Rights report warns of flawed election if key reforms are ignored

Human Rights Watch report

By Tererai Karimakwenda
10 January 2013

A new report by the respected global rights monitor, Human Rights Watch, has warned Zimbabwe’s unity government that time is running out to implement key reforms that were agreed to in the Global Political Agreement (GPA), if credible elections are to be held later this year.

Titled “Race Against Time – The Need for Legal and Institutional Reforms Ahead of Zimbabwe’s Elections”, the report says the main purpose of the GPA was to establish institutional and legal reforms which would help create an environment conducive to holding free and fair elections.

But over four years since the GPA was signed, “little progress has been made” in addressing the various “political, institutional and human rights issues” that were aimed at preparing the country for credible elections, the report says.

According to Human Rights Watch, these reforms “have either not been introduced or are not being implemented.” The reforms include amendments to repressive laws that include Access to Information, Public Order and Security and the Presidential Powers Act, which empowers Robert Mugabe to act unilaterally to enact legislation.

Researcher Dewa Mavhinga who put the report together, told SW Radio Africa they did an audit of the progress made by the unity government towards election, and found that there is no political will within Zimbabwe to move forward towards the next poll.

“If there was political will it would not have taken them so long to do very little in the time that they have had since signing the GPA. Yes we acknowledge the absence of political will and look to SADC, the African Union and international community to pressure Zimbabwe to reforms before elections,” Mavhinga said.

He explained that the guarantors of the GPA, SADC, need to go beyond the first step of talking about reforms in Zimbabwe, and look at ways to penalise any officials that hinder progress towards reforms.

“This is the area that we really feel that SADC has had shortcomings. It had not clearly spelled out what happens to those unity government officials who are obstructing key reforms towards elections. They must spell out what happens, including suspension from SADC or sanctions if necessary,” Mavhinga stressed.

The report put the blame squarely on ZANU PF’s refusal to implement specific reforms and on the unity leaders’ failure to act on the violence that they publicly denounce and warn supporters to shun. With the violence and intimidation continuing a fear of elections remains in the electorate.

“On a number of occasions since the unity government assumed office, President Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC have issued joint public statements condemning political violence, but with no corresponding action to dismantle the infrastructure of violence and end impunity,” the report said.

Among other recommendations, the report calls on the unity government to fully implement all provisions of the GPA, repeal or amend all repressive legislation and ensure that perpetrators of past abuses are held accountable. The report also calls for the replacement of partisan heads of police and other security forces.

Mavhinga said the report will be circulated to officials in the unity government, SADC, African Union and the international community. This is so they can understand the situation on the ground and legislative challenges faced by Zimbabwe ahead of the next election.

According to Human Rights Watch, if elections are not held in March as desired by Robert Mugabe, the latest date allowed by the constitution would be October 29th.

2 Responsesto “Rights report warns of flawed election if key reforms are ignored”

  1. wilbert_mukori says:

    Human Rights Watch (HRW) is to be highly commended for producing this important report. The truth of the matter it is near impossible to deliver free and fair elections even if the GNU was to be given another 12 months to do the preparatory work for two main reasons:

    1) The situation is back to front; all the reforms should have been implemented
    first and then the new constitution drafted to include the reforms to give them
    constitutional foundation. As things stand the Copac draft constitution is being finalized and will be submitted for national approval or rejections and yet it is silent or too weak to be any use on all issues requiring democratic reforms.

    2) The GNU has always lacked the political will to meaningful carry out the democratic reforms. It was naive to expect a democratic consensus to emerge out of grouping in which one member has dictatorial power. The GPA grant Mugabe the dictatorial powers and little wonder he has abused these powers to ensure the GNU does not deliver on its main set task of free and fair elections.

    Given time, a year and half at most, all the necessary democratic reforms and institutional changes can be implemented and the Copac draft constitution amended to suit. No amount of added time will do anything to transform Mugabe from a tyrant to a democrat; he and his cronies have simply too much loot and too many hidden skeletons to allow the full democratic glare to shine on Zimbabwe’s past.

    Since Mugabe was sworn in as State President in June 2008 and could save a maximum of five years, he cannot extent his rule beyond June 2013. This dysfunctional GNU has dragged out the full five years of its worthless existence.

    All the parties in this GNU want to do now is have the fresh elections; they accept they had been enjoying their time on the gravy train too much and neglected the set task of ensure next elections are free and fair. Frankly none of them are particularly concerned that the orgy of violence of 2008 should be repeated – as long as they are never caught up in any of it themselves as the victim, particular if they went on to win the valued-above-1000s-of-human-lives seat on the gravy train.

    It is because of the unacceptable cost in life and limb and materials and, worse still, that fraudulent electoral process will never produce a competent government that everything possible must be done to ensure the next elections in Zimbabwe are free and fair and nothing short!

    This dysfunctional GNU has deliberately failed to carry out its task of implementing the reforms and thus ensure the elections are free and fair and democratic credible. Mugabe deliberately ensured the GNU failed because he knew Zanu PF would never win free elections and Tsvangirai deliberately neglected honoring his promise to bring change because he did not want to bite the hand that fed him now that he was enjoying the luxuries of being on Mugabe’s gravy train.

    The referendum on the Copac draft constitution is essentially a referendum on whether the GNU will deliver free and fair elections. The answer is a big NO and the nation must vote accordingly!

    It is interesting to note that whilst HRW has castigated the GNU for wasting the nation’s time, money and human misery and lives all these last five years in what is clearly a wild-goose chase; local NGO and civic groupings were tripping over each other to be involved in the Copac Second All Stakeholders’ Conference. The lack of credible local NGO and civic society has not helped open the democratic space in Zimbabwe!

    • Chimbwido Warvet says:

      Kana matuvi ambuya vangu akaita nani. Kutoshaya musoro wenyaya apa nhai. Ndichochii ichi Wilbert munhu wandaifunga kuti mumvwe wevanyori vanogona. Matuvi aya, ngaiende kuchikoro zvakare iyo Wilbert yacho.

Leave a Reply