the International Conference Centre Wednesday that a national identity
card is the primary document that will allow you to vote.
If your identity card shows that you are not a Zimbabwean citizen but you
have been issued with a certificate of citizenship, Mrs. Kazembe advises you
to visit the office of the Registrar General to obtain an updated identity
card or a waiting pass that shows that you are now a citizen.
She says a citizenship certificate on its own will not be accepted.
Question 3 refers to where voters may cast their ballots. The answer to this
one is easy.
Kazembe says voters may cast their ballots anywhere in the country. You do
not have to vote in the ward in which you are registered to vote. And
again, there is no need to register in order to cast your vote in Saturday's
ZEC says it will use the same polling stations used in the 2008 harmonised
elections with some additional stations added. For a complete list, consult
a newspaper. If you don't have a newspaper, remember that polling places
are usually schools and government district offices.
Question 4 of our referendum guide asks whether disabled voters can get help
in the polling place. For example, blind voters may need assistance checking
the box they want. ZEC says almost 57,000 referendum officers have been
identified and trained to assist the disabled in polling stations
What time do the polling stations open and close? That's question 5.
Polling stations will be open from 7 a-m to 7 p-m on Saturday. ZEC says
those standing in queue at 7 p-m will be allowed to vote, but anyone coming
to the queue after 7 p-m will not.
Question 6 is about the basic format and language of the ballot. Political
parties and other groups in Zimbabwe have been campaigning for both yes and
no votes, but will the ballot make the choices clear? Yes.
According to specimens of the ballot, there will be two choices - yes and
no. If you are in favor of the new constitution and want it to become the
new foundational law of Zimbabwe, put an 'x' or a cross in the box next to
the word "yes." If you oppose the new constitution and do not want to see
it become the new foundational law of Zimbabwe, put an 'x' or a cross in the
box next to the word "no."
The ballot versions Studio 7 has seen are in English only.
The Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) would like to advise and
remind members of the public, civil society organizations, and political
party candidates of the importance of freedom of expression, media freedom
and access to information during elections and electoral periods. This more
importantly during the referendum to be held on Saturday 16 March as well as
for the electoral campaigning period that follows almost immediately
In pursuance of our mandate, the VMCZ further wishes to inform members of
the public, civil society and aspiring politicians that the media abides by
professional standards and ethics as captured in the Media Code of Conduct.
For the purposes of the electoral period, the media while guided by the
entirety of the Media Code of Conduct will also have its professionalism
measured by its adherence to Sections 10 and 11 of the same which are as
The VMCZ Media complaints committee will be on hand to hear and adjudicate
complaints in as timely and reasonable a manner as possible in the spirit
and with the intention of promoting media professionalism and public
accountability during the electoral period without preferring criminal
charges or arrests against journalists.
Section 10 of the Media Code of Conduct
Hatred or Violence
a) Media Practitioners and media institutions must not publish material
that is intended or is likely to engender hostility or hatred towards
persons on the grounds of their race, ethnic origin, nationality, gender,
sexual orientation, physical disability, religion or political affiliation.
b) Media Institutions must take utmost care to avoid contributing to the
spread of ethnic hatred or political violence.
Section 11 of the Media Code of Conduct
Reporting of Elections
a) Media practitioners and the media institutions must report on
elections in a fair and balanced manner.
b) Before reporting a damaging allegations made against a candidate or a
political party, a media practitioner should obtain, wherever possible, a
comment from the candidate or party against whom the allegation has been
made especially where the allegation has been made by an opposing candidate
or an opposing political party.
c) A media practitioner or media institution must not accept any gift,
reward or inducement from a politician or candidate.
d) As far as possible, a media practitioner or media institution should
report the views of candidates and political parties directly and in their
own words, rather than as they are described by others.
e) A journalist must take care in reporting the findings of the opinion
polls. Any report should wherever possible include details about the
methodology used in conducting the survey and by whom it is conducted.
Section 11 of the VMCZ code of conduct deals specifically with the election
period and has guidelines on how the media should report elections.
The VMCZ receives, mediates and adjudicates complaints by individuals and
organisations against the media.
The VMCZ Media Complaints Committee will during this period deal timeously
with media complaints that arise during that period.
*VMCZ endeavours to create an environment that promotes a professional and
ethical media that promotes professional and ethical media that contributes
towards a more democratic and just society.
For lodging complaints contact the Media Complaints Committee on details
Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe
38 Harvey Brown Ave, Milton Park, Harare
Tel: 263 4 708035 / 708417
24 hr Media Complaints Centre: 0772165738
Telefax: 263 4 708035
For further details please contact:
Programme Officer -Advocacy and Complaints
Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe
Harare - Zimbabweans will on Saturday vote on a new constitution designed to
underpin democratic reforms.
Here are a few of the key points of the text:
- Limits presidents to two five-year terms.
- Strips away presidential immunity from prosecution after leaving office.
- Bolsters the power of parliament, which will consist of 210 elected
members and an additional 60 women lawmakers to be picked initially through
a system of proportional representation.
- Partially abolishes death penalty for males aged below 21 and over 70 and
for all females.
- Sets up a peace and reconciliation commission to take care of
post-conflict justice and healing.
- Creates, for the first time, a Consitutional Court that would deal with
- Binds the police and the military to be impartial and forbids them from
meddling in electoral issues.
- Reins in presidential influence on the appointment of members of the
- Introduces devolution and decentralisation of power to enhance
participation in decision making by citizens at local levels and ensure
equitable sharing of national and local resources.
- Introduces a national prosecution authority that is de-linked from the
attorney general who now becomes government's chief legal advisor.
- Compels a president to consult parliament in the event of military
deployment to prevent undercover operations that may be linked to rights
- Introduces redress for victims of violence and intimidation to seek and
- Protects people against malicious arrests and prosecution.
- Compels courts to deal with electoral disputes within 14 days.
- Guarantees separation of powers between the executive, legislature and the
- Guarantees free, fair and regular elections; and for citizens to freely
make political choices.
- States that farmland seized from whites and handed to black farmers under
a controversial land reform cannot be legally contested.
- Recognises 16 languages spoken in the country, including sign language.
- Outlaws same sex marriages.
MAR 14, 2013 | SAPA-DPA
After four years of debate Zimbabwe finally has a draft constitution that
will be put to citizens Saturday in a referendum, culminating a process that
has gobbled up 50 million dollars.
The new constitution proposes modest reforms to basic rights but,
significantly, would not hinder President Robert Mugabe from running for
another term as head of the state he has governed for nearly 33 years, first
as premier and then as president.
All three major political parties in the country are backing the charter,
which is expected to easily pass. Some rights groups are pushing for a "no"
vote, but admit they lack the funds to launch a proper campaign.
"The draft constitution is no better than the current one," said Lovemore
Madhuku, the head of the National Constitutional Assembly, one of the groups
that opposes the text.
Foreign powers keen to see stability restored to the southern African nation
after a decade of turmoil are demanding the new constitution be in place
before highly-anticipated elections later this year for parliament and
The autocratic Mugabe, 89, who has been at the helm of the country since
independence in 1980, has urged his Zanu-PF party members to vote for the
new supreme law, as has his rival-turned-coalition partner, Prime Minister
"The draft constitution is a giant step forward," said Tsvangirai, who heads
the majority faction of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.
The organization of the vote has been haphazard. Many people admit to having
a sketchy knowledge of the text.
"I have not read the draft. It seems the political parties want us to vote
for it. I am not sure I will do that. I might not vote actually," Mark
Cassimo, a student at University of Zimbabwe, told dpa.
Others say they will simply follow the dictates of the major parties.
Election officials say they expect no more than 5 million people will
participate in the referendum, out of a population of about 12 million.
The new constitution offers more rights to women, but homosexuality will
remain illegal and the death penalty stays on the books.
The charter also limits a president to two terms, though that latter clause
will not apply retroactively, leaving Mugabe clear to seek reelection.
Africa's oldest ruler has repeatedly said he will run for president again
this year, despite growing concerns about his health and some frustration at
the length of time he has already spent in office.
The president himself admitted recently that he is "lonely" at the top, with
many of his friends from the struggle for independence dead already. He
dubbed some of his cabinet ministers "children" and said he had little in
common with them.
"You can't discuss with them things that happened in the 1930s or even (the)
1950s... You take my cabinet as it is, there is no one I can talk to about
how we used to approach girls or we would go to this and that place, riding
bicycles," Mugabe said.
The last general election in 2008 descended into violence, which largely
targeted supporters of the MDC, then squarely in the opposition. Some 200
people were killed in attacks that the MDC blamed on state security forces
and Zanu-PF supporters.
To restore calm regional powers pushed Mugabe and Tsvangirai into a shaky
coalition deal, which is set to run out at the elections.
But brute force remains a feature of Zimbabwean politics.
Last month, riot police broke up a peaceful Tsvangirai rally called to
explain and promote the draft constitution.
There is concern that the violence could intensify if the MDC campaigns
against Zanu-PF in a few months time.
There is also the question of who will pay for the election.
Zimbabwe has admitted it does not have the cash to hold proper polls and is
asking the donors for a dig out.
The international community, led by the United Nations, paid for the
drafting of the new constitution. But there has been little movement so far
on funding for the election.
March 14 2013 at 08:27am
By PETA THORNYCROFT
Zimbabwean voters are struggling to muster sufficient enthusiasm to vote in
Saturday’s referendum on a new constitution, not least because it is already
a done deal.
Zanu-PF and the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) parties agreed on
the new constitution in January.
Both MDCs, Zanu-PF and the media have been endorsing and explaining the
MDC held several rallies promoting a yes vote in the referendum and Zanu-PF
and its leader, Robert Mugabe, 89, have promoted it.
In 2000, the draft constitution drawn up by Mugabe’s appointed “commission”
was rejected by 53 percent of votes cast in a turnout of about 23 percent of
those eligible to vote. It was Zanu-PF’s first loss at the polls. Weeks
later, Mugabe launched invasions on to white-owned farms.
Then, as now, adults could vote, using an identity document, to endorse or
reject the draft constitution which replaces the one drawn up in London
ahead of the first democratic elections in 1980.
There was some optimism this week when people learned that the SADC observer
mission, headed by Tanzania, was in Harare and was being deployed around the
Lieutenant-Colonel Michael Ntuli from the SANDF, group leader for the South
Africans in the SADC observer mission, said he was “very pleased” to be in
“So far it seems okay. We knew last year that we would be coming here
sometime and we will be back for the elections in a few months.”
The South Africans said they understood that elections could be held in July
or September. There were about 15 South Africans in this group at one hotel
in Harare and 14 Tanzanians at another hotel.
“This is my first time in Harare and the first time I have been an observer
outside of elections in Tanzania,” said state legal officer, Zakia Stephano.
Many civil rights groups are shocked that the state’s election commission
decided last week it would not accredit observers from any non-governmental
organisation facing any criminal charges.
At least three main groups, including the Zimbabwe Election Support Network,
have so far been affected after police raids on their offices this year.
Many others fear they will also be charged because even after four years of
a power-sharing agreement, there is evidence that the police remain partisan
In a clear anti-Western message, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission decided
to restrict each non-African diplomatic mission to just five election
observers for the referendum, and presumably also for the elections.
Zanu-PF cabinet ministers have said the West cannot send observers into the
country while EU and the US maintain sanctions against Zanu-PF leaders,
including Mugabe, and some institutions.
The electoral commission still has most of the same staff it had when it
withheld results for five weeks of MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai’s victory
over Mugabe in the first round of the presidential poll in 2008.
It was during this delay that Zanu-PF launched a violent campaign against
MDC supporters which forced Tsvangirai to withdraw from the run-off. Now
prime minister in the inclusive government, Tsvangirai appears confident he
can easily beat Mugabe in the presidential elections.
Zimbabwe is broke and has not managed to borrow money for the referendum,
but is financing this poll itself. It has released about R240 million to
print ballot papers, buy voting ink and train polling officers. A further
R340m would be raised through treasury bills.
Many reforms which Mugabe and Zanu-PF signed up to remain outstanding. One
of the most important being the failure to correct the bias of the Zimbabwe
Broadcasting Corporation’s (ZBC) TV news and current affairs programmes. ZBC
still belches out news distortions daily and actively supports Mugabe and
The MDC has been unable, or perhaps not willing enough, to persuade donors
to stop funding two radio stations beaming into Zimbabwe from Washington and
London, and nor has it persuaded the West to drop sanctions.
While Mugabe has called for peaceful elections, not everyone believes him.
Or if they do, some remain concerned that power is firmly held by the
generals, most of whom have become rich in the past decade and do not want
to give up power to the MDC. – Independent Foreign Service
By Fungai Kwaramba, Staff Writer
Thursday, 14 March 2013 10:40
HARARE - No cell phones will be allowed into voting booths for this Saturday’s
referendum and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has warned
journalists and observers to exercise restraint.
Speaking to journalists and observers yesterday, Zec deputy chairperson
Joyce Kazembe said the organisation has received reports that some people
are under pressure to take pictures of their ballots using cell phones to
show others as proof.
Zec is charged with conducting electoral processes in the country.
As a consequence and also to preserve order within polling stations, Zec
says it is imperative for people who would have entered the polling booths
to switch off their mobile phones.
“Persons and organisations that will come to observe the process should not
come up with preconceived judgments. People are not allowed to use cameras
and cell phones in the polling stations while journalists, with the
permission of the returning officer, may take pictures,” said Kazembe.
He said the organisation, which is staffed with former State intelligence
operatives, is snooping on journalists.
“To members of the press we are observing you and we are also monitoring
your activities,” she said.
Since 2009 Zimbabwe has been crafting a new constitution driven by coalition
government partners and the draft will be subject to a referendum on
The draft is widely expected to receive huge support as all major parties
are agreed on a “yes vote”.
Although little can be learnt from the referendum since there will be no
real political contest, analysts regard Zimbabwe’s second referendum since
1980 as a test for Zec’s preparedness to hold free and fair elections to be
held most likely in June or July.
Posted On : March 14th, 2013 | Updated On : March 14th, 2013
By Sondon S. Mugaradziko
With three days away for Zimbabwe to have her second constitutional
referendum since independence in 1980, so much is in the air.
The first referendum was about the in January 2000 and was led by Judge
Chidyausiku. That one was vehemently rejected by the people of Zimbabwe
because citizens were opposed to its contents as they also protesting
against the ZANU PF government which was then advocating for a YES vote.
That was a time when the newly incepted Movement for Democratic Change,
testing the waters, vehemently and fervidly campaigned and succeeded with a
NO vote. That draft constitution never saw the light of day.
As we go into this 16 March 2013 constitutional referendum, ZANU PF and its
partners in the government of national unity and former opposition, the MDC
and the MDC-T, are all for a YES vote. The generality of Zimbabweans are
singing from the same hymn book on a YES vote. Besides some pockets of a
very insignificant few people and organizations like the National
Constitutional Assembly (NCA), the majority of Zimbabweans believe the draft
constitution is better than the current Lancaster House constitution and
view it as breakthrough for the good of Zimbabwe. The trafficators and
indicators are therefore flashing a green light for the COPAC draft. To that
end, the draft constitution is predicted to get an overwhelming YES majority
vote. That said, the question is: Does a New Constitution Guarantee A Free
And Fair Election In Zimbabwe?
The Global Political Agreement (GPA) signed by the three political parties
in government stipulates that there shall be a roadmap to be followed
to reach the epitome and quintessence of a free and fair election. A new
people-driven constitution is but just one of the flagpoles to the holding
of a free and fair election. According to the GPA, some of the maps to
achieve this goal include media reforms, political reforms i.e. free
political activity, security sector realignment, rule of law,
de-politicization of state institutions, de-politicization of traditional
leadership, absence of politicization of food handouts, freedom of assembly
and association, legislative reforms; (Public Order and Security Act,
Broadcasting Act of Zimbabwe, Access to Information and Protection of
Privacy Act, Economic Empowerment Act, the Electoral Act ) just but to
mention a few Acts of Parliament that needed reform, economic reforms where
unemployment is an issue, the issue of sanctions, the issue of pirate radio
stations, among other host of agreed ingredients that would see Zimbabwe
holding a free and fair election.
As I write, four members of the MDC remain in police custody. The crime they
committed; holding a house meeting without police clearance. Several Non
Governmental Organizations have been raided, some under the cover of
darkness, accused of promoting the regime change agenda, as if regime change
is a crime. Today, being found in possession of and listening to a
solar-powered short wave radio in Zimbabwe is now a crime; by arbitrary
The much-awaited repeal and/or complete overhaul of the oppressive and
suppressive laws like AIPPA and POSA has not been implemented despite
concerted efforts by some Members of Parliament to have that happen. There
has been selective application of the Law. Interestingly, since POSA was
enacted, not a single ZANU PF person has been arrested under the provisions
of this Act. Only members of the former
opposition parties “contravene” the Act. Of all those who were arrested
under the provisions of the Act, none was ever convicted. All were found not
guilty and discharged. This includes the author of this article. All the
police do is to over-detain you in their horribly stinking holding cells,
harass citizens and discourage them from expressing free choices. This is
violence against human rights in the true sense.
The proposed amendments to the Electoral Act are not good enough to help
guarantee a free and fair election. The Bill seeks to introduce the polling
station-based voters’ roll among other things. While it may have its
advantage of eliminating double-voting, it instills fear in the electorate,
particularly rural voters. The issues of the diaspora and postal votes have
not been adequately addressed by the Bill.
Several gatherings, including religious ones, have been reportedly disrupted
by the police despite having been notified in accordance with the governing
laws. On 21 September 2012, the army, in full military combat assaulted
villagers at Mutoko business centre; because they had earlier attended an
MDC rally which was addressed by Professor Welshman Ncube. No arrests have
been made to this date.
The ZBC TV is playing the ZANU PF propaganda jingles every hour of the day
churning out hate messages. There has actually been
retrogression in the state media. Its perceived transformation into a proper
non partisan public media has not happened. ZBC and the Herald in particular
are still being used as instruments of propaganda – churning out falsehoods
and partisan information and used by ZANU PF against their colleagues in the
In the rural areas, the ticket to receiving food handouts and agricultural
inputs is whether or not you have a ZANU PF party card.
The POSA is still deliberately misinterpreted to suit the whims and fancy of
the ZANU PF agenda. Recently a journalist who had gone to a police station
to report death threats by a member of ZANU PF, found himself spending a
weekend in police cells; a case of hero turning villain. Soldiers and police
officers are seen addressing traditional chiefs, dosing and marinating them
with ZANU PF propaganda.
The voters’ roll has not yet been attended to. There is need for a credible
and neutral secretariat of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).
Apparently ZEC is allegedly staffed with former Central Intelligence
Organization officers. Registration of new voters is taking forever. Young
voters are asked such questions as “You are too young, why do you want to
vote”. And conveniently, voter registration has remained a manual exercise
despite technology that could cause citizens to register electronically
Partisan policing and a biased justice system are our daily bread to the
extent that rogue elements can beat up elected MPs in the Parliament
chambers and escape unpunished and ‘unnoticed’. An innocent 12 year old
Christpower Maisiri has lost his life in unexplained and inexplicable
circumstances. Whoever committed that arson is still roaming the streets a
free man. Those responsible have even uttered vitriol to add salt to
bleeding wounds. Police have had their hands tied as they seek to align with
Zanu PF politics. The systemic and systematic institutionalized violence and
torture remain rooted in the culture of our security agents.
As we trudge from the discredited non-event of June 2008 towards yet another
election, the onus falls on all of us, SADC, Africa and the broader
international community to stand by the people of Zimbabwe to ensure that
their security, their freedoms and that their vote is protected. Foolproof
mechanisms to ensure security of the voter and that of the vote are of
paramount importance for it is these two that guarantee a free and fair
The culture of violence, as condoned by police, is so rooted in ZANU PF that
it significantly affects the election. Political parties in Zimbabwe must
learn to accept that political differences are not an excuse for violence.
For us to say we are going to have a free and fair election because we have
a new constitution is a fallacy. After trying to introduce 266 amendments to
the draft constitution of 18 July 2012 and failed, the people of Zimbabwe
must not expect this election to be like a stroll in the park.
If the new constitution is to guarantee a free and fair election, there must
be a political will by all the players. Without political baptism of the
constitution, baptism by an observable change of our political behaviours,
the whole exercise is futile. And political will is shown by how the parties
to the GPA respect and obey their signatures in that document. The agreed
items must be fully implemented. This piecemeal approach is not good for
Zimbabwe and does not guarantee a free and fair plebiscite as long as some
leaders remain disingenuous and sarcastic to the true cause of freedom and
Sondon Stalin Mugaradziko is the Secretary of International Relations in the
MDC led by President Ncube. He will run for MP post in Mutare Central
Constituency this 2013.