Zimbabwean Civil Society Statement- Eliminate all forms of Electoral Corruption ahead of the forthcoming 2023 Zimbabwean Harmonized Elections
We, the undersigned members of the Zimbabwe Civil Society Anti-Corruption Coalition, and other concerned Civil Society Organisations do hereby raise grave concerns against acts of Electoral Corruption taking place and widespread in Zimbabwe. Our understanding of electoral corruption is that it is the manipulation, abuse or illegal interference with a conducive electoral environment, legal and policy frameworks, management modalities, voters, processes, the voting, outcomes and other related activities around the electoral cycle by state and non-state actors to give advantages to one political player over others. We are concerned that Electoral Corruption is rampant, appears as if it is normal and that it has flourished with impunity.
We are gravely concerned that acts of Electoral Corruption have deleterious effects on development since it leads to conflicts and controversial electoral outcomes. Apart from destroying economies and societies, it subverts and undermines the principle of free choice thereby rendering an election open to contestation. In addition, electoral corruption jeopardises the freeness and fairness of elections, triggers physical fights, killings, and human rights abuses as witnessed in Kenya and Zimbabwe. It is also important to note that it leads to apathy triggered by the understanding that participating in elections that are often rigged is useless since that will not bring out changes expected by a voter.
We acknowledge, findings of a research commissioned by the Zimbabwe Civil Society Anti-Corruption Coalition which documented shining examples of Electoral Corruption in Zimbabwe that include, but not limited to:
Rampant examples of the manipulation of voters (the electorate) through vote buying and violence,
Alleged manipulation of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), which is also perceived as lacking operational independence from the Executive and political parties,
The abuse of government programmes/projects to appear as if they belong to political parties,
The abuse of state resources and institutions, including civil servants, by political parties and individuals for political gain,
The manipulation of electoral laws and policies for political gain,
The alleged manipulation of the voters’ roll, the Electoral Court, broadcasting services, and the Political Finances Act.
More to the point, we are gravely concerned with the following:
We perceived the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) as lacking its operational independence from the executive and the ruling political party in Zimbabwe. This argument is supported by the composition of the ZEC Board that comprises some individuals who are politically exposed and related to known senior politicians which casts doubt on their impartiality when all those close to them compete in elections that ZEC manages. In its current form or state, ZEC might not preside over free, fair and credible 2023 harmonised elections.
We are also concerned that ZEC and Zimbabwean policy-makers have repeatedly refused and/or neglected to implement and/or make electoral reforms proposed by civil society and opposition political parties in the country. Shining examples include refusal to make the voters’ roll affordable. As a result of the lack of public trust, we hereby submit that ZEC is furthermore ill-equipped to conduct free, fair and credible elections in 2023.
In Zimbabwe, we have witnessed serious abuses of government programmes/projects, state resources and state institutions by political parties, especially the ruling political party. Examples of these programmes include the PresidentialWell-Wishers Special Agricultural Inputs Scheme. Some of the cases of vote buying and other forms of electoral corruption in this area are in the public domain since they have been broadcasted live on television, yet against this background, the police and other law enforcement agents give a blind eye.
It is our submission in the spirit of transparency that the voters roll, which is currently secretive, allegedly shambolic and pregnant with a plethora of shortcomings such as ghost voters, should be made publicly accessible and given free of charge. ZEC is not a profit-making entity and should therefore not charge anything in exchange with the voters’ roll since taxpayers’ money is involved. We perceive the behavior of ZEC as part of its cocktail strategies to deny Zimbabweans and other stakeholders’ access to the voters’ roll to achieve its sinister motives that also includes Electoral Corruption.
We have noted that the abuse of the civil service for political gain is rampant. A classic example is the Teachers for ED campaign launched on the 21stof October 2022, which regardless of being against Section 200 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe has continued with impunity. The same teachers who are part of the political campaign are used by ZEC as Election Presiding Officers, Polling Officers, Civic Educators, Delimitation Commission Officers and many other roles. The participation of teachers in these different capacities casts doubt on their independence which undoubtedly affects the credibility of Zimbabwean elections. This is not the first time it has happened since we previously noted the abuse of civil servants to organize ZANU PF Youth Interface rallies in 2017.
The impending PVO Act is another manifestation of an activity that appears legal yet the intention is to fight civil society organisations. By restricting them, these CSOs will undoubtedly fail to carry out civic education and also fail to alert the electorate against a plethora of strategies employed to manipulate them.
Whilst the Zimbabwe Civil Society Anti-Corruption Coalition research report gives more information on the findings , we hereby demand ‘zero tolerance’ against acts of Electoral Corruption in Zimbabwe.
In keeping with the above concerns, were hereby give the following recommendations:
(a) General Recommendations
Overhaul ZEC to ensure its operational independence. This should be done by ensuring that the composition of its Board and Staff is constituted by individuals who are independent of any political establishment in the country. The interview process should be credible especially regarding the appointments to the Board to avoid appointees who are politically exposed.
Legislative measures, including effective and dissuasive sanctions, should be introduced to mitigate abuse of state resources and misuse of the advantage of incumbency, such as use of government vehicles, property and funds and the involvement of public officials in political activities, in order to guarantee the free expression of the will of electors and help create a more level playing field.
Effective mechanisms should be introduced for monitoring and sanctioning of partisan behaviour by traditional leaders and civil servants, to help ensure the impartiality of state structures in the election.
The electronic voters’ roll must be freely and readily available to all interested parties. The roll should not be sold since selling it limits its access to the public.
The ZEC server must be independently established and managed by ZEC.
The government should ensure that the Electoral Court is constituted by judges drawn from individual judges from other countries in the world, especially drawn from the SADC Member States.
Citizens must have free access to the voters’ roll to prevent ghost voters.
A complete mindset change on the part of those in power is needed to observe, adhere to, respect and uphold the constitution, constitutionalism and rule of law.
All individuals and entities implicated in electoral corruption should be punished and banished from participating in elections.
The army, police and other coercive resources should distance themselves from politics.
Considering the lack of trust in ZEC, the Zimbabwean elections should be managed by regional and international organisations that include SADC and the United Nations or alternatively set up a genuinely independent ZEC before the 2023 harmonised plebiscite.
Efforts should be made to sensetise the electorate and political parties against electoral corruption;
Eliminate bureaucracy in the electoral processes.
ZBC needs to be reformed into a truly independent public service broadcaster and state-owned media must abide by their legal obligation to be impartial and provide equitable treatment to all political parties and candidates.
(b) Recommendations to Political Parties
Political parties should develop internal anti-corruption policies that also forbids acts of electoral corruption.
There needs to be more frequent Multi Party Liaison Committees (MPLC) meetings throughout the entire electoral process, so that it is an effective conflict resolution tool for political parties and provides an effective forum for reporting on non-compliance with the Code and for exchanges of views and information with ZEC.
(c) Recommendations to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission
Blacklist politicians implicated in electoral corruption.
The Electoral Act should be aligned with the 2013 Constitution, in particular those provisions related to the constitutional right to vote (including postal voting for homebound voters, in the diaspora and those in hospitals and penitential institutions), reinforcement of the independence of ZEC in relation to responsibility for its own regulations, voter registration, and accreditation of observers, as well as the required approval of regulations.
Constituency delimitation must be carried out in good time prior to the next elections to ensure equal suffrage in accordance with the Constitution. An Act of Parliament could be adopted developing and elaborating the legal framework for boundary delimitation, to also include provisions for consultations with political parties and civil society and a complaints and appeals mechanism before the parliamentary approval process.
In order to ensure universal and equal suffrage as well as the right to vote, there is a need to review procedures for the identification of voter addresses (lessening the over-use of pre-commissioned affidavits), to ensure the correct allocation of polling station / ward / constituency for each voter, and to ensure a consistent format for the capturing and registering of voter addresses.
The results management process must be coherent and better explained to all stakeholders in order to enhance the transparency, verifiability and integrity of the election. This could include publishing the original V11 and V23a/b returns.
Establish reasonable and appropriate time limits in the legal framework for the proceedings, hearing and determination of pre-election applications filed at the High and the Electoral Courts, in order for matters to be completed and court decisions rendered well in advance of Election Day.
(d) Recommendations to Law Enforcement Agents
All individuals and entities implicated in electoral corruption should be investigated, arrested, taken to court and blacklisted from participating in elections.
Amend the Public Order and Security Act to guarantee that if it is invoked it must be ensured that legitimate political freedoms are not denied and that powers afforded to security forces are limited to reasonable and proportionate measures respecting human rights. Further, the excessive use of force must not be tolerated.
e) Recommendations to Civil Society Organisations
Desist and expose Electoral Corruption by providing documentary evidence.
Advocate for the introduction of provisions allowing citizens and civil society organisations to file petitions against the results under reasonable conditions.
We, hereby sign below also mandating feedback on our concerns to be forwarded to the Coordinator of the Zimbabwe Civil Society Anti-Corruption Coalition through email firstname.lastname@example.org
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