The latest report from Human Rights Watch, Race against time: The need for legal and institutional reforms ahead of Zimbabwe’s elections, paints a sobering picture of the absence of reforms during the past four years of Zimbabwe’s Government of National Unity.
The report discusses a range of reforms which would be needed for there to be genuinely free and fair elections in Zimbabwe, and highlights the consistent absence of a willingness by Zanu PF to engage in any of these reforms.
Paragraphs like this are telling:
Genuine and comprehensive institutional reform to end the pro-Zanu PF partisanship of key state institutions such as the security forces, electoral management bodies and public broadcasters are necessary to level the playing field and create an environment conducive to the holding of credible elections. Zanu PF has not embraced such reforms in the name of promoting a more democratic Zimbabwe, but has actively resisted them.
The absence of meaningful institutional reforms to facilitate full restoration of the rule of law increases concern for human rights protections ahead of Zimbabwe’s next elections. The GPA noted that state organs and institutions do not belong to any political party and should be impartial in the discharge of their duties. This declaration remains wholly unimplemented.
With or without a new Constitution, Zimbabwe needs to hold new Presidential and Parliamentary elections by the end of October this year, if it is to respect the term length of the current office holders. But in an environment of continued harassment of human rights workers, there is no prospect of meaningful reforms. To change the environment of fear, intimidation and harassment, these changes would need to have happened already. They would need to be demonstrated through actions on the ground, not just paper laws and policies. International attention will hopefully mean that the 2013 election is less overtly violent than the 2008 one was. But there is little to suggest it will be any more free and fair, or that Zimbabweans themselves will feel any more confident in the electoral conditions and human rights environment than we were five years ago.