Civic society pressures Sadc

MAPUTO - A SADC summit  on Zimbabwe, which was scheduled to be here on Sunday has been cancelled amid unconfirmed reports that President Robert Mugabe would not be available.

But the summit is expected to be held early next week in Johannesburg.

“The summit is off. We hope it will be moved to a new date,” a official in President Jacob Zuma’s office told journalists yesterday.

However, this did not deter Zimbabwe’s society groups who presented a damning petition urging regional leaders meeting here on Sunday to make any financial support for the southern African nation’s election expressly conditioned on implementation of key electoral reforms.

 A civil society joint petition handed to the Mozambican minister of Foreign Affairs Oldemiro Balói for further submission to the Sadc chairperson Armando Guebuzza and other heads of State ahead of the special summit called to consider funding for the Zimbabwe poll.

The petition says the summit should insist on implementation of a key resolution of the Sadc Troika on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation made on May 10 in Cape Town, South Africa, which urged the Zimbabwean “parties to finalise the outstanding issues in the implementation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) and preparations for holding free and fair elections in Zimbabwe”

 The petition, which has garnered a critical mass from Zimbabwean civil society groups, has also been transmitted to the Sadc secretariat in Botswana and highlights failure to fully implement the GPA by Zimbabwe’s ruling political parties, the prevailing unfavourable conditions and the limited time that is left before the elections if the Constitutional Court ruling of May 31 is abided by.

 The Constitutional Court ordered President Robert Mugabe last Friday to hold elections by July 31, deepening a political dispute over the timing and funding of the vote.

 Sunday’s meeting here was called at the behest of South African President Jacob Zuma who proposed at the Sadc leaders’ meeting on the side lines of the African Union summit that they should help Zimbabwe.

 The cash-strapped government needs $132 million to bankroll the crucial vote, but Mugabe is adamant that the funding must come with no strings attached and recently rejected United Nations poll funding after a fact-finding mission demanded to see Zimbabwe’s vocal civil society groups in its need assessment mission.

The civil society petition says funding for the Zimbabwe election must have strings attached to ensure a credible vote.

“Any Sadc financial support for the election (must) be expressly conditioned on compliance with previous Sadc communiqués and Sadc principles and guidelines governing democratic elections, or else the election will not be recognised as credible by Sadc,” says the petition seen by the Daily News.

“Sadc must insist on the transparent and non-partisan handling of funds and their distribution in the various stages and elements of the electoral process.”

Sadc has been asked to deploy election observers urgently, with civil society groups saying they feared Mugabe will use the security forces to intimidate voters.

“Given the urgency that the Constitutional Court judgment creates, we strongly urge Sadc to constitute and deploy an observer mission to monitor key electoral processes and assess the pre-electoral environment as soon as possible, preferably before the expiry of the life of Parliament on June 29,” the petition says.

Civil society groups also want Sadc officials deployed to the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (Jomic) to immediately assist with monitoring commitments and implementing the remainder of the GPA.

“We call upon the governing authorities in Zimbabwe to ensure that local and international observers are accredited and deployed without undue delays, selectivity and cherry picking; and encourage the Zimbabwean government and electoral officials to ensure that all civil society organisations, media and political parties operating lawfully in Zimbabwe, who have an interest to play a role, be accredited to observe and monitor the electoral process without undue restrictions.”

Tsvangirai and his MDC party have been arguing that the election, after disputed polls in 2008 that led to the formation of a power-sharing government, should be delayed and the date must be determined by the reforms necessary to achieve a credible vote.

Civil society groups in their petition, have hammered the same points home saying the reforms should include urgent realignment of laws in line with the new Constitution that came into force on May 22.

Civil society groups gathered here ahead of the summit called for speedy alignment of election-related legislation with the new Constitution especially amendments to the Electoral Act.

They also urged Sadc to encourage the government of Zimbabwe to look beyond the Electoral Act, and also align other pieces of legislation which have an impact on elections, such as the Public Order and Security Act (Posa), Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa), Broadcasting Services Act, Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act, “which have some sections which are clearly not consistent with provisions of the new Constitution’s Declaration of Rights, Chapter 4.”

“That alignment must be followed through with actual operationalisation of new legal framework before voting takes place,” the petition says.

The pro-democracy groups also called for the opening up of broadcast media, registration of new voters and reform of the military to ensure it stays out of politics.

Sadc has been urged to institute a mechanism or code for monitoring the adherence of security sector personnel to their constitutional mandates, and ensure that service chiefs are prohibited from making partisan and unconstitutional utterances that instil fear in citizens and political contestants.

Civil society groups, which have come under increasing pressure from law enforcement agents, asked regional leaders meeting on Sunday to impress upon the governing authorities in Zimbabwe that the obligation to conduct free, fair and peaceful elections requires them to create a conducive environment by allowing civil society organisations to carry out their lawful activities without harassment, raids, restrictions and unlawful arrests and prosecutions.

The civic groups want the regional bloc to facilitate timely and adequate voter and civic education, which is freely conducted within the confines of the Declaration of Rights in the new Constitution and the electoral law by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), civil society and political parties.

They also highlighted the need for a well-publicised, transparent and accessible voter registration process that allows every Zimbabwean who wants to register to do so without unnecessary impediments and bottlenecks. - Gift Phiri, Political Editor in Mozambique

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.