Civil society calls for regional solidarity ahead of elections

Source: Civil society calls for regional solidarity ahead of elections – DailyNews Live


HARARE – Civil society organisations have called for regional solidarity
from southern African partners in ensuring that the 2018 elections in
Zimbabwe meet the Sadc standards for free and fair elections.

During a session on human rights and elections at the Sadc People’s Summit
on August 17, in Johannesburg, South Africa (SA), Zimbabwe Human Rights
Association (ZimRights), Election Resource Centre (ERC), Heal Zimbabwe
Trust, Crisis Coalition and Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn)
supported by Swaziland and Lesotho activists called for protection of
democracy and human rights in the region.

SA organisations that have been supporting the agenda of democratisation
in Zimbabwe such as the Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum and Action Support
Centre have also supported the call for the full implementation of the
revised Sadc principles and guidelines governing democratic elections
adopted in 2015.

ZimRights chairperson Passmore Nyakureba urged civil society organisations
in the region to stand up to their leaders to press the Zimbabwean
government for reforms.

“Sadc has no intention of making its members abide by the organ’s
principles and guidelines. West Africa and East Africa have progressed,
but Sadc has regressed on this issue.

“Zimbabwe is on the verge of another undemocratic election and youth
militia have been called back on the government payroll.

“We call upon civil society organisations in various countries to tell
your presidents to stand up to protect what they agreed on with regards to
the standards of elections.

“Elections in Zimbabwe have always been run on the basis of fear and
violence,” Nyakureba said.

ERC Director Tawanda Chimhini said the southern Africa region had problems
in complying with the Sadc principles guiding democratic elections.

“In 2015, the Sadc Principles and Guidelines were revised. There is an
agreement among member countries that countries must ensure full
participation of citizens in electoral processes.

“When it comes to compliance we have a crisis not only in Zimbabwe, but
the whole of Sadc. The principles themselves are adequate, but the
application is inadequate.

“When the 2013 elections ended in Zimbabwe, the first amendment of laws
that came from the authorities was to ensure that the outcome of the next
election is predetermined,” said Chimhinhi.

Zesn programmes coordinator Ellen Dingane said the government of Zimbabwe
needed to implement the Constitution and to enforce laws against political

“We are talking about zero tolerance to political violence. We have the
example of Phillip Machipisa, a Zesn member who was killed for observing
elections in 2008.

“We also want to know who will keep the server of the voters’ roll,
whether we have back up servers and there must be timeous availing of the
voters’ roll,” said Dingane.

Cleto Manjova of Heal Zimbabwe Trust called for an early warning mechanism
to preserve peace in the run up to the elections.

“In the event of a violent election in Zimbabwe in 2018, there is need for
the region to respond. So there is need for an early warning system in

`Section 3 (3) (1) of the Sadc principles shows that Heads of States
agreed that elections should be violence free, but the problem is
adherence to the provisions.

“The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) is a vehicle to
ensure that there is no recurrence of violence, but we have commissioners
appointed but they are not doing anything,” said Manjova.

Crisis Coalition board member Anglistone Sibanda said there were
indications that the ruling Zanu PF party is preparing to intimidate
people ahead of the elections, adding that perpetrators of past violence
still enjoyed impunity.

“The challenge is that people in power have committed genocide and know
that if they are not in power they will be susceptible to prosecution.
There is violence but nothing is being done because the perpetrators are
in power.

“We are seeing soldiers being deployed under the guise of command

“We need to pile up pressure for compliance with the Sadc Guidelines,”
said Sibanda.

Director of the National Youth Development Trust Liberty Bhebhe said
political leaders in Zimbabwe could not be trusted “to count the votes
properly” in apparent reference to repeated allegations of rigging of
national elections.

“As Zimbabweans we come before you hanging our heads in shame because of
what our first lady did here,” added Bhebhe, referring to President Robert
Mugabe’s wife, Grace’s alleged assault and injuring of a young model for
befriending her sons at a Sandton Hotel in South Africa, which has sparked
a diplomatic crisis.

Actors from Savanna Trust of Zimbabwe performed their National Arts Merit
Awards (Nama) award-winning human rights play, Liberation at the opening
night’s event.

The play lays bare the rampant police brutality, patronage, corruption,
social inequality, challenges of democratisation and mistreatment of human
rights activists by the Zimbabwean authorities.