THE Southern African Development Community (SADC) Election Observer Mission (SEOM) final report, presented to the Sadc executive secretary Elias Magosi of Botswana and President Emmerson Mnangagwa this week, bemoans the failure by the Zimbabwean government to implement recommendations made after the 2018 polls, including aligning electoral processes to the constitution.
In its report, the SEOM said: “To support the successful holding of democratic elections in the Republic of Zimbabwe, the SEOM makes the following recommendations for consideration by the Government, Zec and other stakeholders: The SEOM reiterates the urgent need for all stakeholders to consider and implement outstanding recommendations that were made following the 2018 electoral cycle. These recommendations that were made following the 2018 electoral process, address recurrent stakeholder concern, and align the electoral process to key constitutional and regional requirements.”
The SEOM highlighted a number of its recommendations arising from the 2018 elections and urged the stakeholders to urgently implement them.
The SEOM urged the government of Zimbabwe to consider expanding alignment of outstanding aspects of the electoral law to the new constitution, as reflected in the report of the 2018 Sadc observer team.
Public communication by Zec
Given the concerns raised by stakeholders and the main opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change party on the lack of independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission led by Priscilla Chigumba, the SEOM called on the electoral body to consider adopting a pro-active communication strategy in order to build confidence and trust on it among key stakeholders and general public.
The SEOM urged the Zec to conduct sensitisation programmes regarding postal voting particularly related to its modalities and management.
The Sadc observer team, in the report, also urged the authorities to ensure that postal voting is conducted in private to guarantee the secrecy of the vote.
On media, the SEOM said it “advises Zec and the Zimbabwe Media Commission to ensure that the constitution and electoral law are enforced with respect to the conduct of the media.”
Section 68 of the Electoral Act, according to the report, should be aligned with section 110 (3) (h) of the same Act to ensure a maximum time period within which the results of parliamentary elections must be announced.
In addition to the above recommendations arising from issues raised in the 2018 elections, the SEOM made more recommendations based on its observations of the 2023 electoral cycle.
The mission urged the Government of Zimbabwe to consider making provision for stakeholder engagement in the design of ballot papers for transparency purposes. This was after realisation that in the last elections, the opposition political parties were not made aware of the ballot printing processes.
The SEOM also recommended that there must be clear timelines for provision of the voter’s roll and information on ballot papers.
Independence of Zec
The SEOM expressed concern over reports of Zec’s lack of independence due to the fact that its commissioners were related to senior Zanu PF officials.
“In the event that the concerns from stakeholders that some Zec Commissioners are closely related to the senior members of the ruling party are found to be true, there is a risk of violation of Section 11 (2) of the Electoral and Section 4.1.9 of the Sadc Principles and guidelines. SEOM, therefore recommends that such practice be considered as one of the disqualification criteria in recruitment of Zec officials,” reads the report.
Zec’s commissioner Abigail Mohadi is the daughter of Vice-President Kembo Mohadi while commissioner Jasper Mangwana is related to Information ministry permanent secretary Nick Mangwana and Zanu PF legal affairs secretary Paul Mangwana.
The mission urged Zec to avail the voters’ roll to stakeholders to allow enough time for inspection and verification in line with the Electoral Act.
In the past, Zec has constantly refused to avail the voters’ roll in time before polls so that it can be audited by independent stakeholders and opposition political parties contesting in the elections.
Women and gender parity
In line with the constitution of Zimbabwe and Sadc Protocol on Gender and Development of 2008, the SEOM encouraged all stakeholders, including political parties to review the political leadership and governance structures, towards gender parity.
In conclusion, the SEOM commended the people of Zimbabwe for conducting themselves in a peaceful, orderly and exemplary manner during the pre-election phase, voting days and the immediate post-election period.
“The SEOM commends the political leaders for spreading the message of peace and non-violence throughout the electoral cycle. The SEOM noted that, as detailed in sections 6 and 7 of this report, some aspects of the Harmonised Elections fell short of the requirements of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the Electoral Act, and the Sadc principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections (2021).”
“The SEOM calls for all concerned parties to ensure that any grievances with respect to the election results are channeled through the appropriate legal processes to ensure the exhaustion of domestic legal remedies. In terms of section 11. 8. 2 of the Sadc Principles and guidelines, SEOM publishes and officially submits the election reports, member states which held elections, may:
“Consider the recommendations advanced by the SEOM for improving the conduct of election; and submit to the Chair of the Organ, a response to the SEOM report,” concludes the final report.