Enforce Laws That Deter Electoral Malpractices

Poll watchdog, Election Resource Centre (ERC), has called for the crafting of a legislation that enforces strict adherence of the Code of Conduct for political parties and candidates to ensure stiff and enforceable penalties are in place for offending parties.

The ERC made the recommendations in its post Bikita West by-election report that was held last week to fill in the vacant post after the former legislator Munyaradzi Kereke was convicted of rape.

The just ended Bikita West by-election was rocked by violence and intimidation ahead of the polling day, the ruling party over the years has been using violence to instil fear among voters to vote for its part candidates.

According to the election think tank the behaviour and testimonies from some voters revealed high levels of intimidation in Bikita West. The intimidation occurred immediately after nomination processes up until Election Day eve.

“There is need for legislation that enforces strict adherence to the Electoral Code of Conduct for Political Parties and Candidates to address electoral violence and other malpractices so as to promote the conduct of peaceful, free, fair and credible electoral processes in Zimbabwe,” reads part of the report.

ERC also raised a red flag on the reports abuse of traditional leaders to subject citizens to intimidation and partisanship in direct contradiction of constitutional provisions in Chapter 15 and the Code of Conduct for Political Parties.

The ERC, a think and advocacy institution on democracy and elections, also called on election authorities to put in place “mechanisms that effectively address electoral disputes.”

“Campaign activities of candidates and political parties are essentially guided by the Code of Conduct for political parties and candidates among other instruments and should comply with political rights and basic freedoms as enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

“The ERC and its partners noted that there were considerable violations related to freedom of assembly and association as some people were forced to attend rallies,” reads part of the report.

The political environment was monitored through a collaborative framework involving the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) a constitutionally established body responsible for monitoring human rights violations. The ERC has a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the ZHRC aimed at establishing a collaborative middle ground for prevention and monitoring of human rights abuses and cases of politically motivated violence as provided under section 133 of the Electoral Act.

On polling day the organisation said there were, however, “isolated cases of intimidation in certain Wards such as Ward 12 where people’s names were recorded before and after casting their votes.  Reports received by the ERC also indicated that voters were marshalled to polling stations at Birivinge Secondary and Chikutukutu Primary schools in Ward 12,” reads part of the report.

The ERC election observation mission focused its oversight on three main aspects of the electoral processes – legislative, administrative and political environment frameworks.