Statement on the summary of the SADC election observer mission (SEOM) report to the Zimbabwe 31 July harmonised elections
The MDC has noted the summary of the SADC Election Observer Mission report that was presented in Harare on Monday 2 September 2013. The MDC notes with grave concern that the report is not comprehensive, is inaccurate and dismally fails to address fundamental issues that are critical in determining the freeness, fairness and credibility of the elections. Thus the MDC makes the following conclusions;
1. The recently released summary of the report is not a SADC report but one emanating from the Tanzanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Bernard Membe, which the full Sadc Observer Mission has not endorsed. We have inquired with a number of SADC countries and the SADC Secretariat who have professed ignorance to the existence of this report. Further, Mr. Membe makes reference to a full report of SADC which he was summarizing from. However, this full report is still to be produced.
2. SADC met on the 15th of June 2013 in Maputo and agreed that the conditions prevailing in Zimbabwe were not conducive for the conduct of a free, fair and credible election. To this extent, SADC advised the Zimbabwe government to seek an extension on the date of the election to allow reforms to be implemented. However, the extension was not granted and Zimbabwe proceeded to conduct an election under the same skewed conditions. It is sad how this report can now conclude that an election held in an environment that needed reforms can be said to be free, peaceful and credible.
3. A report of any SADC Election Observer Mission is supposed to make reference to the SADC Guidelines Governing the Conduct of Democratic Elections, which are supposed to act as the basis for judging the freeness, fairness and credibility of the election. Regrettably the SADC Election Observer Mission report is silent on the Guidelines governing the conduct of democratic election. Its conclusion therefore that the Zimbabwe election satisfied SADC guidelines defies simple logic.
4. The report is self contradictory, inconsistent and incoherent. It raises issues that render the 31 July 2013 election unfair and not credible and at the same time concludes and “elevate” the election to a credible one. For example, the report states “… the provision of Voters roll in time goes to the very heart of fairness in the election process. If the voters roll is not made available on time, the fairness of the election is brought into question…”
Having made this point the Observer Mission also notes that the voters roll was not made available on time and yet still makes the conclusion that the election was free, peaceful and credible. We have made it clear that the failure by ZEC to provide us with a copy of the roll as required by the law was a well-calculated ploy to mask several irregularities that were deliberately orchestrated by the Registrar General, Nikuv and the military intelligence. For SADC to conclude that an election in which other parties had no access to the voters roll is baffling.
5. The report makes aconclusion that the election was free. It states “despite the shortcomings that have been annotated in the grand report, we said and we want to reiterate that elections that took place on 31st July, 2013 were free. Free in the sense that our Observers noted that candidates were free to campaign, free to associate, free to express their views and the voters were free to cast their vote.”
This is erroneous.
While there were some cases of genuine illiteracy, the report fails to acknowledge the unprecedented number of assisted voters who were clearly intimidated into faking illiteracy so they could be assisted. In the July 31 Election, even according to ZEC’s suspicious and conservative figures,over 200 000 people, including teachers, headmasters and nurses, were assisted to vote because they were known to be MDC supporters.
6. The report is also conspicuously silent on the record number of voters that were turned away on polling day. Over 300 000 potential voters, according to ZEC, were deliberately disenfranchised due to deliberate tampering with the roll which resulted in either voters names not appearing at all on the voters roll or names having been transferred to different wards, constituencies or provinces. This was a serious violation of the people’s right to vote and the SADC Election Observer Mission Report is does not mention this.
7. Another disturbing fact is that the report makes a comparison between the standards, events and environment of the July 31 election with that of June 27, 2008 and the inference that one can draw is that SADC’s conclusion that the election was free, fair and generally credible is because conditions in 2013 were significantly better than those in 2008.
This is a very dangerous precedent being set in terms of measuring the quality of elections not only in Zimbabwe but also in the SADC region. One cannot say because there was absence of violence as compared to 2008 therefore the election was peaceful. The July 31 election was marred by sporadic cases of physical violence and pervasive psychological violence. Under ZANU (PF)’s “Harvest of Fear” strategy traditional leaders and members of the uniformed forces were at the epicenter of instilling fear particularly in rural areas. Villagers were threatened with violence synonymous with June 2008 run-off farce.
8. The report fails to acknowledge the plethora of irregularities in the special vote process and its implications on the outcome of the July 31 election. It is fact that no one knows how many people voted during the “three” days of special voting. The report also fails to capture rigging that took place on July 31 whereupon thousands of people were bussed into constituencies such as Mount Pleasant, Harare East, Mbare and Epworth. Its credibility is therefore questionable.
9. While the report runs away from the word fair in its description of the election, it makes an unequivocal position that its was unfair and ignores the fundamental fact that it is more than four weeks after the election and the full results of the same have not been made public.
We do not have figures for the actual number of people who participated in this election, we do not have figures of spoilt papers, we do not have figures of people that voted using voter registration slips. It fails to acknowledge the two court applications that were lodged by the MDC President, Morgan Tsvangirai in which he sought to compel ZEC to avail the materials used during the 31st of July and to have the results of the presidential election nullified due to numerous irregularities that he cited.
10. Further, instead of dwelling on factors that affected the quality of the election, the report delves into non-election matters including that of sanctions. The fact is that while this is a matter between ZANU (PF) and those countries that imposed restrictions on certain individuals, the MDC was part of a tripartite lobby team that engaged Western governments on the matter.
11. On the media, the report makes a wrongful conclusion that the polarity of the media was balanced by the existence of what it termed ‘pirate radio stations’. If fails to acknowledge that the existence of these radio stations is indicative of an environment in which media space is closed.
Moreover, the report fails to distinguish between the public media, which has a statutory obligation to report factually and impartially, and other media. The public media was blatantly biased before, during and after the July 31 election and SADC’s conclusion that there was balance is misplaced. It should be placed on record that the public media, particularly the ZBC, did not air advertisements that we paid for and which the state broadcaster itself had approved. No reason has been given.
12. The report concludes that the election was “generally credible”. With all due respect, the people of Zimbabwe need a free, fair and credible election that allows them to move forward not an election that is “generally” credible. An election is ‘generally’ credible is new lexicon in the field of election monitoring.
13. The report sets a very petrifying precedent for Sadc if this is the quality of observation that is satisfactory for the region. SADC has clearly stipulated principles that govern democratic elections. The fundamental question is why would an election that deviates from these principles be declared free and credible. What is the point of having guidelines when they are not adhered to?
14. As you may be aware, there will be three run-off elections for councilors in wards of Kadoma Central, Kusile RDC and Mutasa RDC on 9 September 2013. Regrettably the same irregularities that plagued that July 312 Election are still with us today. We have requested, from the RG’s office, soft copies of the voters roll for these wards butthe authorities are adamant that they will not avail these voters’ rolls to us. Thus the freeness, fairness and credibility of these elections is already in doubt.
We call upon progressive members of SADC to do the right thing and come out in the open in condemning the electoral farce that we saw in Zimbabwe on July 31. We know that this report has not been universally endorsed by all SADC member states and that there were dissenting voices even in the Observer Mission itself.
While we are dismayed by the conclusions that the SADC Election Observer Mission Report on the July 31 Election in Zimbabwe, we are encouraged by the fact that the resolve of Zimbabwean citizens to deliver change remains unshaken and as a party we will continue to fight for a better Zimbabwe in which citizens rights, including that of electing leaders of their choice, are accorded due respect.