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Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Preventing Electoral Fraud in Zimbabwe: A Report on the Voters’ Roll in Zimbabwe

Preventing Electoral Fraud in Zimbabwe: A Report on the Voters’ Roll in Zimbabwe


June 6th, 2011

SAIRR Report CoverBy R.W. Johnson – May 2011 – South African Institute of Race Relations

Download the report here (7.7MB)

Executive Summary

The primary objective of Zimbabwe’s coalition Government, born of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) of September 2008, was to lay the foundations for free and fair elections. The GPA itself only emerged after the elections of March-June 2008 in which the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) won a parliamentary majority.

This was then followed by a presidential election campaign of such surpassing violence that the MDC candidate, Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, withdrew rather than expose his followers to further brutality. After some pressure from Zimbabwe’s neighbours in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), the GPA was signed. This allowed President Robert Mugabe to remain in power with Mr Tsvangirai as Prime Minister. The GPA called for a new constitution and new elections which would resolve Zimbabwe’s decade-long crisis.

This arrangement necessarily entrusted an utterly key role and mandate to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC). This was problematic, for the ZEC has major credibility problems due to its past use as a politicised and partisan tool of the ruling Zanu-PF Government. Hence, if fresh elections are to work, the credibility and capacity of the ZEC will be pivotal.

Over the years numerous reports have been compiled and submitted to the electoral authorities about the grave deficiencies of the voters’ roll, itself the responsibility of the Registrar-General of Elections, Mr Tobaiwa Mudede, a self-acknowledged Zanu-PF die-hard. On the sole occasion when any notice was taken of these exposés – the last report by the Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network (ZESN), a network of civil society organisations – the ZEC merely referred the problem back to Mr Mudede. This, of course, resulted in no remedial action.

This Report sets out the detailed problems with the latest version (as of October 2010) of the voters’ roll. It also suggests why some members of the ZEC are unfit to sit on a body which is currently the most important institution on which a democratic future for Zimbabwe depends.

The Report also suggests that Mr Mudede cannot be the right man for the post of Registrar-General, for he has been largely responsible for the defective voters’ rolls used in elections since 2000 and for the extremely flawed electoral processes witnessed in these polls. Any serious attempt to give Zimbabwe a free and fair election requires his replacement by a properly neutral civil servant.

The three parties in the current Zimbabwe Government – Zanu-PF, MDC (Tsvangirai) and MDC (Ncube) – have been and still are negotiating a Road Map to free and fair elections. The GPA requires that there must first be a new constitution, approved by a popular referendum. However, it would be difficult for a credible referendum to take place without a new voters’ roll.

To be sure, current legislation caters for such a possibility in theory, but in practice a referendum held when there is such controversy over phantom voters would be bound to be challenged. The earliest conceivable date for presidential and parliamentary elections following a proper referendum would be 14th June 2012. Any difficulties in negotiation either at the level of the three negotiating parties, or at the level of the SADC, can only delay this date further.

The Road Map is supposed to be endorsed soon by the SADC, by which time all contentious issues are supposed to have been settled. It is hoped that the present Report will assist in this process. However, the issues raised in this Report are not susceptible to last-minute fudges or minor alterations.

They are not only fundamental but also require time. To draw up a new voters’ roll from scratch will require months of work and considerable organisation and expenditure. A new Registrar-General needs to be appointed and to work himself into his job, and a new set of personnel for the ZEC will need to do the same. If the Road Map is to succeed at all, these issues must be confronted and dealt with right away.

Foreword by Beatrice Mtetwa

Currently negotiators from all three of Zimbabwe’s main political parties are engaged in trying to devise a Road Map to free and fair elections under a new and democratic constitution. This is, for all Zimbabweans, the holy grail. Zimbabweans had hoped that they were entering such an era at independence in 1980 but history has shown us that the struggle for freedom is not won all at once but has to be the object of a longer and more continuous struggle. But we have always known that we would not achieve the democratic future we want until there could be truly free and fair elections in Zimbabwe. The first and foremost essential ingredient for that is a properly drawn up voters’ roll – and this should be a document in the public domain, easily accessible not only to political parties but to members of the general public.

Both our South African Development Community (SADC) neighbours and partners and Zimbabwe’s Parliament have all agreed that a reliable and accurate new voters’ roll must be drawn up. Yet in Zimbabwe even this is no simple matter, as this Report shows. Nor has it been at all easy for many years now for anyone to gain access to the voters’ roll: all manner of obstacles have been placed in the way. Having experienced the problem first hand when I dealt with many election petitions after the 2000 parliamentary elections, I have personal knowledge of these difficulties. Happily, the author of this Report, Bill Johnson, has been able to gain access to the current voters’ roll as it existed in October 2010 and here at last is a proper analysis of it. As will be seen, it leaves us with no doubt that only a really new voters’ roll, drawn up from scratch by a truly independent and impartial organisation, can provide a basis for a democratic future.

We also need to ensure that in Zimbabwe both the post of Registrar-General of Elections and positions on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission are held by truly impartial and fair-minded people, with no political or partisan bias of any kind. Despite all our travails in Zimbabwe, we have many such people at home and many more in the diaspora. Although we long for a democratic and peaceful outcome which will enable the millions who have left to return home, while the current situation continues it is vital that Zimbabweans in the diaspora should also be enabled to vote, in just the same way that the South African courts have determined that the franchise should be extended to South Africans abroad.

I commend this Report and all those whose efforts have made it possible. In some cases there are people who have devoted years of their lives in trying to make public the data which is in it. It is a signal service to the people of Zimbabwe that this work has been done. It is my fervent hope that this report will be taken seriously not only by the political parties and Parliament but also by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.


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