Zimbabwe’s 2018 elections failed to pass the credibility test

By Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition | Posted Aug 1, 2018

Civil Society Civil Organizations (CSOs) convening under the banner of Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) and other stakeholders representing various interest groups in Zimbabwe, wish to share the following concerns and accompanying resolutions with citizens of Zimbabwe and the global community.

This is in line with our collective national aspiration to see the restoration of a legitimate constitutional order in Zimbabwe. We reiterate that after the November 2017 military coup, a credible electoral process is the only legitimate way of restoring our constitutional order but unfortunately, the elections conducted on July 30, 2018 seem to have betrayed the national aspiration. The July 30 election falls short of a credible process.

History of Elections in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe has a long history of disputed electoral outcomes that have impacted negatively on the state legitimacy question and consequently, the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans.

The developments of the past 24 hours confirm that there was no major shift or disjuncture from the historical patterns and formulation of elections in Zimbabwe.

While we appreciate that the electoral environment was relatively peaceful and characterized by a huge turnout at polling stations, it must be noted that Zimbabwe went to the elections with serious issues being raised around the transparency and credibility of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission which has over the years acted as more of an appendage of the ruling party, ZANU PF.

In this statement, we seek to draw attention to the reality that the just ended elections have failed to meet the SADC Principles & Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections. We implore that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission failed to take corrective measures cited in the 2013 SADC Election Observer Mission (SEOM) Report on Elections in Zimbabwe.

We however contend that piecemeal reforms to the Electoral Act and insincere electoral administration seriously dented hopes of a credible electoral process.

Detailed below are the issues of concern;

i) Failure to Release Final Voters Roll Before polling – The Zimbabwe Election Commission failed to avail the final voters roll to election stakeholders, parties and candidates, consequently the voters roll that was used on polling day was different from the voters roll that was availed to political parties.

ii) Mystery around V11 Forms for Presidential Elections – A preliminary statement by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) indicated that approximately 21 percent of the Polling stations did not post the results of Presidential Elections outside the polling station as required by the Electoral Act. The failure to abide by the law in this instance bred a fertile ground for rigging.

The issue of the V11 forms was also confirmed by senior MDC Alliance members and to quote David Coltart- “No results displayed for Victoria Falls Ward 2. Tent has been removed. Spoke to a police officer and was told they were burnt”

It is in the public domain that over the years, Zanu (PF) has sought to win elections at all costs and the issue of the V11 forms, coupled with reports of the party’s activists trying to steal ballot papers at some polling stations around the country is clear testimony that this election is yet another charade that does not in any way subscribe to the tenets of democratic elections.

iii) Undesignated Polling Stations – Undesignated polling stations were also discovered in some areas and in Seke Ward 5, the bogus polling officials fled with ballot papers as soon as they had been exposed.

iv) Deliberate Displacement of Voters – There was also deliberate displacement of voters with some voters who had inspected their names during the inspection period being told to go and vote in areas where they had not registered as voters.

This adds to claims that the voters roll used during the voting process was different from the one used during inspection. This anomaly also aided the Zanu (PF) tactic of bussing voters.

v) Violations of the Traditional Leaders Act and the Constitution of Zimbabwe – The partisan involvement of traditional leaders in the electoral process is also another issue of concern. In Gokwe Chireya, approximately 30 traditional leaders were deployed as election agents representing ZANU PF. Despite the fact that the law does not allow traditional leaders to be involved in partisan politics, some traditional leaders went on to contest on a Zanu (PF) ticket.

We also recorded reports of traditional leaders victimizing their subjects who are known and perceived opponents of the regime. In the absence of a clear and coherent national reconciliation programme ZANU PF continued to be a beneficiary of past human rights violations that influenced voting patterns (harvest of fear).

vi) Increase in Numbers of Assisted Voters – As a result of intimidation, some areas recorded a high number of assisted voters and our observers on the ground recorded that some citizens who were actually able to vote on their own were forced to declare that they needed assistance. Masvingo province had recorded the highest number of assisted voters by mid-day on polling day (approximately 15 000).

vii) Vote Buying – Vote buying was also recorded by our observers on the ground and reports indicated that some Zanu (PF) members were actually distributing food and other goodies at polling stations. In Mashonaland Central (Mazowe Central) ZANU PF candidates were seen distributing maize using forms from the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare a day before polling day.

viii) Unfair Media Coverage – State media remained partisan with negative coverage of opposition candidates. It is in the public domain that prior to the elections, there were reports lodged with the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe over the unfair electoral coverage by the State media

ix) Bullying and threats to opposition agents: Our observers recorded several cases of opposition candidates election agents being bullied and threatened at polling centres with some of them being barred from observing the vote counting process.

While we appreciate that the electoral environment was relatively peaceful and a huge turnout at polling stations, we reiterate that electoral processes must always reflect and uphold the true will of the citizens. Zimbabwe’s only option is to embrace open transparent and democratic governance as a gateway to the restoration of our constitutional order.