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Crisis Coalition Statement on Zimbabwe 2023 Elections

REMARKS BY THE CRISIS IN ZIMBABWE COALITION (CIZC) SPOKESPERSON OBERT MASARAURE AT THE JOINT CIVIL SOCIETY PRESS CONFERENCE AHEAD OF ZIMBABWE 2023 HARMONIZED ELECTIONS


2 AUGUST, 2023


1. Introduction and Background

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for attending this joint civil society press conference on

the impending 2023 harmonized elections.

This press conference is part of our duty as patriotic citizens, in taking stock of the

continuing journey towards making our country’s democracy work, and in particular.

making our elections, which are an important part of that democracy, meaningful.

Importantly, the press conference has also been informed by events obtaining on the

ground and the imperative need for us as pro-democracy forces, to give our assessment and recommendations regarding the prevailing environment ahead of the 2023 polls.


Allow me, through these remarks, to highlight the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition's

assessment and position on the 2023 harmonized elections. To do this, I will give a

measured assessment of the electoral playing field, drawing from key benchmarks

which are our Constitution, the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and

Governance as well as the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic

Elections. I will also briefly give a history of why we find ourselves as a country in this

conjuncture. In conclusion, I will also lay out our recommendations in the interests of

improving our democratic processes in pursuit of genuine and inclusive development in

Zimbabwe.


The hub of our interest is the Zimbabwean dream - the realization of the promise of

1980 - that of prosperity, equality, peace and happiness for all who call this land home.

The supreme right of self-determination and the right of ordinary citizens to define and

determine the trajectory of their country through free and fair elections.


Our assessment on the credibility of the 2023 polls

With 20 days to go to the 2023 polls, a lot of questions linger in the minds of many.


1) Does the pre-electoral environment guarantee free, fair and credible polls?

2) Is the ordinary voter guaranteed the right to freely participate and vote without

coercion? Do they have the power to freely influence the country’s governance processes?

3) Is the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission up to task as provided for by the

Constitution of Zimbabwe?

4) Are state institutions impartial? What has been the conduct of the police? The

intelligence services?

5) What is the status and role of women and youths and their space in this election?

6) Will the cumulative will of the people prevail on the morning after 23 August?


These are the questions we are discussing today. We make this statement knowing

very well the sad reality that ordinary Zimbabweans are not free to speak out on these

very fundamental questions. They are choked by a coterie of obnoxious and

unconstitutional pieces of legislation intended to silence them into submission - like

sheep to the slaughter.


However, and fortunately, the Constitution of Zimbabwe guides us on this matter: we

defy and will not be silenced. Indeed, we encourage all Zimbabweans to defy and abhor

all patently unjust and unconstitutional laws. This is NOT Rhodesia.


We have been able to track various facets that constitute a credible election based on a

compound assessment of various key documents as mentioned earlier - Constitution,

the African Charter as well as the SADC Principles and Guidelines.


2.1 The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission


Our humble assessment, shared by many, is that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission

(ZEC) has failed to inspire confidence as an institution ready to manage a free and fair election. And the evidence is overwhelming.


● ZEC has failed to produce a credible voters’ roll on time; it continues to duck

recommendations including from SADC and the AU to subject the voters roll to

an independent audit. Already, many irregularities have been unearthed with this voters’ roll giving every reason to believe that it is definitely going to be another

tool in the manipulation of elections.

● The election will be conducted on the back of a flawed delimitation, which failed

the constitutional test - again, a result of the incompetence and negligence of

ZEC. All pointers are that the delimitation process was an exercise in

gerrymandering, with ZEC a willing accomplice of ZANU PF, the instigator and

beneficiary.

● ZEC and ZANU PF seem to be in an incestuous relationship to subvert the

constitution and the will of the people of Zimbabwe. The presence of close family

members of ZANU PF’s political elite in ZEC is problematic using any corporate

governance measure. These families are represented in ZEC: Zanu PF Vice

President Mohadi’s family, Zanu PF’s General Secretary Obert Mpofu’s family,

Zimbabwe’s Secretary for Information Mangwana’s family and Minister of Foreign

Affairs Shava’s family members are all part of ZEC. This is scandalous and gross

political incest. Do these people represent Zimbabwe, or are part of the “capture

and preservation” of their family interests?

● The current state where even the ZEC itself was found to have “wrongly

managed” the nomination process complicates the situation.


2.2 The courts and mechanisms for redress of electoral grievances


The courts have of late usurped the right of citizens to determine their leaders through voting and what is emerging is a rather worrisome trend where the courts will determine who can contest or not in an election. The cases of Linda Masarira, Saviour Kasukuwere, and the CCC 12 are reflective of a judiciary that has indeed gone rogue. I will return to this issue later. The judiciary must protect the vote by allowing Zimbabweans to use their vote to elect a government of their choice. Peace and progress are guaranteed by the vote, and not judgements issued by compromised officers.


2.3 The abuse of the state-controlled media


The capture of the state-controlled media has become an accepted reality in the country

for many citizens. Fortunately, the alternative media has somewhat filled this gap

especially in correcting the deliberate misinformation and disinformation spewed by the

public broadcaster. A cursory look at the last month’s coverage shows an average

reportage of 87% is pro- ruling ZANU PF party. The little 13% is shared across the

political opposition, and often in a negative way.


2.4 No Code of Conduct for electoral stakeholders


ZEC has failed to facilitate the authoring of an Electoral Code of Conduct to guide the

conduct of all stakeholders key to the credibility of the election. This has meant that it

cannot rein in the gross misconduct by actors such as the Zimbabwe Republic Police

(ZRP), Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), the Central Intelligence Organisation through the Forever Associates Zimbabwe (FAZ) and known Government and ZANU PF officials who incite violence against citizens on a daily basis. Without a functional and enforceable Code of Conduct, ZEC knows it is not compelled to play its oversight role over their actions, yet this is exactly why it exists - creating the conditions for a credible election.


3. Our humble verdict, and why history matters


It is our humble but firm view as Zimbabweans that the credibility of the 2023 elections

has been dealt a huge blow by the above-mentioned acts of both commission and

omission, by the very actors that are supposed to help guarantee the credibility and

legitimacy of elections - including ZEC, ZRP, the intelligence service, the judiciary and

the executive among others.


The unresolved historical, prevailing political environment and the skewed electoral

framework, which has clearly deteriorated since 2018, essentially means that the

electoral environment for the 2023 elections will be worse than that which prevailed in

2018, completely rendering this as a sham election - neither free, nor fair, nor credible.

Many scholars and historians have always warned how Zimbabwe has had a history of

disputed elections since the very first elections that gave birth to the country’s independence in 1980. ZANU PF has constantly been accused of various electoral malpractices to attain and retain incumbency.


A number of worrisome and retrogressive practices have been allowed overtime to eat

at the core of our state institutions, which under normal circumstances, are supposed to

support democracy - these have been captured and frozen.


Present day Zimbabwe is captured by an economic cartel composed of a few seemingly

untouchable political elite whose interest is the capture and perpetuation of their grip on

power. This is not for the benefit of Zimbabwe, but their own narrow political and

economic interests.


However, none is as worrying and damaging for our democracy and the credibility of our

elections and democratic processes as what we have seen with the judiciary. This capture of the judiciary is as dangerous and worrying, as much as it is scandalous.


Ladies and gentlemen - this capture and negation of the judiciary is dangerous and a

recipe for instability and a repeat of another coup. The fate of the judiciary was apparently sealed through a forced and unconstitutional Amendment Number 2 of 2021. This essentially transferred all judiciary powers to the President and the political activism by the Zimbabwean bench we see today emanates from this particular Constitutional Amendment, whose enactment is to a great extent, the day that the Zimbabwean judiciary was killed.


The globally celebrated separation of powers between the judiciary, the executive, the

legislature and the media does not exist in Zimbabwe. Ours is now a de-facto one party

state.


The series of very partisan judgements and spates of injustices drain any possible

confidence in our Judiciary with the office of the Chief Justice as the most

compromised.


The unjustified incarceration of opposition figure Job Sikhala, Jacob Ngarivume, the

Mthwakazi 11 affirms our assertion.


One wonders whether it's the same judiciary that is so quick to declare freedom to

ZANU PF leaders often fingered in brazen corruption cases. And the cases of corruption

that are pardoned are too many to mention - the Drax scandal or Covidgate; NSSA-

gate, Gold Mafia, Pomonagate - it's scandalous.


It is clear that some judicial officers have accepted houses and a few United States

dollars to undo and threaten the birthright of Zimbabweans, born of the blood and

sacrifice of thousands during the struggle for liberation. For surely, how can a mere

mortal negate the principle of “one person one vote” with a straight conscience?

These judicial officers are also acting as accessories of those that are looting the state

dry by failing to exercise due diligence in the prosecution of perpetrators of economic

crimes. History will indeed judge these accessories of pseudo- and counter-

revolutionaries harshly.


We are not partisan as civil society. Our point is simple: let Zimbabweans vote freely

and fairly and whoever wins, good for Zimbabwe. That is our simple point.


The Coup of November 2017 has not ended. The infrastructure of violence is still

ubiquitous across Zimbabwe. We call this the margin of terror. Victims of various

episodes of violence like Gukurahundi (1983-1987), Chimwenje (1990-1995),

Murambatsvina (2005)- and the post 2000 series including 2002, 2008 and 2018 are yet

to be compensated. Millions of Zimbabweans are in exile- political and economic exile in

Africa, Europe, America and the Pacific. These are running away from a rich country which has been collapsed by a comprador bourgeoisie class- using its relations with hostile foreign cartels to strip Zimbabwe of her gold, diamonds, platinum and lithium in return for “power retention”. Political coups are cured through dialogue. Sadly, Zimbabweans have not been talking. What we see, even in this election, is a filthy display of mightiness through trinkets like t-shirts, loaves of bread and a few pieces of meat for the masses, and cars and houses for the elite all in pursuit of what they call: “a clean sweep”. How can such a rich jewel of Africa-Zimbabwe justify having a few rich people and collapsed public infrastructure like public health, education, roads and very poor wages for its workforce?


What is sad is that Zimbabwe has received numerous pieces of advice through recommendations of local and African Union and SADC regional and international level

missions. The Government of Zimbabwe has remained averse to progressive reforms,

and its preoccupation has been on further closing the civic and democratic space towards a one-party state.


The outcome of the impending elections is likely to entrench Zimbabwe’s status as a

pariah state and result in retarded sustainable economic development and growth and

ultimately worsen the legitimacy and socio-economic condition of ordinary Zimbabweans especially women, children, civil servants, people with disabilities and the aged.


This leads us to the most crucial part of this press conference: the way forward for

Zimbabwe.


Zimbabweans are not free. Our former Vice President, and once leader of the

opposition, ZAPU, Dr Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo’s assessment of 1984,

remains true, sadly 39 years later:

“The people of Zimbabwe live in fear, not of enemies but their own Government”


1. Present day Zimbabwe is captured by an economic cartel composed of a few

seemingly untouchable political elites whose interest is the capture and

perpetuation of their grip on power. This is not for the benefit of Zimbabwe, but

their own narrow political and economic interests.


2. The state institutions, themself, under normal circumstances, pillars of our ought

to be Constitutional democracy have been captured and frozen. Ladies and

gentlemen- this is dangerous and a recipe for a repeat of another coup. The

judiciary was captured through a forced and unconstitutional amendment

Number 2 of 2022 which gave all judiciary powers to the President. The globally

celebrated separation of powers between the judiciary, the executive, the

legislature and the media does not exist in Zimbabwe. Ours is now a de-facto

one party state. The series of very partisan judgements and spates of injustices

drain any possible confidence in our Judiciary with the office of the Chief Justice

as the most compromised. The unjustified incarceration of opposition figure Job

Sikhala, Jacob Ngarivume, the Mthwakazi 11 affirms our assertion. One

wonders whether it's the same judiciary that is so quick to declare freedom to

Zanu PF leaders often fingered in brazen corruption cases. These are too many to mention- Covidgate, NSSA-gate, Gold Mafia, Pomonagate as the most recent cases.


3. Former Zanu PF spokesperson, our national hero, a crucial figure in the founding

of present-day Zimbabwe: Dr Eddison Zvobgo teaches us again, when, in 1979,

he said: “How can an election be said to be free and fair when, at all its corners, issurrounded by the regime’s henchmen.”


What is sad is that Zimbabwe has received numerous pieces of advice through recommendations of local and African and SADC regional and international level missions. The Government of Zimbabwe has remained averse to progressive reforms and its preoccupation has been on further closing the civic and democratic space towards a competitive authoritarian system.


The outcome of the impending elections is likely to entrench Zimbabwe’s status as a

pariah state and result in retarded sustainable economic development and growth and

ultimately worsen the legitimacy and socio-economic condition of ordinary Zimbabweans.


Our assertion that the 2023 electoral framework will be more skewed than in 2018 is based on the heightened pace at which the Government under the auspices of the

Second Republic has moved to progressively shrink the civic and democratic space in

the intervening period since the last election.


A number of factors support our assertion:


1. Amendments to the constitution through Constitutional Amendment No. 2 of 2021

whose key import was to whittle down or curtail judicial independence.

2. Enactment of new repressive laws notably the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act

of 2019, the Cyber and Data Protection Act, amendments to the Criminal

Law(Codification and Reform) Act popularly known as the Patriotic Act as well as

amendments to the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Act which now awaits Presidential assent . These draconian pieces of legislation continue to diminish the role

of organized civil society in their struggle to push back against increasing

authoritarianism at the behest of the Government.

3. The partisan nature and conduct of the electoral management body, the lack of

genuinely independent mechanisms for redressing electoral disputes and the non-

existence of a binding Code of Conduct for electoral actors;

4. Increased weaponization of the law against perceived ruling party opponents

5. Abuse of the judiciary to tilt the playing field in favour of the ruling ZANU PF party

6. Failure to guarantee equal access to the state media

7. The failure to guarantee inclusion of women, youth and other socially marginalized

groups in electoral processes

8. Open meddling by the intelligence services in electoral affairs – the ruling party has

since let loose a shadowy organisation – Forever Associates Zimbabwe (FAZ) –

administered by the Central Intelligence Organisation to run its election campaign

including using what are clearly illegal tactics such as intimidation of citizens and

violence against opposition political party members

9. A partisan law enforcement mechanism, notably the role of the Zimbabwe Republic

Police. This has led to the banning of several opposition rallies and in some cases, the

courts have been complicit as well

10. Continued partisan conduct by traditional leaders

11. Vote buying by ZANU PF using state resources


Government’s intransigence and implications on democracy and credible elections


The above points expose the Government of Zimbabwe’s gross intransigence towards

implementing recommendations for reforms from various stakeholders, to guarantee a

more level electoral playing field and pre-empting disputed elections and contested

governmental legitimacy.


Most notable have been repeated recommendations from the 2013 and 2018 SADC

Election Observer Missions to the effect of improving the transparency of the work of

the election management body, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and the

timely release of the voters roll.


The Government has also gone on to largely ignore the recommendations of the 2018

Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry, which was itself set up to help address the electoral

shortcomings that resulted in the army shooting of civilians in the wake of late release of

the 2018 Presidential election results, with citizens protesting possible manipulation of

the election results by ZEC. The essence of this state of affairs is that the ruling party

ZANU PF, using its conflation with the current Government, has all but set its sights on

the retention of political incumbency at all costs.


Ladies and gentlemen, we would like to categorically state that the biggest drawback to

democratic consolidation in Zimbabwe remains the Government’s intransigence towards

reform and the full implementation of the 2013 constitution.


From our analyses, elections in Zimbabwe suffer from two key problematics - firstly is their technical manipulation at the behest of a party-state-military complex; second, is an unclear framework for the constitutional transfer of power, which is tied to vested economic interests of certain powerful actors, both inside and outside Zimbabwe.


Resultantly, elections under this political economy have become a mere façade, or ‘boxticking’ exercise that has come to symbolise the start of a cycle of contested governmental legitimacy, which repeats every five years.


Post-independence, it is disheartening that we continue to witness party-state conflation where there is hardly any distinction between the state and the ruling party and roles

between party and state officials continue to be conveniently adulterated to enable

domination and power retention by ZANU PF.


We should also not forget the military factor in Zimbabwe’s politics.


Going Forward


The Coalition reiterates that without a substantive national dialogue towards meaningful

and sustainable reform, supported by the region and international partners, this cycle

will continue to retard Zimbabwe’s prospects for recovery, economic and democratic

development.


In light of these harsh realities, the Coalition proposes the following recommendations

which form part of its current work and efforts:


1. Our major recommendation is that Zimbabwe requires support of the region and the

international community to address its numerous challenges through a process of

national dialogue. Dialogue must help the country return to norm compliance on

democratic governance and resolving the question of political legitimacy.

It remains our strongest belief that without a substantive national dialogue towards

meaningful and sustainable reform, supported by the region and international partners,

elections under the current context firmly puts the country on a recurring cycle of

contested legitimacy, which potentially continues to retard Zimbabwe’s prospects for

recovery, economic and democratic development. Essentially, Zimbabwe requires the

assistance of the region and other international stakeholders to begin a process of

inclusive national dialogue among stakeholders including political parties, civil society

and business towards sustainable reforms that can return Zimbabwe to norm compliance with democratic governance. More importantly, SADC and AU must be alive to the fact that postponing to deal with the Zimbabwean crisis has the potential to have a spin off effects at regional level.


2. The Coalition continues to call upon various stakeholders, including development

partners to support and strengthen civil society responses to the deteriorating human

security situation especially targeted at human rights defenders within its rank and file

as well as broader civil society.


3. The Independence and impartiality of ZEC is critical for elections in Zimbabwe. ZEC

must act within the provisions of the constitution of Zimbabwe and as read with SADC

Principles and Guidelines of credible polls and the African Charter on Democracy,

Elections and Governance.


4. Law enforcement and state security agents must cease from operating as vigilante

extensions of the ruling party and must treat all political contestants fairly and in

accordance with the set legal provisions. Equally the army must stay out from politics

and elections.We also implore the traditional leadership to desist from partisan politics and uphold the constitution of Zimbabwe.


5. The state-controlled media must give equal and fair coverage for all political

contestants as provided for by the law.


6. The Coalition continues to urge citizens, through their own agency, to continuously

work towards ensuring mechanisms for protecting citizens against undue coercion on

election day and will support in any way possible such efforts to ensure the integrity of

the vote is protected on election day.

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