Development Politics

2023 Harmonised elections: Zimbabwe invites embassies, observers to participate in every stage

Dignitaries during a brief to diplomatic missions and Observer Missions on the country’s preparedness for the Harmonised Elections.
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It is imperative for diplomatic missions and observers to participate in every stage of Zimbabwe’s 2023 harmonised elections, Ambassador Fredrick Shava, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has said.

He made the remarks during a brief to diplomatic missions accredited to Zimbabwe and Observer Missions on the country’s preparedness for the Harmonized Elections.

“These elections are vital to us and the world, in the context of our agenda on engagement, re-engagement, and reaffirmation. Let me welcome the Observers who are already in the country. I hope you are enjoying the hospitality of our people and the beautiful weather that Zimbabwe is renowned for. On 23 August 2023, the electorate will choose its leaders at both local and national levels.

“All Observer Missions and Diplomatic Missions are welcome to observe the elections, and I wish to underscore that you are free to make your observations and recommendations in an impartial manner. I assure you that we have nothing to hide as we have conducted free and fair elections since attaining independence in 1980. We are confident that the peace and tranquillity that is prevailing will continue during and after the election period. Zimbabweans are law-abiding and peace-loving people. It is our sincere hope that no mischief makers will try to damage our good reputation as a peaceful and democratic nation. My Ministry stands ready to receive Observer Missions from all over the world, who wish to contribute to our democratic processes. We urge all observers to familiarise themselves with the Code of Conduct for Election Observers and all requirements for accreditation with ZEC, before embarking on their Missions,” Ambassador Shava said.

Updating delegates at the update meeting, Hon Kindness Paradza, the Deputy Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services alluded to previous observer reports that there was always an observation that there were fewer media players in Zimbabwe.

“Observers will not have that weapon to criticize us again as this election comes after 6 new local commercial television stations have come on board and will cover the election. This development has brought diversity in programming and plurality in ownership.

“The election will be the first one to be held under the spotlight of 14 Community Radio stations. The 14 radio stations use local indigenous languages, making access to information truly universal. Never forget that an important spin-off of the community radio stations is the revitalisation of Indigenous languages and cultures. Through these community radios, our people’s pride has been restored as the rural citizens participate and acquire election information in their own traditions,” Hon Paradza said.

He said the upcoming plebiscite will be the first election since independence that comes with the advent of campus radio stations. Campus radio stations have given youth in Universities a new lease on life as the young people communicate in the style they understand.

“This is the first election in decades that is conducted with a fully functional New Ziana. Our newswire is back and is leading in breaking the news. In the previous elections, Zimbabwe would wait for Reuters, SABC, CNN, and BBC to set the agenda and for breaking the election news. This is not going to be during this year.

“Need I also remind you that this is the first election to be held without AIPPA and POSA laws. In the past, observer missions have pointed out that these two pieces of legislation had restricted the operations of journalists. Now the media have FOIA which makes their work conducive to gathering and publishing news,” he added.

In 2018, when the Second Republic formed its government, the narrative in the media was riddled with negativity and residual perceptions of the previous Republic. The Ministry of Information immediately put in place a strategy to protect the image of President Mnangagwa. This strategy included news reporting techniques of making sure that the Country asserted its soft power and restored its leadership status in the region. u

Hon Paradza said the national broadcaster, ZBC has put together and continues to mobilise critical human, financial and material resources required for effective, efficient and professional coverage of the 2023 General Elections (Trained and Qualified Human Resources, Machinery/Equipment, Motor Vehicles, Adequate Funding, Ideal Broadcasting Infrastructure for Radio, Television and Digital Programming and critical Information Communication Technology Support).

He said the Corporation has set aside from its own resources, a budget of USD45 000.00 to cover the cost such as Travel Subsistence, and accommodation that is associated with the covering of the harmonised elections.

He added that judging from the demonstrated past experience and the coverage of Primary Elections by the political players, the National Broadcaster, ZBC is prepared to adequately, professionally, effectively, and efficiently cover the 2023 General Elections.

Dr. Gerald Gwinji, the Permanent Secretary of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage said his ministry is seized with ensuring that the necessary resources for the maintenance of law and order in the country are channelled towards the Police Service to ensure a free, fair, peaceful, and credible election.
“In executing its mandate, the Zimbabwe Republic Police remains guided by both homeland laws and international legal instruments. The latter include; SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, African Union Declaration on the Principles Governing Democratic Elections, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the United Nations Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation, among others. The main objective of these instruments is to entrench democracy, the rule of law as well as respect for human rights,” he said.
Dr Gwinji said generally, the security situation in the country has largely been peaceful thus making it conducive for free, fair, and credible elections. However, typical of an election period the world over, the Police Service has, in some few isolated incidences, received and professionally dealt with cases of both inter and intra-party political violence. He said over and above these few cases, the country continues to enjoy a peaceful and calm environment.
As part of steps to ensure the conduct of free, fair, peaceful, and credible elections, the Police Service has put in place a number of measures.
There was the formation of the Elections Steering Committee to coordinate and oversee all police activities in relation to the 2023 Harmonised Elections. The Committee is headed by a senior officer of the rank of Commissioner. Such a setup is replicated throughout the country at the Provincial and District levels of the organisation headed by senior officers. These committees are working with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and all other stakeholders towards ensuring a peaceful environment during the election period.
In order to ensure a coordinated and harmonised operational approach to the elections, the Zimbabwe Republic Police has crafted its 2023 Harmonised Elections Strategy. The purpose of the Strategic Plan is to give strategic guidance within its rank and file in the management of these elections.
The way police officers conduct themselves during the election period has a bearing on how these elections may be viewed by stakeholders. As such, in an endeavour to ensure all members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police have the requisite understanding of their duties and responsibilities during the election period, the organisation is currently conducting refresher courses throughout the country. The courses are aimed at enhancing the members’ skills in Public Order Management as well as refreshing their memory on homeland laws and international legal instruments related to elections.
“As we speak, 88% of our police officers have so far been trained and we anticipate that all the targeted members will have completed the training by the end of July 2023. The police are carrying out awareness campaigns throughout the country, conscientising the public on the need to exercise tolerance, shun political violence, and most importantly, observe electoral laws. It is therefore our hope and conviction that if our people continue to heed these calls for peace, political maturity, and tolerance, this will assist in the maintenance of law and order.
“Political gatherings in the country are governed by the Constitution of Zimbabwe and the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act [Chapter 11.23]. [MOPA]. Some of the requirements of these laws are that these gatherings are notified to the police to avoid clashes and any other public disorders that might inconvenience members of the public or other parties. All political players are expected to comply with these provisions.”
From January 2023 up to 10 July 2023, police stations across the country are maintaining registers relating to all notifications of intention to hold public meetings made by political parties. During this period, different political parties notified the police of their gatherings, and some of them were allowed to proceed while some could not be allowed to go ahead for various reasons as guided by the law.
Dr. Gwinji said the Police have received a total of 1 437 notifications from the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front [ZANU PF) of which 1 351 were compliant whilst 86 were not compliant as a result they could not proceed. The Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) filed 410 notifications and 345 were compliant whilst the remainder 65 were not. The Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirayi [MDC-T] had 30 notifications out of which 23 were compliant. Other political parties made a total of 89 notifications and 80 were compliant.

 

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende