Zimbabwe continues to face numerous challenges of political polarisation ahead of the 2018 harmonised Presidential, Parliamentary, Senatorial and Local Authorities elections. There is an increased demand for electoral reforms by several electoral stakeholders, notably political parties and civil society organisations. Government recently announced its decision to take over the procurement of Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) kits from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). While this is legally within Government prerogative, the timing has attracted criticism given that UNDP had in agreement with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), with Government endorsement, initiated the procurement process and is now at the point of final evaluation of the potential vendor. Government intervention at this point has also proven counterproductive to the confidence building efforts being made by ZEC. Stakeholder perception is that the Government and ZEC are not providing necessary details on the BVR procurement process bringing into question their commitment to transparency. Stakeholders are also generally concerned about the limited time remaining for a thorough voter registration process to be conducted.
During this reporting period, the following activities have been implemented:
On 1 July 2016 EISA resumed its operations in Zimbabwe following a two year temporary closure. The project is aimed at supporting the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) in line with the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between EISA and ZEC. EISA is providing support to ZEC based on the 2013 to 2018 electoral cycle. Zimbabwe is due to hold harmonised elections (Presidential, Parliamentary, Senatorial and Local Authorities) in 2018. The support to ZEC is funded by the European Union (EU) for 30 months.
Currently Zimbabwe is facing multiple challenges of a continuing ailing economy, political polarisation, and demand for electoral reforms by varied electoral stakeholders and external interest groups, as well as unprecedented citizen unrests. The foregoing context has implications in the manner in which the 2018 electoral process will unfold. For instance, given the fluid political and economic situation, contestation for power is more robust especially following the split of the governing party. Electoral stakeholders are also placing more demands on ZEC to deliver on its constitutional mandate to administer elections, including registration of voters. The new constitution bestows the registration of voters on ZEC - a function which used to be performed by the Office of the Registrar of Voters which is largely seen as not independent nor impartial.
The EISA support to ZEC entails the following activities:
The bulk of activities carried out under the project "Promoting Democracy in Zimbabwe through Supporting the Referendum and Electoral Processes" were geared towards ensuring ZEC's readiness in organising the two events. With the financial support from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), the Royal Norwegian Embassy, the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the European Union (EU), ZEC's ability to effectively and efficiently manage electoral processes was improved as EISA provided numerous opportunities for ZEC personnel to gain new knowledge and skills that were relevant to the successful implementation of ZEC's mandate. In recognition of the successful partnership between the two institutions, ZEC and EISA renewed their Memorandum of Understanding in November 2013 for a further four years. The support provided to ZEC has contributed towards the following achievements during the period January to December 2013:
EISA's work took place in a challenging environment with the harmonised elections being called for 31 July 2013. The referendum took place in March 2013 with an overwhelming endorsement of the Constitution. EISA also engaged with electoral stakeholders such as political parties through EISA's regional and continental programmes such as the Strengthening Electoral and Democratic Processes (SEDP) in the SADC Region" and the Annual symposium - Understanding the Causes and Consequences of Political Party Alliances in Africa. As a result of these initiatives a substantial amount of work was done and significant achievements have been recorded from January to December 2013. There was a consolidation of the strategic partnerships between ZEC and key stakeholders, as well as the enhancement of the capacity of all role players in the electoral process. ZEC has become more accessible and more transparent in its business by way of increased interaction and collaboration with all electoral stakeholders.
Pursuant to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) entered into with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) in September 2011, EISA has over the past 12 months provided technical assistance to ZEC on the electoral process and specifically in the implementation of its Five-Year Strategic Plan. As part of the preparations for the forthcoming referendum on the new constitution and harmonised elections, EISA and ZEC jointly planned and agreed on a set of activities to be implemented throughout 2012. There was a notable progress in the implementation of the agreed activities. However, there were factors which retarded the electoral process and therefore posed challenges to the implementation of the project. Two of these challenges worth mentioning in this report are, the slow constitution making process and the uncertainty regarding the holding of byelections in various constituencies of the country.
Following the completion of the constitution draft, the principal parties to the Global Political Agreement (GPA) undertook internal consultation and review of the draft constitution commonly referred to as the "Copac draft" derived from the Constitutional Parliamentary Select Committee (COPAC) which is spearheading the constitution making process. The three parties are the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T) and Movement for Democratic Change-Mutambara (MDC-M). The intra-party consultative process has resulted in delays of the constitution making process as in some cases parties' higher structures disagreed with some proposals which would have been agreed to by their negotiating teams. This, has therefore, in many instances subjected the draft to endless negotiations, stalemates and interventions by the parties' hierarchy. As a result, the referendum and elections which were to be held in 2012 have now been shifted to 2013.
The second challenge was the Supreme Court ruling instructing the State President to proclaim byelections in three vacant constituencies following a court action by three former MDC-M Members of Parliament. Initially, the President appealed against the Court ruling and when he lost the appeal, he then asked for an extension of the deadlines stipulated in the court ruling for the proclamation on two occasions. This development made it difficult for ZEC to plan as it was not sure whether to prepare for the by-elections or fully fledged elections. This uncertainty disrupted the ZEC/EISA programme for a while.
The above notwithstanding, substantial amount of work has been done and significant achievements have been recorded from January to December 2012. In its endeavours, the EISA Zimbabwe Field Office received expert support from the EISA head quarters and drew expert inputs from an array of institutions including the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa, National University of Science & Technology (NUST), the South African Council of Churches (SACC) and the South African Press Ombudsman. This report presents a summary of activities carried out in four thematic areas during the 2012 period and the achievements under each of these activities are highlighted.
The project's achievements since its inception in 2011were further consolidated in 2012. These are, the creation of a platform for participation, improved relationship between ZEC and stakeholders and increased opportunity for constructive dialogue among all electoral stakeholders. Specific achievements are discussed in the following sub-sections.
The opening of the office formed part of the broader EISA regional programme as well as having a specific focus on promoting democracy through supporting the referendum and electoral processes. EISA and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in September 2011 where, under this cooperation, EISA provides technical support to ZEC in a number of areas including electoral assistance, contributing to building stakeholders' trust and participating in the electoral process within an enabling electoral environment. The important aspect of this initiative is that it introduces a multi-stakeholder approach to the electoral process and, in this way, contributes to a credible and transparent electoral process. This is aimed at providing stability to the highly competitive and, at times, violent elections over the past decade.
During this review period, the support provided by EISA to ZEC has seen the relationship with electoral stakeholders, including the media, political parties and CSOs, strengthened and a recognition by stakeholders of ZEC's efforts to reach out to all stakeholders. EISA's regional project, Strengthening Electoral and Democratic Processes in the SADC region provided an opportunity for a two-person study tour to South Africa to observe the May 2011 South African local government elections.
The EISA/ZEC partnership was supported by the French Embassy, the Royal Norwegian Embassy and Sida during 2011. EISA's regional programme was supported by the DANIDA, Sida and SDC.