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Zimbabwe urged to speed up reform process

by Staff reporter
27 Jul 2019 at 16:26hrs | Views
The United State-based International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) have called on the government of Zimbabwe to speed up the processes of advancing security and legal reforms to safeguard citizens' rights to freedom of expression.

A delegation of the two institutions was in the country from Monday to yesterday to assess the status of Zimbabwe's electoral reform agenda and the space for democratic elections more broadly.

The delegation was led by former US ambassador to Zimbabwe, and ex-Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson, NDI regional director for east and southern Africa Dickson Omondi, IRI senior technical specialist for east and southern Africa Jessica Keegan.

"While notable efforts have been made to repeal and replace restrictive laws and to a lesser extent engage stakeholders, the delegation encourages the Government of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the Executive to address the fundamental deficit in the democratic space," IRI and NDI said in a joint statement yesterday.

"The delegation strongly urges the government to continue to advance security and legal reforms that guarantee citizens' constitutional right to freedom of expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly. Enacting and enforcing these reforms will improve Zimbabwe's democratic capital and help to advance the country's economic recovery."

The delegation heard reports of low levels of trust in government institutions due to insufficient public outreach and alleged systematic intimidation of opposition and civil society activists.

It also heard of alleged mismanagement of public funds and poor governance marked by inflation, currency instability, and shortages of fuel, food and medicines were also issues that were brought to the attention of the delegation.

When the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions called for a stayaway against the rising cost of living in January, President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government responded with brute force by unleashing security forces, resulting in 17 deaths while more than a dozen women were raped or sexually assaulted and up to 1 055 people detained.

The delegation said despite the shortcomings identified by the delegation, there was still opportunity for Zimbabwe to enact the requisite meaningful political reforms to move the country forward.

"We urge government to move swiftly to implement the political and electoral changes that will strengthen public confidence in the government and advance Zimbabwe's democratic standing," the statement read in part.

IRI and NDI, which jointly observed the 2018 harmonised elections under the Zimbabwe International Election Observation Mission banner, commended the government for its demonstrative will to repeal robust pieces of legislation, including Public Order and Security Act and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Source - newsday