SEAC assesses Zimbabwe’s readiness for elections

SANF 23 no 8 – By Clarkson Mambo

The SADC Electoral Advisory Council has conducted a pre-election goodwill assessment mission for Zimbabwe to check the country’s readiness for polls to be held in the second half of the year.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe is yet to set a date on which the elections will be held, but the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has indicated that they must be held between July and 26 August 2023.

Proclamation of the date opens the election period, allowing parties to start campaigning and other stakeholders to conduct their election duties in line with their mandates.

Zimbabwe conducts general elections to elect the President, parliamentarians and councilors, once every five years, with the last ones held in 2018.

Established in 2005, the SADC Electoral Advisory Council (SEAC) is mandated to advise SADC on matters pertaining to elections, democracy and good governance.

Justice Ticheme Dlamini, the chairperson of SEAC, led the mission which was in Zimbabwe from 12 April to 20 April 2023. The mission met with stakeholders such as the government, ZEC, civil society, diplomats, political parties and United Nations representatives for consultations.

SEAC said the objective of the goodwill assessment mission was to assess if the political and security environments is conducive for the holding of free, fair and transparent, credible and peaceful elections in conformity with the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines.

The mission also looked at the legal framework governing the 2023 general elections in Zimbabwe and the readiness of ZEC to conduct the polls.

“The mission in our view was successful, we achieved what we set out to do and it was very informative so we are grateful to stakeholders,” Justice Dlamini said at the conclusion of the visit.

After the consultations, the SEAC will make recommendations to the Ministerial Committee of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation, which in turn will advise the SADC Troika.

A report of the assessment will be made public in two weeks, the SEAC chairperson said.

The assessment helps SADC appreciate the national context within which elections will be held and allows SEAC to better inform the Chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation on whether or not to deploy the SADC Electoral Observer Mission for the elections. President Hage Geingob of Namibia is the chairperson of the SADC Troika.

The main political parties in Zimbabwe – the ruling Zanu PF and opposition, the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) – are in the process of selecting candidates to represent the parties in the plebiscite.

President Mnangagwa will be seeking a second term in office, while Nelson Chamisa of the CCC is his main challenger. There are several other candidates who have expressed interest in running for the Office of the President.

To qualify to run in presidential elections, a candidate must be a registered voter who should be aged at least 40 years.

The Constitution of Zimbabwe provides for the election of 350 Members of Parliament. Parliament consists of the National Assembly and the Senate which are made up of 270 and 80 Members of Parliament respectively.

A person must be a registered voter and at least 21 years old and 40 years old respectively to be appointed into the National Assembly and the Senate.

Since independence in 1980, Zanu PF has dominated the elections, and only saw its dominance being threatened once in 2008 when Zimbabwe had its first government of national unity, which was made up of the top three political parties at the time.

ZEC is holding a voter registration exercise which will end two days after the proclamation of the election date. At the last count, the electoral body estimated that at least six million people had been registered to vote.

“The Commission is making strides to ensure that the elections will be conducted peacefully in an environment that ensures that the will of the electorate is realized,” ZEC chairperson, Justice Priscilla Chigumba said recently.

“The Commission is satisfied that its preparations are well on course and is ready to discharge its mandate in accordance with the law.”

As part of the preparations, the ZEC in February this year submitted a delimitation report to President Mnangagwa. Delimitation, which is done once every 10 years, divides the country into constituencies and wards for the purposes of election of persons to constituency seats in the National Assembly and of councillors to local authorities.

Zimbabwe is one of the four SADC Member States holding general elections this year. The other countries are the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Kingdom of Eswatini and Madagascar.

Mozambique will hold local government elections on October 11 this year, while the national and provincial elections are set for the last quarter of next year.

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