“Zim Cannot Hold Free And Fair Polls”: Think Tank
2 August 2021

By A Correspondent- The Election Resource Centre (ERC), an electoral and democracy think-tank, says Zimbabwe cannot hold free and fair elections in 2023 if the polls are conducted under current electoral laws.

As a result, the civil society organisation says a contested outcome is likely if changes are not made.

Zimbabwe has a history of disputed elections particularly since 2000 when the opposition Movement for Democratic Change began contesting polls.

Ahead of the 2023 elections, a number of electoral processes are set to be undertaken in preparation including but not limited to the 2021 census and the 2022 delimitation process.

In its Electoral Barometer, ERC chairperson Trust Maanda said there was a need for the alignment of electoral laws with the constitution.

“The Zimbabwean government needs to fix all legislation affecting the electoral process and environment and bring it in line with both the Constitution and with Zimbabwe’s regional and international commitments,” Maanda said.

“The problems we face are precisely premised on the outstanding electoral reform issues that do not comply with either the constitution or our international law obligations.

“The responsible stakeholders must ensure that all legislation affecting the electoral environment be brought in line with both the constitution and Zimbabwe’s international commitments. The following five points focus on tangible steps the policymakers can take to make the electoral process and the environment more credible, fair, transparent, accountable and inclusive.”

Priority electoral reforms include the institutional reform of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), looking at the institutional and personnel levels as well as the organisational practices.

There is also need for the reform of the legal framework, that is the Electoral Act, all electoral regulations and procedures focusing on constitutionality and international best practice. The ERC also said there was a need to
reform the conduct of the state media in covering the electoral processes as well as the conduct of traditional leaders in political processes.

Reform of the role of the military in civilian affairs is also seen as critical.

The Electoral Barometer shows that, since the 1990s, election observation has become an important tool whereby the international community determines whether a country adheres to its obligations and commitments, as established in the framework of international political and civil rights norms and instruments.

The ERC report is based on recommendations made by 2018 election observer missions. The reforms must be urgently implemented, in view of the looming 2023 polls.

“Three years since the 2018 harmonised elections and two years to the next election, a promise of expedited reforms continues to lag behind and now seemingly beyond reach. While the Covid-19 pandemic has brought new
challenges associated with outstanding electoral reforms, reforms remain unaddressed,” the report reads.

“The post-2018 election environment has been dominated by the non-implementation of key reforms, most of which have been repeatedly raised by election observer groups in previous elections. It should be noted that Zec has taken a piecemeal approach in recommending proposals to the alignment of electoral laws, policies and practice with the constitution and international best practice.

“The failure to significantly revise key laws or to address the partisan conduct of the state security, traditional leaders and the media undercuts free elections.”

The objectives of the assessment include: assessing the state of electoral laws, policies and practices post the 2018 general elections in preparedness for the 2023 polls, to inform electoral stakeholders on outstanding electoral reforms as well as to establish gaps, build consensus and proffer recommendations for the improvement of the quality of elections.