Ruth Weiss: Zimbabwe before the elections (16)



The country lurched towards the constitutional referendum on March 16th and is now limping towards elections. The NGO Sokwanele, which had issued guidelines for the referendum, pointed out breaches of SADC guidelines, such as the short time given to study the draft constitution before the vote. However, despite criticism of a "modest" constitutional draft and other perceived shortcomings, the media concurred that a resounding "yes" will be the outcome, with all coalition parties supporting it.(1)

Money for the event was raised from local sources, with that for elections as yet uncertain. Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) claimed US$85m was needed for the former, US$107m for the latter exercise. Hard-pressed Finance Minister Tendai Biti reduced ZEC's expenditure, making US$31m available and issuing US$40m treasure bills. The UN team due to assess the situation has been invited to visit the country.(2)

In a new twist, the African Commission on Human and People's Rights told Zimbabwe to allow its nationals abroad a postal vote in the forthcoming referendum. The Zimbabwe human rights lawyers, who had brought the case before the AU Commission, understood it was too late to enforce the ruling for the referendum, but consider it an important precedent for the forthcoming election. At the same time, they fear the government may ignore the ruling, as it had ignored other court decisions, such as those by the SADC tribunal. If so, the African Union will have to consider Zimbabwe's contempt.(3)

Tsvangirai confirmed that Supreme Court judge Rita Makarau would replaced Justice Simpson Mutambanengwe as ZEC chairperson.(4) ZEC's Joyce Kazembe turned down observer status for ZimRights, as the NGO was under police investigation allegedly because of illegal voter registration. However, the court ruled that ZimRights director Okay Machisa had no case to answer, so that Kazembe's ban was overruled.(5) The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) has challenged Kazembe's qualifications for the ZEC job in an application to the Supreme Court.(6) Tsvangirai said that no decision on international election observers has been made, a statement which contradicts Zanu-PF Ministers that only those of "friendly" countries would be invited. No firm date has yet been set for elections, though Tsvangirai mentioned end June/early July. ((7)

The Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) issued a reminder of the right of freedom of expression, media freedom and access to information during elections and electoral periods.(8)

Speaking in South Africa, Biti voiced his concerns over the coming election and also over the registration of voters, claiming that two-thirds of those on the existing list were deceased.(9) ZEC staff recruitment is routed through Mugabe's Office, according to an MDC official, with youths working for the Youth Ministry, whose employment has long been in dispute, emerging as "voter educators", handing out ZEC leaflets.(10)

An almost 100-strong SADC observers arrived for the referendum (to monitor 9 449 polling stations), with the team due to remain until the 20th.(11) SADC has been criticized by political analysts for the late deployment of observers, thus failing to note conditions on the ground before the referendum. Thus Rashweat Mukundu, director of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, said SADC had missed out on such important indicators as "the uncertainty, capacity and role of electoral bodies, the politicisation of the elections such as the banning of international observers, and the behaviour of police." (12)

Political uncertainty

Outrage over the death of young Christpower Maishiri continued, coupled with continued repression and police support of Zanu-PF. Christpower's violent death was brought up for the second time at a cabinet meeting. Zanu-PF accused MDC of internationalising the incident, with President Robert Mugabe saying that the MDC were claiming natural deaths as political violence.(13) During the same meeting, a speech of Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri of last December was circulated, advising senior police officers to support Zanu-PF and exhorting the police to ensure that this party won the elections.(14) A petrol bomb attack was reported on an aspiring Zanu-PF councillor candidate in Manicaland.(15)

The SADC troika on politics, defence and security cooperation held an emergency summit on Zimbabwe's political unrest on March 9th and asked the country to conduct a peaceful referendum.(16). MDC-T's Jameson Timba, Minister in Premier Morgan Tsvangirai's Office, who had previously visited SADC leaders to lobby for a summit, had echoed Finance Minister Tendai Biti's fears that the election campaign could erupt into violence similar to that of 2008. Welshman Ncube's MDC factions also insisted on SADC resolutions to effect the Global Political Agreement's (GPA) provisions of reforms such as the security and media sectors or re-staffing of the biased ZEC before elections.

Mugabe called on South African President Jacob Zuma on the occasion of a gathering of former liberation movements. South Africa. SADC has never publicly condemned Zanu-PF's human rights transgression.(17) The ruling South African ANC pledged once more to support Zanu-PF in the elections.(18)

Following police claims that she was `on the run', Jestina Mukoko, Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) reported to police to be interrogated and was handed into custody of her lawyers. Police charged her with running an unregistered organisation and smuggling illegal radios. The case is seen as another instance of intimidation ahead of elections. It is thought that Jestina Mukuko was - legally - setting up a system of monitoring political violence, Kenya-style, which involved the use of Chinese-made smart phones. Kenya's Ushahidi - testimony - system and by mapping the incidents, alerted the country to areas where violence was taking place. The President's spokesman said that an embassy was being examined for illegally importing radios. Though not named, it was evident that he referred to Britain.(19) Alexander Phiri, MTD-T Matabeleland South district chairman, was arrested for holding a meeting without police permission. Internal party meetings do not require clearance.(20) Following Jestina Mukokos arrest, Zimbabwean Civil Society Organisations (ZCSO) issued a press statement denouncing repression, harassment of civil society organizations and called for full implementation of the GPA.(21)

The Institute of Democracy in Southern Africa (IDASA) rated democracy in Zimbabwe as the lowest in southern Africa.(22)

To mark International Women's day, Zimbabwe women have published a book on women's view on democracy in Zimbabwe.(23)

Six MDC-T members were arrested for assault on a Gweru Councillor. Three Zanu-PF members appeared at a Bulawayo Court following a rowdy meeting on March 10th..(24)


All is not well with indigenisation. President Robert Mugabe is angry with individuals who, according to him, are "fronting" for white interests in mining and farming, including it seems aberrant "War Vets." However, the row centres above all on the "deals" contracted by Indigenisation Minister Saviour Kusukuwere, with demands that these should be reviewed. The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) which began a probe of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) and the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board (NIEEB) was first stopped by armed men, then by police from entering the premises. NIEEB applied to court to have the ACC's warrant to enter its premises set aside. The The Anti Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (ACT-Southern Africa) called it a "disturbing trend".(25) The agreements cover US$1.7bn and include Zimplats (US$971m), Mimosa (US$550m), Anglo American (US$142m).(26)


A Chinese diamond company mining for tantalite in Bikita, Masvingo Province and had discovered diamonds, has now applied for a licence to mine the stones.(27)

Finance Minister Biti plans to enlist the help of President Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvangirai to enforce payment of taxes due by the diamond companies. Biti said that he had been informed that 2012 sales amounted to US$800m but the Treasury had only received US$54m to date. Biti and others have accused Zimbabwe's military of secret deals with Chinese companies exploiting the diamonds. The diamond fields discovered in 2006 are said to have the capacity to yield 110 m-to 160 m carats annually, ranking Zimbabwe as one of the top five world producers. The Mining Ministry's ZMDC claimed Biti's figures were inaccurate.(28)

Zimbabwe is working towards a law concerning local beneficiation of diamonds, which would increase taxation on raw stone export.(29)

Zambian Tourism Minister Sylvia Masebo`s claim that Zambia and Zimbabwe were ready for the UN World Tourism Organisation summit may be over-optimistic. Zimbabwe's preparations lag behind, with the Ministry of Finance slow to make the necessary funding available. Zimbabwe's tourism sector suffers from high transportation costs, which exceed those in neighbouring countries.(30) Moreover, fuel prices have been increased, raising fears of inflation.(31)

  1. Sokwanele, 13.3, 14.3, News24.14.3, Sowetan 14.2, http://www.iol.co.za 14.3
  2. Zim. Independent 8.3
  3. New Zimbabwe 11.3, http://www.iol.co.za 11.3, Reuters 11.3, SW Radio Africa 13.3
  4. SW Radio Africa 12.3)
  5. VOA Zim.12.3, Daily News 12.3, SW Radio Africa 13.3, SW Radio Africa 14.3
  6. The Zimbabwean UK 14.3
  7. SW Radio Africa 11.3, SW Radio Africa 13.3, http://www.iol.co.za 13.3
  8. Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe 14.3
  9. VOA Zim.12.3, AFP12.3
  10. http://www.irinnews.org 12.3
  11. Zim. Independent 8.3, VOA Zim. 8.3, AP 10.3, Mail and Guardian 9.3
  12. Nehanda Radio 10.3
  13. Zim. Diaspora 11.3
  14. http://www.bdlive.co.za 12.3
  15. Zim. Independent 8.3
  16. SW Radio Africa 8.3
  17. Daily News 13.3
  18. Standard 10.3, New Zimbabwe 10.3
  19. http://www.iol.co.za/ 13.3
  20. Mail and Guardian 12.3
  21. SW Radio Africa 11.3, http://www.iol.co.za 10.3, New Zimbabwe 12.3
  22. The Zimbabwean UK 8.3
  23. Press release 9.3
  24. VOA Zim.8.3, Standard 10.3
  25. Sokwanele 14.3, The Zimbabwean UK, 8.3
  26. The Zimbabwean UK 13.3, SW Radio Africa 14.3
  27. Mail and Guardian 8.3, SW Radio Africa 13.3, New Zimbabwe 12.3
  28. Zim Independent 8.3
  29. SW Radio Africa 11.3
  30. New Zimbabwe 11.3
  31. Israeli Diamond 11.3
  32. Standard 3.10
  33. New Zimbabwe 12.3

Letzte Änderung: Friday, 15-Mar-2013 10:28:35 CET
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8.3.2013 Ruth Weiss: Zimbabwe vor der Wahl (15)