Electoral Watchdog Takes Rights Commission Head On Over False Allegations
2 December 2023
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By A Correspondent| The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), a civil society organisation that monitors elections in the country, has refuted allegations levelled against it by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) on collaborations with Team Pachedu, a social media group, on collating and tabulating election results for purposes of prematurely announcing election results.

The allegations were made in the ZHRC Report on 2023 Harmonised Elections, which claimed that the commission “took note of the arrest of thirty-nine CSO members from ZESN, ERC and Team Pachedu who were suspected of collating and tabulating election results for purposes of prematurely announcing election results.”

ZESN, however, issued a statement on Friday, December 1, 2023, to categorically state that it does not and has never worked closely or collaborated with Team Pachedu to collate and tabulate results. ZESN said it partnered with the Election Resource Centre (ERC), another civil society organisation, as part of its mandate to promote democratic elections in Zimbabwe through domestic oversight on all electoral processes.

ZESN also cited the confirmation of the Police Spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi, who addressed a press conference in Harare on August 24, 2023, and said that the arrested CSO members were from ERC and ZESN, and not Team Pachedu. ZESN said this was a sure sign that the latter was never a part of the observation team working on independently verifying results.

ZESN further stated that it has always shared its observation reports with all key electoral stakeholders, including the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), as required by the Electoral Act. ZESN said it follows the constitutional dictates, the Electoral Act, the ZEC Code of Conduct for Observers, and its own values and principles as an independent and non-partisan organisation. ZESN also said it observes and is guided by the SADC Principles and Guidelines on the Conduct of Democratic Elections and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG), which Zimbabwe is signatory to.

Moreover, ZESN said it is a law-abiding organisation that seeks to promote the conduct of peaceful democratic elections in Zimbabwe, and that it had no intention to go before a constitutionally mandated body to announce results, as it stands guided by the provisions of the Electoral Act on results announcement, which gives ZEC the sole mandate to declare election results.

ZESN urged the ZHRC to retract the allegations and correct the factual inaccuracies in its report, as they have the potential to tarnish the reputation and credibility of ZESN and its partners. ZESN also called for the respect and protection of the rights of election observers, as they play a crucial role in enhancing the transparency and accountability of the electoral process.