What British Lords said about the Zimbabwe by-elections of 26 March


A military coup in 2017 was followed by flawed elections in 2018 and subsequently a wholesale attempt to destroy the main opposition party, which ultimately culminated in the parliamentary and local by-elections which took place across Zimbabwe on 26 March this year. In those elections, the main opposition party was denied the right even to use its own name in these elections or to access the public funds it was entitled to. In response its leader, advocate Nelson Chamisa, announced the formation of a new political movement called the Citizens Coalition for Change, or CCC. That party won 19 of the 28 parliamentary seats up for election and hundreds of councillors, despite its formation just two months before the polls, its lack of funds, and widespread intimidation and obstruction of its campaign by the state. By contrast, ZANU-PF’s puppet opposition faction, which had been gifted approximately $1.5 million in campaign funds by the state, won precisely none.

Nevertheless, despite the relative success of the Opposition, the provisions of the 2013 constitution were serially violated throughout the elections, raising grave concerns about the conduct of next year’s general election. State media outlets were brazenly used to denigrate opposition candidates in contravention of Section 61 of the Zimbabwe constitution requiring such outlets to “be impartial” and to “afford fair opportunity for the presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinions.”

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission failed in its duty to provide for the “proper custody and maintenance of voters’ rolls” or to ensure that elections were conducted  “efficiently, freely, fairly and transparently and in accordance with the law”, as required by Section 239 of the constitution.

Multiple irregularities in the voters’ rolls were documented by civil society organisations, including: changes to addresses and voters deleted from the rolls without ZEC giving notice of such changes, in contravention of the Electoral Act; changes made to 156 polling stations, without informing voters; and voters transferred to other wards or constituencies despite their addresses remaining the same, implying that boundaries had been altered without due process and contrary to law.

The security situation was extremely troubled throughout the campaign. Throughout the election, the Zimbabwe Republic Police did ZANU-PF’s bidding and in doing so violated multiple clauses of the 2013 constitution, including Section 50 on the rights of arrested and detained persons, Section 53 on freedom from torture or degrading treatment or punishment and Section 58 on freedom of assembly and association. Police repeatedly obstructed the opposition leader’s rallies. On 20 February, they mounted roadblocks to harass and intimidate supporters attempting to reach the CCC’s rally in Harare. On 12 March they banned the CCC’s rally in Marondera and deployed riot police and water cannons to prevent the event taking place. On 24 March, they banned a final campaign rally at Epworth citing lack of manpower. Needless to say, no ZANU-PF rallies were banned. On the contrary, public resources were frequently misused to support ZANU-PF. In contravention of the constitution, public and school buses were regularly commandeered to transport party supporters, and schoolchildren were forced to attend rallies during school time.

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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