“Electoral corruption ahead of 2023 elections worrying”  

The Zimbabwe Civil Society Anti-Corruption Coalition and other concerned civil society organisations have expressed grave concern about widespread electoral corruption in the country, saying legislative measures, including dissuasive measures should be introduced to create a level playing field by mitigating abuse of state resources and misuse of Zanu PF’s incumbency.

Electoral corruption as defined by the coalition is the manipulation, abuse, or illegal interference of a conducive electoral environment, legal and policy frameworks, management modalities, voters, processes, voting, outcomes, and other related activities surrounding the electoral cycle by state and non-state actors in order to give one political player an advantage over others. 

“We are concerned that electoral corruption is rampant, appears as if it is normal and that it has flourished with impunity. We are gravely concerned that acts of electoral corruption have deleterious effects on development since it leads to conflicts and controversial electoral outcomes,” said the coalition in a statement. 

The Zimbabwe Civil Society Anti-Corruption Coalition is made up of 20 organisations namely the Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa, Bulawayo Progressive Residents and Ratepayers Association, Chitungwiza Residents Trust, Combined Redcliff Residents Association, Diplomatic Mission Peace and Prosperity Trust –Zimbabwe, Freedom to the Disabled Persons of Zimbabwe, Gweru Residents and Ratepayers Association, Health Alert Consortium, Harare Residents Trust, Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice Trust, Lupane Residents and Ratepayers Association, Masvingo United Residents and Ratepayers Alliance, Rural Community Empowerment Trust, Kwekwe Tenants and Residents Association, Victoria Falls Combined Residents Association, Voice of Justice, Zimbabwe Elections and Advocacy Trust, Zimbabwe Organisation for the Youth in Politics, Zimbabwe Women against Corruption Trust and the Zimbabwe Chamber for the Small to Medium Enterprises. 

Apart from destroying economies and societies, the anti-corruption coalition believes electoral corruption subverts and undermines the principle of free choice, leaving an election open to contestation.  

“In addition, electoral corruption jeopardises the freeness and fairness of elections, triggers physical fights, killings, and human rights abuses as witnessed in Kenya and Zimbabwe. It leads to apathy triggered by the understanding that participating in elections that are often rigged is useless since it will not bring out changes expected by a voter,” said the coalition which documented examples of electoral corruption in Zimbabwe. 

An example of electoral corruption occurred during the October 22, 2022 by-elections in Insiza and Matobo, where the ruling party, Zanu PF, strategically placed Exit Poll Survey desks 300 meters from polling stations, where polling officers and police had no authority over them.

Electoral corruption includes the manipulation of voters through vote buying and violence, alleged manipulation of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) that is also perceived as lacking operational independence from the Executive and political parties, abuse of government programmes to appear as if they belong to political parties, abuse of state resources and institutions including civil servants by political parties and individuals for political gain, manipulation of electoral laws and policies for political gain and alleged manipulation of the voters’ roll, the Electoral Court, broadcasting services, and the Political Finances Act. 

The anti-corruption coalition also expressed concern about ZEC partiality, citing the composition of the ZEC Board, which includes some individuals who are politically exposed and related to known senior politicians. 

“It casts doubt on their impartiality when all those close to them compete in elections that ZEC manages. In its current form or state, ZEC might not preside over free, fair and credible 2023 harmonised elections,” said the organisation. 

Abuse of the civil service for political gain is also rampant, as the coalition said the Teachers for ED campaign launched on October 21, 2022 is against Section 200 of Zimbabwe’s Constitution. 

“The same teachers who are part of the political campaign are used by ZEC as Election Presiding Officers, Polling Officers, Civic Educators, Delimitation Commission Officers and many other roles,” said the coalition. 

“The participation of teachers in these different capacities’ casts doubt on their independence which undoubtedly affects the credibility of Zimbabwean elections. This is not the first time it has happened since we previously noted the abuse of civil servants to organize Zanu PF Youth Interface rallies in 2017.” 

As a recommendation, the coalition said ZEC needed to be overhauled and be constituted by individuals independent of any political establishment. 

“Legislative measures, including effective and dissuasive sanctions, should be introduced to mitigate abuse of state resources and misuse of the advantage of incumbency, such as use of government vehicles, property and funds and the involvement of public officials in political activities, in order to guarantee the free expression of the will of electors and help create a more level playing field,” said the coalition, advising other civil society organisations to expose electoral corruption by providing documentary evidence. 

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