AFRICA DAY: Election watchdogs call for reforms before August polls

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By Staff Reporter

LOCAL election watchdogs have implored government to support the ratification of the African Charter with key electoral reforms necessary to achieve free, fair and credible elections.

Zimbabwe is set to hold harmonised elections in August.

In statements commemorating Africa Day, the Election Resource Centre (ERC) and the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) urged the government to implement electoral reforms to avoid another disputed election.

“The government must implement electoral reforms in line with the dictates of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG) which it ratified in 2022.

“The implementation of electoral reforms in the spirit of the ACDEG is essential for improving and consolidating the quality of democracy, elections and governance in Zimbabwe,” ZESN said.

Some of the reforms include: the need to create a conducive electoral environment that enables effective participation of citizens without fear, availing of the voter’s roll, implementation of the 50/50 mechanism as provided for in the Constitution and addressing the violence that affects women’s participation in politics and electoral processes.

ERC stated that, “The government must fully align election-related laws and support the ratification of the African Charter with key electoral reforms necessary to achieve free, fair and credible elections.”

The African Charter sets standards for better governance across Africa by promoting and emphasizing on good governance, popular participation, rule of law and human rights.

It also speaks strongly against ‘unconstitutional changes of governments’ and encourages ‘change of power based on the holding of regular, free, fair and transparent elections conducted by competent, independent, and impartial national electoral bodies’, most of which have been ignored by African leaders.

The Charter encourages state parties to adopt and implement sustainable development policies, promote transparency in public sector management and create conducive conditions for Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to exist and operate within the law.

The Private Voluntary Organisation (PVO) Amendment Bill, which parliament and senate have already passed, is meant to protect and defend the country’s sovereignty from destabilizing foreign interests, government has claimed.

The administration has accused CSOs of precipitating a regime change agenda.

The 60th anniversary of Africa Day is running under the theme “Acceleration of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) implementation.”

The ERC said May 25 is a reminder of the challenges preventing Africa from reaching its full potential including the devastating impact on African socio-economic development that disputed elections bring.

“The failure by governments and regional bodies such as SADC and the African Union to take tangible steps to address the root causes of disputed elections leaves the continent in a dilemma, creating a perfect storm for sustained conflicts.”

ERC added that SADC and the AU should establish an early warning system to deal with potential areas of conflict ahead of the plebiscite.