Unpacking poll roadmap

HARARE - The power-sharing Global Political Agreement (GPA), which was signed in September 2008, stipulated work to be completed during the life of the inclusive government to prepare Zimbabwe for free and fair elections which Sadc could endorse.

(Sadc would not endorse the 2008 presidential elections as free and fair, which led to negotiations for the GPA.)

As very few of the other intended reforms in the GPA were being implemented, the Sadc Heads of State, at the Windhoek Summit of August 2010, demanded that the inclusive government and the Zimbabwean political parties “find an uninterrupted path to free and fair elections and the removal of all impediments to the same”.  

The three parties to the GPA responded to this Sadc pressure by assigning their negotiators to draw up a roadmap defining “milestones and signposts” that must be executed and implemented before the next election.

This work proceeded very slowly and at an extraordinary summit of the Troika of the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation in Livingstone at the end of March 2011, Sadc took a very strong stance on the lack of progress and called for a report back to the next summit.

On April 22, 2011 the negotiators agreed on a “Roadmap to Zimbabwe’s Elections”, although there were no timeframes and some gaps were left where the parties had failed to reach agreement.

This roadmap was considered at the Sadc Summit at Sandton, South Africa, in June 2011, and the summit resolved that the parties should “as a matter of urgency” draw up timelines for the roadmap.

Negotiators signed the “Zimbabwe Elections Roadmap with Timelines” on July 6, 2011 — they had they reached agreement on most of the timelines although a few of the actions were still “parked” for further negotiations.

Sadc Endorsed GPA Election roadmap.

The roadmap is made up of a brief introduction and a table divided into eight parts to cover the following eight issues:  Sanctions, Constitution, Media Reform, Electoral Reform, Rule of Law, Freedom of Association and Assembly, Legislative Agenda and Commitments and actual Election.

In the following paragraphs Veritas sets out the issues that have been implemented and those that have not been implemented and where necessary qualify with a comment.

Implemented reforms

A.  Sanctions

This part of the roadmap calls for: reactivation of the inclusive government’s Re-Engagement Committee, lobbying for the removal of sanctions by the Re-Engagement Committee, and implementation by Sadc of its resolutions on sanctions.

These resolutions called for the lifting of “Western sanctions” on Zimbabwe and for Sadc leaders to engage the international community on the sanctions issue. These have been achieved.

B.  Constitution

The roadmap called for the remaining seven stages of the constitution-making process described in the GPA, which in July 2011 had not been done, to be expedited.  

Six of these have been implemented, albeit way behind schedule: Thematic Committees, Drafting, Second All Stakeholders’ Conference, and Report back to Parliament, Referendum, and Passing of the Bill for the new constitution by Parliament. Only the seventh and final stage remains: Presidential assent to the Bill.

Outstanding reforms

C. Media Reform

This part of the roadmap lists eight agreed activities:

1. Appointment of new board for the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation which is very straightforward as the government is the only shareholder,

2. Appointment of new board for the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe: The existing appointments were irregular — for instance, the necessary parliamentary preliminaries for appointing some BAZ members were not carried out.

3. Licensing of new broadcasters which has not been effectively achieved:  This has been only nominally implemented, by the licensing of two new broadcasters, which are widely regarded as not truly independent.  No community radio stations have been licensed.

4. Appointment of new trustees for the Mass Media Trust remains outstanding.

This Trust holds the controlling interest in the company owning the State-controlled newspaper group and is a government appointed body and trustees have been previously changed by the Government, so this could have been done.

5. The establishment, by October 2011, of the Media Council of Zimbabwe was done late.

The Media Council was appointed by the Media Commission under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act in September 2012, nearly a year after the target date of November 1, 2011.  

The Council should have drawn up a code of ethics for the media sector (not done) and be investigating alleged breaches of the code — which it obviously cannot do until the code is produced.

6. Calling on foreign governments to stop hosting/funding external radio stations broadcasting into Zimbabwe (Not effectively done).

Although Zanu PF and its ministers did so, other parties in the inclusive government consider that for this to be done these stations need to be given licences (not done) to broadcast from within the country and that until then they will be hosted elsewhere.

7. Encouraging the return of Zimbabwean broadcasters running or working for external radio stations (Not done). The reforms that might have encouraged these broadcasters to return have been blocked by a Zanu PF- controlled ministry.
8.      “Hate speech” in the State media (Not done). State media organs, both print and broadcasting, have conspicuously failed to honour this in respect of MDC ministers.

Points 1, 2 and 4 were accepted by the negotiators, by Cabinet, and by the GPA Principals.  Nevertheless the minister of Media, Information and Publicity has refused to implement these three agreements.
Barely-achieved reforms

D.  Electoral Reform

This part of the roadmap lists six activities (five on which all parties agreed and a sixth on which no agreement was reached).

1. Enactment of agreed electoral amendments (Partly done). This was achieved, albeit well after the August 2011 deadline, by the enactment of the Electoral Amendment Act of 2012.  

But this was only a start, because now, as a result of the provisions in the new Constitution for proportional representation, and elected metropolitan and provincial councils, extensive further amendments to the electoral law are essential under Legislative Agenda (see G. below)

2. Voter education — 30 days duration  (Not done)

3. Mobilisation for voter registration — 60 days duration  (Not done)

4. Preparation of new voters’ roll — 60 days duration  (Not done)

5. Inspection of voters’ roll — 45 days duration  (Not done)

Points (2) to (5) which are agreed and closely related activities required special voter registration efforts.  Nothing was done until the current belated and shorter than stipulated mobile voter registration exercise which began on Monday April 29 and ran until May 19.

There is a special provision for voter registration in paragraph 6 of the Sixth Schedule of the new constitution: “The Registrar-General of Voters, under the supervision of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, must conduct a special and intensive voter registration and a voters’ roll inspection exercise for at least thirty days after the publication day” (“publication day” is the day the Act for the new constitution is gazetted, so something over and above the present mobile registration exercise is envisaged).

6. Staffing of ZEC (Not agreed — not done). No agreement was reached on this issue. Zanu PF negotiators rejected MDC’s proposal to have ZEC staff recruited afresh by the new Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.  ZEC key senior staff remain largely as they were for the problematic 2008 elections.

E.  Rule of Law

Most activities in this section did not get the agreement of all three parties and the two that did (1) and (6), were phrased in vague and general terms, with action to be undertaken by the GPA Principals and timeframes to be determined by them:

1. Attorney-General and security force chiefs (Not done). The Principals were to meet the officials concerned to ensure “full commitment” by the Attorney-General, commissioner-general of police and heads of other security and intelligence institutions “to operate in a non-partisan manner consistent with the GPA”.  There have been some efforts on the part of the MDCs but none successful.

2.  Security forces to be told to publicly pledge respect for Constitution, rule of law etc (Not agreed — not done)

3.  State-sponsored violence to be ended (Not agreed — not done)

4.  Deployment of security personnel for political purposes to be stopped (Not agreed — not done)

5.  Special Act for Central Intelligence Organisation to be passed

(Not agreed — not done)

6.   Impartiality of State institutions (Not done) .The Principals were to put in place mechanisms to ensure the impartiality and observance of the rule of law by State organs and institutions as required by GPA Article 13 — including special training for the uniformed forces in human rights and objective, impartial performance of their duties.  

Statements by senior police and military officers, and overall police and military conduct, justify the conclusion that there has been little, if any, serious effort to bring about the changes envisaged by these activities.

F.  Freedom of Association and Assembly

This part of the roadmap covered complaints from the MDC parties about abuse of the Public Order and Security Act (Posa) by the police.  Only activity (1) was agreed:

1.  Meetings of the GPA Principals and the GPA negotiators with the commissioner-general of police (Not effectively done).

If any full, structured meetings ever took place, they seem to have been ineffective. Complaints have continued from civil society and political parties (except Zanu-PF) about police administration of Posa provisions about meetings and processions, even during the lead-up to the Referendum of March 16, when “No Vote” campaigners found their activities frustrated by police.

2. Posa amendments (Not agreed — not done).  MDC proposals for amendments to or review of Posa were rejected by Zanu PF.  And the MDC’s Chief Whip’s Private Member’s Bill to amend Posa, introduced in late 2009 and actually passed by the House of Assembly, has been effectively blocked by Zanu PF manoeuvring in the Senate.

G. Legislative Agenda and Commitments

This part of the roadmap called for legislation on actions (1) to (6) and action by the President on (5):

1. Realignment of laws with the new constitution, and addressing of transitional arrangements (Implementation pending). This should be well under way by now. The timeline agreed in the roadmap was “within 60 days from Referendum”.

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