Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights launched a report today titled Zimbabwe: Geared up for another election. The report is a follow up to another ZHLR report titled Will there be free and fair elections?
ZLHR’s objective in conducting the study that culminated in this report was to assess the 2008 election and the possibility of future elections in Zimbabwe. The report uses the SADC Principles and guidelines to Democratic elections as a yardstick to measure the level of compliance of Zimbabwe’s electoral framework and its adherence to norms and standards, which the SADC community has recognised as minimum requirements to ensure democratic elections.
In the report, ZLHR notes that the Lancaster House Constitution, amended 18 times before the 2008 elections, does not protect fundamental rights and freedoms; nor does it establish independent institutions that are accountable, transparent and independent.
At the signing of the Global Political Agreement and the formation of the Inclusive government the generality of Zimbabweans were hopeful that this was the beginning of a journey towards a democratic dispensation. Crucial to the creation of that democracy was a new constitution. However, the report noted that people were unable to participate freely in the constitution-making process because of the continued existence of repressive legislation. Private media was suffocated and the public media was under the control of retrogressive forces. Selective application of the law targeting human rights defenders, and perceived and real supporters of the MDC is still rampant, and institutions of justice delivery remained unreformed. Two years after elections and the singing of the GPA, cases of political violence continue to be documented, and the polarisation of society that marred the 2008 Election has not been addressed.
In his presentation at the launch, ZLHR member, Alec Muchadehama reflected on the 2008 elections. He noted that the 2008 elections had been characterised by extreme violence; electoral fraud and malpractice; the denial of freedoms of expression and assembly; bribery and corruption; and murder. He also chronicled the trials he endured as a lawyer defending human rights, including the illegal opening of ballot boxes, gerrymandering and the restriction of public access to the voters roll by ZANU PF. Mr. Muchadehama noted that Zimbabwe, during that election was a “classical example of how not to [conduct elections]“.