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Critical analysis of CCC’s list of electoral reform demands





Zimbabwe is due to conduct its harmonised elections in 2023.

On 29 September 2022, Nelson Chamisa and a group of people from the Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) launched what they describe as the Pre-election Pact on Electoral Reforms (PREPARE).

The CCC describes the document as consisting “of seven (7) minimum electoral reform pillars which should urgently be implemented to ensure that the 2023 harmonised elections and future elections in Zimbabwe pass the credibility and integrity tests.”

The document lists the following as the pillars: (i) the right to vote (ii) credibility of the Voters’ Roll (iii) Real-time and credible Results Management and Transmission System. (iv) Integrity of Election Processes (v) Political freedoms and Media access (vi) Security of the vote and (vii) Security of the Voter.  Under each pillar, the document identifies issues which the CCC

would like to be addressed as part of its demands for electoral reforms.  In this analysis, I offer my views on what I think is the good and the shortcomings of this document and the implications it may have on advocacy for electoral reforms in Zimbabwe.

Incomplete historicisation of the struggle for the right to vote

In his foreword, CCC leader Chamisa attempts to foreground the document in Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle against British colonialism. He notes that:

“The liberation struggle in Zimbabwe was a collective quest to create a nation founded upon the people’s sovereignty and the time-tested principle of one-man one-vote. Our forebears sacrificed life and limb to birth this great nation where the right of every citizen to vote and self-determine is guaranteed and secured. The right to vote is so fundamental and so precious without which a people cannot truly be free and independent. A vote is the basis of any social contract; the source of authority for any person to govern in a modern democratic society.”

In my view, this is quite correct and is commendable in the sense that it locates the struggle for free and fair elections in Zimbabwe as a continuation of the struggle for freedom and sovereignty which commenced as far back as the liberation struggle.  However, Chamisa does not mention anything about the post-colonial struggles for free and fair elections by his predecessors in Zimbabwe’s opposition politics and in the civil society. 

In the early 1980s, Joshua Nkomo and Zapu struggled for a free and fair election, and the Mugabe regime responded violently through Gukurahundi. In 1990 Edgar Tekere and the Zimbabwe Unity Movement (Zum) resisted Robert Mugabe’s attempt to introduce a one-party state, and in the process several people were killed by Mugabe’s regime, and the election was rigged. Zimbabweans would probably recall the case of Israel Mutanhaurwa who was a student representative affiliated to Zum who was abducted in broad daylight by suspected state agents in Gweru and was later found dumped in Mkoba surburb.

Then there is the case of Patrick Kombayi, who was the National Organising Secretary of Zum, who was shot six to eight times on his groin by suspected state agents. Kombai died in 2009 as a result of those wounds. In 1999, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was formed and picked up the struggle for free and fair elections and in the process hundreds of people affiliated to the party were tortured and murdered, while others were disappeared for demanding free and fair elections.

The abduction and forced disappearance of MDC activist Patrick Nabanyama, the petrol-bombing and killing of MDC activists Tichaona Chiminya and Talent Mabika remain the most vivid reminders of the early days of the terror campaign against the MDC. Various reports indicate that in the period after the first round of the 2008 presidential election, at least 200 supporters of the MDC were murdered, 137 cases of abductions were recorded, while 629 people were displaced from their homes for demanding and exercising their right to vote. In the post-2013 election period, Itai Dzamara was abducted and was never seen again for, amongst other things, demanding electoral reforms.  Quite recently, on 1 August 2018, six people were shot and killed for asserting their tight to a free and fair election by participating in a protest in which they were demanding the release of the presidential election results. There are far too many people who have lost their lives and families who have lost their loved ones for demanding the right to vote since 1980. This history cannot just be ignored. It would have been appropriate for Nelson Chamisa to acknowledge the sacrifices made by these people in his foreword. Acknowledging the liberation struggle is important, but the history of the struggle for the right to vote in Zimbabwe is incomplete without acknowledging the post-1980 struggles waged by the opposition, labour, students and women’s movements. To ignore these struggles when historicising the fight for electoral reforms in an important document such as the PREPARE,  is not only insensitive on the part of Chamisa and CCC, but may also further alienate the party from its traditional allies, particularly the student, labour and women’s movements who bore the brunt of state-sponsored violence as they struggled for the right to vote.

The missing demand for release of political prisoners

The PREPARE document makes a very good point regarding the demand for respect of political freedoms. In paragraph 5.1.1 it states that “Citizens should always be guaranteed of their political rights and freedoms.” This is crucial for the holding of elections that are free and fair. However, the fact that the CCC makes no mention of the release of political prisoners who include Job Sikhala and the #Nyatsime 16 is very worrying.  The continued incarceration of Sikhala and the #Nyatsime16 is a fundamental election issue which cannot be ignored in a document that purports to identify urgent demands for electoral reforms by citizens.

The continued detention of Sikhala, and the #Nyatsime 16 appears to be part of the regime’s  plan to ensure that these leaders are removed from the election scene as part of undermining the citizens’ capacity to organise and mobilise communities to vote and to protect the vote. Their incarceration appears to be targeted at intimidating anyone from engaging in any peaceful confrontation against the state in the run up and post the 2023 elections. Several other CCC members, as well as activists from the students, labour movements and civil society have been slapped with various spurious criminal charges, including “faking abductions” and  participating in “illegal demonstrations.” Most of these activists are what one would consider to be the ground forces when it comes to voter mobilisation.  

These charges are meant to restrict these ground forces from mobilising support for the party as they constantly have to attend trial and report to the various police stations as part of their bail conditions. In this context, one would have expected that the CCC leadership would treat the arbitrary incarceration of its leader Sikhala and the weaponisation of the legal system to target its supporters as an election issue and would frame urgent demands which speak directly and unequivocally to these issues. The failure by CCC to include these as part of the seven urgent electoral reform demands may further cement the perception that either the party and its leadership lack the necessary seriousness or they simply do not care about Sikhala and the other colleagues who are in detention and some who are undergoing various frivolous criminal trials.

Silence on civic space laws, including the PVO Bill

The CCC’s PREPARE document is silent on the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Bill and the repeal of other laws which shrink civic space. The government of Zimbabwe has introduced the PVO Bill which contains several draconian provisions whose effect is to shrink the operating space for civil society organisations. Amongst these draconian provisions are clauses which seek to prohibit CSOs from political lobbying and which criminalise any operation of an unregistered NGO. If this Bill is enacted into law, several civil society organisations may find themselves unable to implement programmes to promote citizen participation in elections (including voter education, voter registration and voter mobilisation), and hold government accountable for abuse of power, including in the run up towards the elections. CCC poses as a democratic alternative to Zanu PF. It therefore appears odd that amongst its demands for electoral reforms, the CCC does not say anything about the PVO Bill. One would have expected that a party which purports to champion democracy on behalf of citizens would unequivocally call for the reversal of this Bill whose effect would be to close off civic space if enacted into law. Without an open civic space, it is simply impossible to have a free and fair election. 

The silence in the CCC’s PREPARE document about the PVO Bill is very loud and may cement the perception that the party’s leadership is not serious about its commitment to democracy. There are several other laws which threaten to close civic space. The existence of “insult laws” in Zimbabwe’s statutes further stifles freedom of expression by prohibiting citizens from critiquing the President of the country. The late Dr Alex Magaisa once wrote an article on this issue. This law is applied by the incumbent,  especially during election season to muzzle dissenting voices. Several people have been arrested, including journalists and some are facing trial on the basis of the insult laws. Again, one would have expected the CCC to categorically identify the repeal of these laws as part of its urgent demands for electoral reforms.

Media freedoms

The CCC’s PREPARE document makes various important demands relating to free access to the media, which is important for the holding of free and fair elections. However, the document is dead silent about the onerous requirements that are imposed by the government for journalists to register for accreditation in order for them to cover and observe the elections. Local and foreign journalists who are already accredited to practise in Zimbabwe should not be additionally required to seek accreditation for them to cover elections. Yet in past elections, the government has required all journalists who want to cover elections to seek accreditation. Journalists and citizens would have expected the CCC to frame a demand on this issue.

Voting needs of visually impaired persons

Under paragraph 1.1.2, the CCC’s PREPARE document demands appropriate and necessary measures to be put in place to ensure the fulfilment of the voting rights of certain disfranchised citizens. People With Disabilities (PWDs) are identified as one of these groups. One of the long outstanding electoral reforms in Zimbabwe is the introduction or provision of Braille ballot papers to enable persons who are visually impaired to vote secretly if they so choose. In 2018, I represented Abraham Mateta at the High Court of Zimbabwe, but the litigation could not be finalised before polling day. There is a huge constituency of visually impaired voters who are deprived of their right to vote secretly on their own because the Zimbabwe  Electoral Commission does not make provision for Braille ballots. I discussed this issue in one of my recent academic papers titled Taking Stock of Zimbabwe’s 2018 Elections and Evaluating Prospects for Democratic, Free and Fair Elections in the Future.

Unfortunately, the CCC’s PREPARE document is silent on this issue but simply mentions that appropriate measures should be introduced to fulfil the right to vote by people with disabilities. One would have thought that a serious party would have made an unequivocal demand for visually impaired voters to be provided with Braille ballots rather than treating this as a general issue. For that reason, it may be very difficult for the constituency of visually impaired voters to identify with the CCC’s PREPARE document.

Silence on establishment of  Independent Complaints Mechanism

From paragraphs 6.2.9 to 6.2.14,  the CCC’s PREPARE document makes general demands to the effect that the police and defence forces must conduct themselves professionally. The document does not say anything about the establishment of the Independent Complaints Mechanism. Following the adoption of the new constitution in 2013, the government of Zimbabwe is obliged, under section 210, to establish what is called an Independent Complaints Mechanism, which is supposed to perform oversight functions on the security services sector. Amongst other functions, this body is mandated with receiving and dealing with complaints against police misconduct, including the unfair treatment of political parties and members of the public by the police. The government is yet to establish this body and seems reluctant to do so. The failure of the CCC to identifyi the establishment of this body as an urgent election reform issue creates a perception that the CCC leadership is simply not serious or lacks the requisite diligence.


A popular Facebook commentator by the name Zigo made a post which attracted a lot of attention. He said: “Listening to CCC President Nelson Chamisa press conference on PREPARE DOCUMENT for elections, all I can say is for sure hapana plan (there is no plan). These guys are not strategically equipped to defeat ZANU PF.” I share the same views as Zigo.

In my view, the PREPARE document serves as further evidence of why (in my previous pieces) I expressed outrage at Chamisa’s leadership style. In my view, the glaring gaps in the PREPARE document are not necessarily because the party does not have thought leaders. It has plenty of them, but there is simply no space for ideas to flourish. Fear and individualism flourish in that party.

The title of the document (Pre-election Pact on Electoral Reforms) suggests that there is a pact or some form of agreement/consensus amongst the citizens on the list of the demands set out in the document. It takes a process of robust and extensive consultations with citizens in their different groups, in order to achieve a consensus. In the foreword of the document, Chamisa makes a very huge claim by stating that “It is therefore after extensive consultations with Citizens, and with profound modesty that I present the seven minimum electoral reform pillars which should urgently inform Zimbabwe’s electoral reforms dialogue to avoid a contested 2023 election outcome.” Perhaps these consultations were done in secret, or maybe I just missed the news. Assuming that these so-called extensive consultations were done, how is it possible that the party has produced a document with such glaring gaps? Is it possible that the CCC leadership consulted the citizens and the citizens forgot the urgent need to include Sikhala and #Nyatsime 16 as part of their urgent election reform demands? Is it possible that the CCC leadership consulted the students’ movement and the students forgot to remind the party to ensure that the dropping of spurious criminal charges against activists in treated as part of the list of urgent demands for election reforms? Is it possible that the CCC leadership consulted with representatives of the labour and women’s movements, media and civil society and these groups forgot to remind the CCC leadership to ensure that civic space restrictions, the provision of Braille ballots, the establishment of the Independent Complaints Mechanism, and automatic accreditation of journalists are key and urgent demands for electoral reform?

About the writer: Dr Justice Alfred Mavedzenge is a constitutional law academic committed to the building of democracy in Zimbabwe and Africa. He writes in his personal capacity

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