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Sadc blasts Zim’s sham elections



ZIMBABWE’S sham elections have been boldly rejected by the South African Development Community (Sadc) in a major dramatic and unprecedented political move never seen before in the region, leaving the elections widely badly discredited.


The elections have been marred by gross illegalities characterised by chaos and brazen manipulation.

Sadc says while the polls were largely peaceful, they simply did not meet its principles and guidelines governing the conduct of democratic elections in the region. Former Zambian Vice-President Dr. Nevers Mumba is the head of the Sadc election observer mission.

“The Mission observed that the pre-election and voting phases, on 23-24 August 2023 harmonised elections were peaceful, and calm. However, the Mission noted that 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 mission also highlighted gerrymandering during the delimitation exercise. In representative democracies, gerrymandering is the political manipulation of electoral district boundaries with the intent to create undue advantage for a party, group, or socioeconomic class within the constituency.

“The mission was informed that the delimitation exercise that was conducted in 2022 was marred with controversy. In one way or another, concerned stakeholders claimed that the report that Zec submitted failed to observe the constitutional requirements for such an exercise, and that there were divisions amongst serving commissioners of the Zec regarding the veracity of the report,” read the preliminary report presented by Mumba in Harare this week.

 “The main allegations made against the report was that it constituted gerrymandering, and that it failed to observe the correct methodology for calculating the 20% variance constitutional rule with respect to minimum and maximum sizes of the 210 constituencies.

 The courts dismissed legal challenges brought against the delimitation report of 2022.” The preliminary statement has also highlighted Zec’s failure to release an auditable copy of the voters roll on time for candidates to audit.

 Main opposition party, the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) has on several occasions requested for an auditable voters’ roll.

 For instance, in March, Harare North opposition lawmaker Allan Markham filed a Supreme Court appeal after his request for the release of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) electronic voters’ roll was blocked by the High Court.

 Markham’s appeal was blocked by High Court Justice Never Katiyo citing security reasons, which critics claim reflects lack of democracy in Zimbabwe.

 The SEOM preliminary report has also revealed an unlevelled playing field, with several CCC rallies being banned by the police through the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act (MOPA), “thereby denying the Citizens their right to freedom of assembly”.

 In his final rally, CCC president Nelson Chamisa said that over 100 rallies were banned by the police in the run up to the 2023 general election. The mission report has further highlighted controversy in regards to freedom of expression and nomination of candidates and independence of the judiciary, which have been under fire for violating the constitution.

“The mission noted unprecedented amount of litigation surrounding the elections amongst others, concerning the nomination of candidates. In this respect, we further noted the protest and litigation of Mr Savior Kasukuwere, who believes that he was unfairly disqualified as a presidential candidate; however, the courts dismissed this particular complaint.

“In the view of significance in the event of the legal challenges in the context of the electoral process, some stakeholders expressed the view that the government comprises the judiciary. A key justification for this perception was information received that the judiciary received large financial and material incentives, which the stakeholders viewed as an attempt by the government to buy the loyalty and allegiance of the judiciary,” reads the statement.

 Zec’s in hike in nomination fees has also been flagged as a major hindrance to participation by several candidates. In June, the electoral body hiked nomination fees from US$1 000 to US$20 000 for presidential candidates, and US$50 to US$1 000 for parliamentary candidates.

“These amounts were also cited as unduly restrictive to less well-off members of the community such as women who lack the means,” reads the report.

The Sadc has in the past been under fire for endorsing Zimbabwe’s elections despite them being riddled by irregularities, according to a paper by renowned human rights lawyer Musa Kika and Justice Alfred Mavedzenge, programmes director at the African Judges and Jurists Forum titled Towards Elections That Work in Zimbabwe.

2002 election

Sadc has been under fire for sitting on the 2002 Zimbabwe presidential election report produced by judges Sisi Khampepe and Dikgang Moseneke, who constituted the judicial observer mission appointed and deployed by the then South African president Thabo Mbeki.

The Khampepe Report entirely discredited that of the South African Observer Mission (SAOM), which legitimised Zimbabwe’s general election despite its flaws.

“This report was embargoed and not released until 2014, following 12 years of litigation in the South African courts. The report concluded that ‘having regard to all the circumstances, and in particular the cumulative substantial departures from international standard of free and fair elections found in Zimbabwe during the pre-election period, these elections, in our view, cannot be considered free and fair’,” says the report.

The 2002 election was underlined by serious violence, with the army largely involved in electoral processes. For instance, in 2002 the service chiefs led by the then commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), Vitalis Zvinavashe, in a joint Press conference, said they would not salute anyone without liberation war credentials, a threat to a possible exchange of power.

“Let it be known that the highest office on the land is a ‘straight jacket’ whose occupant is expected to observe the objectives of the liberation struggle. We will therefore not accept, let alone support or salute anyone with a different agenda,” Zvinavashe said.

 In 2008, following Mugabe’s defeat by opposition NDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, the army took over and became arbiter of Zimbabwe’s fate during this period, playing the role of political commissar of Zanu PF.

In an attempt to reverse Mugabe’s defeat, the military subverted the electoral process and unleashed violence and intimidation on a wide scale, ahead of the runoff.

Presidential election results took five weeks to be announced. South African president Mbeki sparked controversy by reporting that “there is no crisis in Zimbabwe”, a position that his then rival Jacob Zuma contested.

At that time, Zambian president Levy Mwanawasa called an emergency meeting of Sadc leaders on 12 April 2008 to discuss the post-election impasse, stating that Zimbabwe’s “deepening problems” meant that the issueneeded to be “dealt with at the presidential level”

2018 election

When the election outcome was contested in 2018, the region was muted in its response.

 According to Kika and Mavedzenge’s report, it was likely that the regional endorsement of Zimbabwean elections would continue, unless it is confronted and regional powers are engaged and sensitised on the need to ensure that Sadc Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections are followed to the letter.

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