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Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions Towards Electorial Democracy in Zimbabwe ZCTU position on elections: 2013

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions Towards Electorial Democracy in Zimbabwe ZCTU position on elections: 2013

I. INTRODUCTION

The trade union movement in Zimbabwe has been playing a critical role in the struggle for democracy in both the pre-independence and post-independence era. Many nationalist leaders in pre-independence started off as active trade unionists and then politicians. In post independence Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) was at the fore front of championing democracy and multi-party dispensation when the then ruling party was toying with the idea of a one party state in the late eighties. More recently, the labour movement was at the forefront of the creation of a viable national alternative opposition party, thereby nurturing Zimbabwe`s multi party democracy.

Following disputed elections of 2008, the then opposition party, the MDC-T, after signing the Global Political Agreement (GPA) became part of the ruling elite.

One of the most important rallying points during the struggle for independence, besides the land, was for the "universal adult franchise" or "one man one vote". Thirty years after Independence, that rallying point of "one man one vote" has been seriously undermined as Zimbabwe has failed to deliver a free and fair election.

It is clear that free, fair and transparent elections are a necessary prerequisite for democracy. Elections enable citizens to elect their representatives that govern them on their behalf. Regular free and fair elections give both internal and domestic legitimacy to an elected government. A flawed election can cause political instability.

One of the deliverables of the GPA is the New Constitution that would lead to elections. The partners in Government, that is the Zanu PF and the two MDCs have agreed on a Constitution that would be taken to a referendum and then an election thereafter. The ZCTU also believes that the current dysfunctional Government of National Unity can only be ended through an election. But the election process has to meet minimum standards for it to be credible. The ZCTU will not accept a flawed election.

II. THE GLOBAL POLITICAL AGREEMENT (GPA)

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions believes that the full implementation of the Global Political Agreement is the key to holding free and fair elections. The ZCTU notes with concern that there has been piece-meal implementation of agreed positions on the GPA and some remain unimplemented. These include the land audit; national healing and reconciliation; the rule of law; freedom of expression, communication, assembly and association; free political activity, the role of traditional leaders, security of persons and prevention of violence; legislative reforms (POSA and AlPPA remain) and non partisan humanitarian food assistance. The GPA was signed after the parties recognized and accepted to "build a society free of violence, fear, intimidation, hatred, patronage, corruption and founded on justice, fairness, openness, transparency, dignity and equality".

The Parties also claimed that justice, fairness, openness, tolerance, equality, non discrimination and respect of all persons without regard to race, race class, gender, ethnicity, language, religion, political opinion, place of origin or birth are the bedrock of good governance.

It is in this spirit that the ZCTU calls for the full implementation of the provisions of the GPA if there is going to be a free and fair election.

III. INTERNATIONAL INSTRUMENTS ON ELECTIONS

Elections can only be free and fair in an environment of respect of human life and dignity. There are various instruments that have specific sections on elections and Zimbabwe has to respect them. The ZCTU will encourage workers to go and vote in both the referendum and national elections if the following International Instruments are followed:

  • The United Nations Universal Declaration of Rights: Article 21: "Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives."
  • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR): article 25: "Every citizen shall have the right and opportunity, .... and without unreasonable restrictions a) to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives; b) to vote and be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by a secret ballot, guaranteeing the freedom of expression of will of electors"
  • The African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights emphasizes on the right to participate in accordance with the provision of the laws
  • The AU has also declarations on the principles governing democratic elections
  • The African Unions` New Partnership for Africa` Development stresses the need for free and fair elections

The ZCTU notes that at its 8th ordinary session of the AU held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 30 July 2007, African governments committed themselves to:

  1. Establish and strengthen independent and impartial national electoral bodies responsible for the management of elections.
  2. Establish and strengthen national mechanisms that redress election related disputes in a timely manner.
  3. Ensure fair and equitable access by contesting parties and candidates to state controlled media during elections.
  4. Ensure that there is a binding code of conduct governing legally recognized political stakeholders, government and other political actors prior, during and after elections. The code shall include a commitment by political stakeholders to accept the results of the election or challenge them in through exclusively legal channels.

These are minimum standards set by the AU and our government needs to make sure that they are adhered to during the coming elections.

More importantly, the SADC principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections were agreed upon at the Grand Baie Mauritius Summit, 16 - 17 August 2004 whose key provisions include to:

  1. Establish where none exist, appropriate institutions where issues such as codes of conduct, citizenship residency, age requirements for eligible voters and compilation of voters` registers, would be addressed;
  2. Establish impartial, all-inclusive, competent and accountable national electoral bodies staffed by qualified personnel, as well as competent legal entities including effective constitutional courts to arbitrate in the event of disputes arising from the conduct of elections;
  3. Safeguard the human and civil liberties of all citizens including the freedom of movement, assembly, association, expression, and campaigning as well as access to the media on the part of all stakeholders, during electoral processes;
  4. Take all necessary measures and precautions to prevent the perpetration of fraud, rigging or any other illegal practices throughout the whole electoral process, in order to maintain peace and security;
  5. Ensure the availability of adequate logistics and resources for carrying out democratic elections;
  6. Ensure that adequate security is provided to all parties participating in elections;
  7. Ensure the transparency and integrity of the entire electoral process by facilitating the deployment of representatives of political parties and individual candidates at polling and counting stations and by accrediting national and/other observers/monitors;
  8. Encourage the participation of women, disabled and youth in all aspects of the electoral process in accordance with the national laws;

IV. ESSENTIAL PREREQUISITES

Besides the above important instruments whose contents Zimbabwe has to follow, there are certain prerequisites that have to be followed if we are to have a free and undisputed election

(i). The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC):
There is need for a strong, independent ZEC managed by non partisan management staff. ZEC staff must be impartial in the performance of their duties. There is belief that ZEC has been politicized and militarized and that the senior managers are politically biased. These must be replaced.

(ii). Overhaul of draconian laws:
There is still great concern that we are going into an election with laws such as POSA and AIPPA which curtail freedom of assembly, association, speech and media freedom in our statutes books. There is still time for them to be worked upon in order to have free and fair elections.

(iii). Environment of violence:
There must be zero tolerance to violence, intimidation and harassment of opponents and subsequently no presidential amnesties for perpetrators of violence after elections so as to discourage impunity.

The police must be non-partisan in the enforcement of the law.

(iv). Freedom to campaign:
Political parties must campaign freely and voters must freely express their electoral choices without intimidation and reprisals. The situation where some areas are called "No go" areas must be stopped.

(v). Party Election Agents:
During the 2008 elections, there was a lot of violence perpetrated on party election agents. The State has an obligation to protect everyone and this must be seen to be done.

(vi). Electoral Roll:
No credible elections can take place with a voters` roll in tatters. The current voters` roll is inaccurate and distorted and it needs complete overhaul before the elections. There are reports of duplicate entries, voters enrolled in wrong constituencies, eligible voters being left off, and, dead persons. The roll must also be available free of charge to polling agents, observers and political parties.

(vii). Voter Registration:
The process should be moved with speed and transparency. There are reports of people who are frustrated whenever they want to register. Ideally, voter registration should be removed from the Registrar-General`s Office and taken over by the ZEC.

(viii). Ballot Papers:
To avoid speculation of cheating, ZEC must promptly disclose the number of ballot papers printed for an election and to disclose other such information, for example the number of ballot-boxes issued to each polling station.

(ix). Counting and Tabulation of Results:
Counting and tabulation of results must be properly done within the provisions of the Electoral Act. The counting and collation processes should be done in the presence of candidates or their polling agents. After counting of the votes and posting of results outside polling stations, results must be sent to the Ward Collation Centre where they are collated and verified. The ZCTU still believes that collated results should be posted outside the Ward Centers. These results should be immediately transmitted to the constituency elections officer for collation and verification who will declare the results and post them outside the Constituency Collation Centre.

These processes must be done efficiently and expeditiously after polling has taken place with no unreasonable delay in announcing the results. Any recounts of votes should only take place after the announcement of the results.

(x). Observers:
Observation of elections is an important aspect of the electoral process as it lends credibility to the process. Local and international observers should be free to observe all elections. This should not only be on the day of elections, but they should be free to observe during the lead up period to the referendum and elections. They should be free to observe the voting process and the collation and announcement of results and the period following the announcement of results. The accreditation of observers should fall under the management and control of ZEC. There is also need to remove veto power of Justice and Foreign Ministers to exclude persons or organizations government does not want to observe elections.

(xi). Media Coverage:
The public media in Zimbabwe continues to unashamedly parrot one party stance. Both the print and electronic media must be opened up to all political parties. In particular, the ZBC should also be transformed from a highly partisan broadcaster into a genuinely public broadcaster that will cover elections on a fair and balanced basis.

(xii). The security forces:
The security forces must be as impartial as possible. Members of the security forces must stay away from political parties` campaign and must desist from uttering words that may be deemed to intimidate or supportive of other political parties. In fact such officers must be summarily be dismissed and disciplinary action taken against them. On the day of elections, the police must not be deployed inside polling stations as this would intimidate voters. Voters in need of assistance should be helped by a relative or friend. Police officers should not be present.

Over the past years, there has been militarization of civilian institutions, including the then Zimbabwe Election Commission. This has to be stopped if Zimbabwe is to have a free and fair election.

(xiii). Voter information and voter education:
The public has the right to all information on the voting process. This include registration and place of voting. Civic organizations must be allowed to circulate information to the public to help members of the public to make informed decisions. Ideally, all material must be printed in all official local languages.

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