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Zanu-PF bullying rejected

by Staff reporter
02 Oct 2023 at 09:09hrs | Views
While the government in Harare has been diligently working to address the chaos surrounding the general elections, the Sadc region remains steadfast in its scrutiny of Zimbabwe's problematic polls, which were marred by numerous significant irregularities, according to information obtained by The NewsHawks.

The bloc has firmly stood against harsh attacks on its election observer mission, which, in an unprecedented move, produced a damning report on the disputed Zimbabwean elections.

This report has prompted Zimbabwean leaders to launch a fierce criticism campaign against Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema for appointing the country's former vice-president, Nevers Mumba, as the head of the mission that produced the report highlighting flaws in the contested election.

In a recent extraordinary meeting of the Sadc organ troika ministerial committee, the regional group staunchly defended its election observer mission and its report. They asserted that the election held on August 23 did not meet the criteria outlined in Zimbabwe's constitution, the Electoral Act, and the Sadc Principles and Guidelines governing Democratic Elections.

The ministers strongly criticized the behavior of Zanu-PF and Zimbabwean government officials, stating that it had severely damaged Sadc's reputation and credibility and distorted the electoral observation processes within the region.

Effectively, Sadc advised the Harare authorities to cease their disruptive actions, as they risked discrediting the regional organization and its future election observer missions in other countries scheduled for elections, such as Eswatini, Madagascar, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, and the Comoros Islands.

"The EO-MCO Troika noted the personal attacks and threats on the media that have been directed at the SEOM Head of Mission Dr. Nevers Mumba and the Chairperson of the Organ, His Excellency Mr. Hakainde Hichilema since the Zimbabwe SEOM released its Preliminary Statement on 25th August 2023," read the report by Stanley. K. Kakubo, Zambian Foreign Minister and Chairperson of the Ministerial Committee of the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence, and Security Cooperation.

"The EO-MCO Troika further noted that such attacks undermine the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections and might have a negative bearing in the future elections, especially with another election coming on the 29th of September in the Kingdom of Eswatini; and reiterated that SEOMs are in line with the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, and that reports are produced by a collective of the Member States' observers, led by the Organ Troika and supported by the Secretariat.

"The EO-MCO Troika noted that there is a risk that if unchecked, further attacks on the leadership of the Organ and of the SEOM have the potential to damage the credibility of SADC as an institution."

According to Sadc's electoral calendar, Eswatini began its elections on Friday, while Madagascar is holding the first round of its presidential election in November and the second round in December this year. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is also set to hold its presidential, legislative, and provincial elections in December this year.

Sadc guidelines were violated by Zimbabwe's flawed election, which contradicted the Sadc guidelines promoting regular, free, and fair, transparent, credible, and peaceful democratic elections, leading to disputes.

As a member of the bloc, Zimbabwe is obligated to adhere to regional instruments that outline a clear delimitation process. According to these guidelines, a SEOM (Sadc Election Observer Mission) must assess various aspects, including the electoral system, the Electoral Management Board, the Electoral Act, and regulations, as well as civil and political rights during the pre-election period. During the electoral period, SEOM must evaluate polling station locations, the production and distribution of ballot papers, voting and vote-counting processes, and safeguards against inaccuracies. In the post-electoral period, SEOM should also assess the development of changes to electoral-related laws, rules, regulations, and administrative procedures following elections and whether effective remedies for violations of electoral-related rights are available.

The regional mission also highlighted several concerns regarding the delimitation process, which raised doubts about the credibility of the election itself. The SEOM preliminary report stated that the delimitation exercise carried out by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) in 2022 was marred by controversy. Stakeholders claimed that the report submitted by ZEC failed to meet constitutional requirements and alleged that it constituted gerrymandering. The report also noted divisions among ZEC commissioners regarding the accuracy of the report.

The final report, gazetted by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in February, retained a population threshold for wards and constituencies exceeding 20%, a violation of the constitution. It also failed to declare ward and constituency boundaries, contrary to the constitution.

Concerns were raised by stakeholders, particularly the main opposition Citizens' Coalition for Change (CCC), about the delayed release of the voters' roll in a searchable and analyzable format. The CCC went into the election without an analyzable copy of the voters' roll, as ZEC had released it in PDF format, violating the Electoral Act. It was suspected that ZEC was manipulating the voter register in favor of Zanu-PF.

The campaign period was marked by a significant bias toward the ruling Zanu-PF, with other opposition parties facing bans on their campaign rallies. The SEOM reported controversy surrounding the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act (MOPA), which outlined the process for notifying the Zimbabwe Republic Police about the intention to hold rallies.

Logistical challenges plagued the voting process, causing voting to start as late as 4 pm in some wards and constituencies known for opposition support, contrary to the Electoral Act's stipulation that voting should begin at 7 am.

In August, ZEC faced controversy for changing the deadline for postal votes through Statutory Instrument 140A of 2023, citing delays caused by electoral court challenges. This change piled pressure on ZEC to print and distribute postal ballots to over 17,000 registered voters who qualified for postal voting.

Source - newshawks
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