WASHINGTON DC —
The African Union team which observed Zimbabwe’s general elections held on July 31st has recommended that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission should ensure that the voters roll is provided to all contesting parties and other stakeholders 14 days before polls.
In its comprehensive report that has just been released, the African Union Election Observation Mission (AUEOM) says the integrity of the voters roll must be assured through greater transparency, accessibility and public communication, with strict adherence to the provisions of the relevant laws of Zimbabwe.
AUEOM says there should be sustained public communication regarding the time-frames for special and intensive voter registration exercises and the closing dates to avoid unnecessary disputes and complaints.
The mission also says requirements for people to be afforded special voting privileges may need to be subjected to inter-party and public dialogue to enable consensus-based outcomes.
It says the special vote which caters for members of the uniformed special forces needs to be overhauled as it engendered transparency in the conduct of the elections.
The AU mission further says Zimbabwean authorities should reconsider the use of police officers in assisting voters as it may unduly influence the manner in which they vote.
In future, says the report, authorities might wish to consider the reduction of parameters that necessitate persons to qualify as “assisted voters”. The number of persons allowed to “assist” voters should also be reviewed with a view to reducing it downward from four.
Also of concern to the mission were security markings on ballot papers which it says need to be improved to avoid cases of electoral fraud. The observers noted the poor quality of the inscriptions that were susceptible to duplication.
It calls for the greater involvement of non-state actors in civic and voter education throughout the democratic process to enhance and sustain participation in future elections. As a result, the AU mission says consideration must be made to review relevant sections of the Electoral Act to enable the wider involvement of civil society in these processes.
The African Union election observers also recommended that the country’s national broadcaster should be accessed by all stakeholders since this is a relevant instrument for enhancing free and fair elections.
“The lack of/or limited access to the state broadcaster was one of the most persistent complaints from opposition parties and non-state actors in the pre-election and election phases, and has been the subject of post-election disputes. The role of the media, particularly, the state broadcaster has been well articulated in relevant instruments of the AU as being central and cardinal to levelling the playing field and contributing to fair practices.
“The AUEOM observes that this matter has formed the basis on much contestation in the 2013 Harmonised Elections therefore it is recommended that the ZEC scrupulously enforces the relevant regulations of the Electoral Act to afford alternative voices and all political parties equitable access at all times during elections.”
The AUEOM further recommends that the provisions of the Broadcasting Services Authority be fully implemented to enable the liberalization of radio and television ownership, thereby providing a broader platform for all stakeholders to voice their opinions, consistent with the stipulations of the new constitution.
It says the involvement of civil society and other actors in the review of the legislation such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and the manner in which they are applied will also enhance the country’s progress toward democratic consolidation.
Reverend Useni Sibanda of the Zimbabwe Institute for Social Transformation said Zimbabwe should implement the AU recommendations before the next harmonized polls.