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The MDC’s five priorities

Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai laid out five demands, distilled from the party’s earlier list of 15, for the party to participate in the March 2005 elections.

The demands were:

  • Restore the rule of law, including disbandment of youth militia and suppression of politically motivated violence;
  • Restore basic freedoms and rights, including repeal of the Public Order and Security Act and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act;
  • Establish an independent electoral commission;
  • Restore public confidence in the electoral process, including through more transparent administration of voters’ rolls; and
  • Restore the secrecy of the ballot.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 04HARARE720, ELECTORAL ACT AMENDMENT TO DEGRADE ELECTORAL

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

04HARARE720

2004-04-29 05:46

2011-08-30 01:44

UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

290546Z Apr 04

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000720

 

SIPDIS

 

SENSITIVE

 

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER, TEITELBAUM

LONDON FOR C. GURNEY

PARIS FOR C. NEARY

NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PGOV ZI

SUBJECT: ELECTORAL ACT AMENDMENT TO DEGRADE ELECTORAL

ENVIRONMENT FURTHER

 

REF: REF: 03 HARARE 874

 

——-

Summary

——-

 

1. (SBU) The electoral environment in Zimbabwe continues to

deteriorate. The reintroduced Electoral Amendment Bill would

make the electoral environment more restrictive and less

transparent in the run up to the March 2005 parliamentary

elections and move Zimbabwe further away from the norms and

standards set by the Southern Africa Development Community

Parliamentary Forum. End Summary.

 

—————————————-

Electoral Amendment Bill Marshals On

—————————————-

 

2. (U) The recently gazetted Electoral Amendment Bill would

make the electoral environment more restrictive and less

transparent ahead of the March 2005 Parliamentary elections.

The latest incarnation of the Electoral Amendment Bill–the

last received an adverse report from the Parliamentary Legal

Committee (PLC), the committee responsible for ensuring the

constitutionality of legislation, and an unfavorable report

from the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal,

and Parliamentary Affairs in March 2003–retains many of the

changes stakeholders, the PLC, and the portfolio committee

found objectionable, such as stricter regulations governing

voter education, voters roll inspection and compilation,

postal voting and campaigning. Noticeably absent from the

most recent draft are provisions governing the selection and

accreditation of monitors and observers. (Reftel) (Note: The

new bill refers to clauses that do not exist in the Electoral

Act as it stands today. It is clear that the bill drafter

was referring to the pre-February 27, 2002 version of the

Act, before the Supreme Court declared the January 2002

General Laws Amendment Act, the act which amended the

Electoral Act, null and void. It is unclear whether the GOZ

reconsidered inclusion of the points on observers and

monitors or if these clauses were omitted because the bill

drafter erroneously believed these clauses to be in the Act

already. End Note)

 

3. (U) Some of the more egregious proposed Electoral Act

changes include:

 

-Removing the clauses that allow a person to make photocopies

of voters, rolls and allow the constituency registrar to

have the voters roll printed and make available to the public

for a fee. This is a new clause that was not present in the

previous version of the Bill.

 

-Enhancing ESC control over voter education. Others may be

able to provide voters, education provided they satisfy

seven conditions, among which is not receiving foreign funds

to assist in the education process. (Note: All significant

NGOs involved in voter education rely on foreign-sourced

funding. End note.) Political parties may still provide their

own voter education programs. The amendment makes violation

of the law a criminal offense subject to a fine and/or

imprisonment of up to six months. Previously, there were no

restrictions on civic organizations conducting voter

education or the source of funding.

 

-Restricting postal voting to members (and their spouses) of

the disciplined forces, diplomatic service or a constituency

registrar, presiding officer, polling officer, or counting

officer away on duty on election day. In the past, persons

unable to go to polling stations because of ill health or

infirmity; residing more than 20 kilometers from the nearest

polling stations; and those who had good reason to believe

they would not be in their constituency on polling day were

allowed to vote by mail. Zimbabweans studying or temporarily

working outside the country could also apply to vote by mail.

The new clause also takes all power from the constituency

registrar in matters of postal voting and vests it in the

Registrar General (RG).

 

-Making it more difficult for people to register to vote by

requiring they submit their applications in person or by

registered mail to the constituency registrar or such other

person the Registrar General may, by notice in the Government

Gazette, designate. Since the Gazette is neither timely

distributed nor readily available, the RG could, in theory,

keep changing the person to whom people must register.

 

-Making it easier for the RG to alter the voters roll without

notifying the affected party.

 

-Making it a criminal offense to place a campaign posting on

any house, building, wall, fence, lamppost, gate, or elevator

without the consent of the owner. The penalty is a fine

and/or imprisonment for up to five years.

 

-Restricting who can be nominated for office and complicating

the nomination process. Prior to the proposed changes, a

person wishing to run for councilor would need not to have

been convicted of an offense involving dishonesty in

connection with any funds or other property of the council

concerned or any other local authority. The proposed

amendment states that a person need only be convicted of an

offense involving dishonesty to be disqualified from running

for office. In addition to this qualification, written

certificates of clearance from the Zimbabwe Republic Police

stating the person has not been convicted of an offense

involving dishonesty or contravened sections of the Rural

District Councils or Urban Councils Acts and from the

relevant council stating that the candidate does not owe any

money to the council must accompany the nomination papers.

 

——————-

MDC Five Priorities

——————-

 

4. In a message delivered by MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai

on April 27, the MDC laid out five demands (distilled from

the party,s earlier list of 15) in connection with the March

2005 elections:

 

–Restore the rule of law, including disbandment of youth

militia and suppression of politically motivated violence;

–Restore basic freedoms and rights, including repeal of the

Public Order and Security Act and the Access to Information

and Protection of Privacy Act;

–Establish an independent electoral commission;

–Restore public confidence in the electoral process,

including through more transparent administration of voters’

rolls; and

–Restore the secrecy of the ballot.

 

——-

Comment

——-

 

5. (SBU) If passed, the Electoral Act Amendment Bill would

make the electoral environment ahead of the March 2005

Parliamentary elections more restrictive and move Zimbabwe

further away from the norms and standards set by the Southern

Africa Development Community Parliamentary Forum. The

patently arbitrary discretion with which the RG would be

allowed to alter the voters roll leaves the process open to

gross partisan abuse. Prohibiting people from photocopying

or otherwise obtaining a copy of the voters roll makes a

mockery of the inspection of the rolls, further enhancing

likely manipulation of the rolls. Without certified copies

of the rolls, it will be virtually impossible to demonstrate

in court the manipulation of rolls over time.

 

6. (SBU) The amendment would disenfranchise thousands of

Zimbabweans who could not make it to their polling stations.

Those afforded postal rights–diplomats, soldiers, and police

officers temporarily on duty outside the country–as a group

seem more inclined to be pro-ruling party than those denied

such rights.

 

7. (SBU) The requirement for candidate documentation of no

criminal record further enhances GOZ control of the process.

If passed, it is hard to imagine the same police who

regularly arrest MDC victims of violence won,t thwart MDC

candidacies simply by holding up required documentation.

Restricting campaign posters effectively limits one of the

opposition’s last remaining methods of public communication.

Given the propensity for selective application of the law by

the GOZ, ZANU-PF candidates will no doubt be allowed to put

up posters, while MDC and other opposition posters will be

met with the full might of the law.

 

8. (SBU) ZANU-PF has made an art out of manipulating the

legislature to legitimize its monopoly over all means to

political power so that its actions are technically within

the law and it can control the electoral process. The

Zimbabwe Constitution grants far-reaching powers to the

President and allows him to effect law with minimal

Parliamentary interference. Even without the new Electoral

Act amendments, the Constitution grants the president the

right to appoint members of the Electoral Supervisory

Committee, judges, police, and defense forces, which

essentially makes the president in charge of the electoral

process. The ruling party has given no indication that it

has any intention of accepting any of the changes to the

electoral environment urged by the opposition and many in the

international community. End Comment.

SULLIVAN

 

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