By Tichaona Sibanda
11 March 2013
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has refused to accredit the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) to observe this Saturday’s referendum, because the organisation is under police investigation.
At a media briefing on Friday ZEC’s acting chairperson, Joyce Kazembe, told journalists that ZimRights’ application had been turned down.
In January police laid charges of fraud and forgery against ZimRights and the group’s director Okay Machisa. The authorities alleged that ZimRights was involved in an illegal voter registration exercise. The organization denies participating in any illegal activities.
More importantly, according to Machisa, ZimRights has not been convicted of any offence and they will be approaching the courts to see if ZEC acted within their jurisdiction.
Machisa told SW Radio Africa on Monday that they were shocked by ZEC’s decision: ‘I’m not sure whether ZEC has turned to be some judiciary arm of Zimbabwe. It looks like they’ve turned themselves into a court of law or police.
‘I don’t know why they decided to react like that, we are facing allegations that we strenuously deny. Our law in Zimbabwe says you are innocent until proven guilty, so why are they jumping the gun? Asked Machisa.
He added: ‘We are going to follow the law and approach the courts to ask them to explain their reasons for declining our accreditation.’
Political analyst Freedom Mazwi said it showed ZEC was taking instructions from some people, and that the body was not yet truly independent.
ZEC has also ruled that diplomatic missions from embassies outside Africa will only be allowed to have five observers each for Saturday’s vote.
SADC has sent a 100 strong contingent of observers who jetted into Zimbabwe on Sunday. They will be deployed to various areas throughout the country. Observers will stay until 4 days after the referendum.