Independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission
Currently, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s secretariat – which is charged with overseeing the 2018 election process – is dominated by partisan state intelligence and military officials. Electoral reforms should start with making the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission independent and professional. The commission is compiling a new voters’ register. Unlike countries like Botswana or Mozambique that guarantee the diaspora vote, there is no provision for Zimbabwean citizens in the diaspora to vote from outside the country, unless in diplomatic missions. In early December, the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, Justice Rita Makarau, resigned from her post without stating reasons.
Mnangagwa will replace Makarau with a former judge or a person qualified to be a judge. A key part of Zimbabwe’s election credibility rests on ensuring that the chairperson is replaced by someone known to be independent, impartial, non-partisan and with the capacity to deliver a democratic election. If Makarau is replaced by a person aligned to the military, and lacking in independence and professionalism, a credible election will not be possible.
Restrictions on Rights to Freedom of Expression, Association, and Assembly
The Mnangagwa government should also take steps to amend or repeal repressive laws such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), and the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. These laws were used under Mugabe to severely curtail basic rights through vague defamation clauses and draconian penalties. Partisan policing and prosecution has worsened the impact of the repressive provisions in the AIPPA and POSA laws. Failure to repeal or significantly revise these laws and to develop mechanisms to address the partisan conduct of the police leaves little chance of the full enjoyment of rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly prior to and during the coming elections.
II. Key Recommendations to the US Government
Historically, the US government has shown a strong interest in promoting respect for the rule of law, good governance and human rights in Africa. The Trump administration has yet to demonstrate leadership on human rights issues in Africa so it is more important than ever that Congress promotes human rights as a core pillar of US foreign policy. To that end, Congress should support the people of Zimbabwe by calling on the Mnangagwa government to set and implement a clear roadmap for democratic elections.
Continued next page