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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Zimbabwe: Election Reports Zimbabwe: Election Reports
Date distributed (ymd): 020314
Document reposted by Africa Action

Africa Policy Electronic Distribution List: an information service provided by AFRICA ACTION (incorporating the Africa Policy Information Center, The Africa Fund, and the American Committee on Africa). Find more information for action for Africa at

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: Southern Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +security/peace+


This posting contains several reports on the election in Zimbabwe, preceded by a brief statement by Africa Action. The reports here are from the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, the Crisis in Zimbabwe Committee, the SADC parliamentary delegation, and the South African Official Mission. Additional reports are available on-line through and These include the report by the Commonwealth Observer Group

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Statement from Africa Action

The election just concluded in Zimbabwe had little chance of being free or fair, in the context of two years of violence and intimidation against the opposition. The descriptions of the poll by independent observers, some cited below, leave little doubt that the result will have little credibility for most people in Zimbabwe, the region, or internationally.

Parliamentarians of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and Commonwealth observers have joined local civil society groups in identifying systemic and large-scale problems in the electoral process. Meanwhile, pronouncements of legitimacy by official observer teams, such as those from South Africa and Nigeria as well as the OAU, do more to damage those governments' and institution's own credibility than to add credibility to the process in Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwe elections garnered disproportionate international attention, and defenders of the government and other observers have a valid point in noting the selectivity of this attention especially among western countries. Recent elections in Congo (Brazzaville), Zambia and Madagascar, for example, received no such notice. While the focus on Zimbabwe highlights the inconsistency of international concern for Africa's democracies, the experience of Zimbabwe also reflects the contradictory state of democracy throughout the continent.

On the one hand, incumbent governments have learned well how to exploit their advantages to hold show elections designed to ensure their re-election while still obtaining international acceptance. On the other hand, the legitimacy of these exercises is increasingly challenged by growing opposition parties, civil society and independent media within these countries. There is also heightened scrutiny of the electoral process, and a growing commitment to democratic principles. Throughout Africa, the forces of democratic change continue to gain momentum despite setbacks such as those that have occurred in Kenya, Cote d'Ivoire, and now Zimbabwe.

The organizations that merged to form Africa Action share a heritage of support for liberation in Zimbabwe and other African countries dating back to the founding of the American Committee on Africa almost 50 years ago. We acknowledge the historic contributions to that struggle by many who now lead or serve in governments in the region. In solidarity with today's campaigners for democracy and social justice in African countries, however, we stress that individuals, parties, and governments should be judged not on their past victories but on their continued commitment to promoting political, economic and social justice, and respect for human rights.

The urgency of protecting democracy and human rights in Zimbabwe is just as great after the election as before. In this context, we join in calling on the Zimbabwe government (1) to release hundreds of election observers and others recently arrested for political reasons, and (2) to refrain from any further restrictions on internal protest and criticism.

After the election, as before, it is Zimbabweans and their neighbors in southern Africa who will have the most weight in determining what happens in response to that country's crisis.

That crisis has been deepened rather than eased by the election. Democratic forces inside Zimbabwe are still considering what actions they will take next. It is those actions that should set the context for determining what additional outside measures are most likely to be of help. One immediate priority, however, is very clear. Those who support democracy in Africa should reject outright any expedient attempt to grant the election a false legitimacy.

- - Africa Action

Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN)
Tel / Fax: 480148/9
P.O. Box BE 630, Harare, Zimbabwe

Press Statement
Post-Election Assessment

March 12, 2002

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) has been monitoring the 2002 Presidential Elections since the general parliamentary elections in the year 2000. The pre-election period has been marked by the following developments:

The 'fast tracking' of legislation that impacts on the electoral process resulting in:

  • Disenfranchising voters through the voter registration process;N
  • Registration of voters beyond 3 March 2002;N
  • 'Correcting' the voters' roll;N
  • Control of voter education through the Electoral Supervisory Commission;N
  • Drawing election supervisors and monitors from the Ministries of Defence, Home Affairs and Education;N
  • Disallowing postal voting;N
  • Constituency-based voting;N
  • Simultaneous holding of municipal and Presidential elections;N
  • Restrictions concerning the accompanying of ballot boxes;N
  • Printing of extra ballot papers;N
  • Very restrictive and oppressive Public Order and Security Act;

In addition, several other measures have been of great concern to us:

  • Unequal access to the state controlled media, in particular the state media, with a bias towards the ruling party;N
  • Restrictions concerning both local and international observers;N
  • Confiscation and destruction of identity cards by youths of the ruling party;N
  • The establishment of illegal road blocks by youths of the ruling party;N
  • Political violence, including torture and murders, largely perpetrated by ruling party supporters against members and supporters of the opposition;N
  • The selective enforcement of the law by law enforcement agents;

The conduct of the poll

The Electoral Supervisory Commission accredited, at the last minute, only 400 observers from our network, less than one hundredth of the names that ZESN had submitted. This severely curtailed the ability of ZESN and its network of 38 civic organizations from effectively observing the elections.

We are very concerned about the deliberate distribution of polling stations countrywide. There was a phenomenal increase in the number of polling stations in the rural areas, in particular mobile polling stations that are difficult to monitor and observe. Stations in the urban areas were reduced by as much as 50 percent in some constituencies while those in the rural areas were increased. In Harare and Chitungwiza, this was particularly worrying in that there were tripartite and bipartite elections being held. The result was chaotic. Tens of thousands of Harare and Chitungwiza voters were unable to vote even after the extension of voting by one day. It is important to note that reports from Gweru, Masvingo, Mutare, Bulawayo and Matebeleland North indicated that several voters were no able to vote by Sunday night and many were under the impression that there would be an extension of voting days countrywide. Hence, even as vote counting begins, tens of thousands of Zimbabweans were deliberately and systematically disenfranchised of their fundamental right to participate in the governance of their country. Without the participation of the full electorate there can be no democracy.

Meanwhile, we express great concern about the figures we are being provided concerning the number of registered voters in the rural and urban areas. It appears there has been a deliberate attempt to significantly inflate the numbers of voters in the rural areas.

ZESN commends the Zimbabwean populace for their resilience and determination to remain peaceful in the face of this potential national crisis.


These elections violate almost all of the SADC Parliamentary Forum Norms and Standards.

  • Voter registration was discriminatory and not transparent
  • Voter education was disrupted and there was insufficient time for the ESC to conduct voter education after the legislation was drafted.
  • The fast tracking of legislation meant that there was insufficient time for the ESC to train its 22 000 monitors all of whom were civil servants in particular the army and police
  • It is inappropriate to include civil servants to monitor the Registrar General's office. This task should have remained with civil society
  • There were disturbing episodes of violence even during the polling days - opposition polling agents and our own monitors harassed and prevented from carrying out their work.
  • There was questionable data on the rural and urban divide which stated that there was a higher voter turnout in the rural areas than in the urban centers.

In summary, there is no way these elections could be described as substantially free and fair.

As a result of these issues, ZESN recommends the need for an Independent Electoral Commission that is protected by law and well resourced to carry out elections.

ZESN warns that a flawed electoral process a potential cause of conflict but calls on the people to remain calm but firm, resolute even after the results are released.

Dr Reginald Matchaba-Hove, Chairperson

Crisis in Zimbabwe Committee

Press Statement on Election Results

13 March 2002

The Presidential election result announced today does not reflect the will of the people because of the violence, fraud and rigging, which characterized the pre-election and polling periods.

The period leading up to the election was fraught with innumerable irregularities. The passing of the Public Order and Security Act made it almost impossible for the opposition party to campaign and hold political meetings. The opposition was also denied access to the electorate through the public media. Voter education by civic groups was criminalized until 9 days before the election.

The polling days were characterized by threats and violence. Polling agents from the opposition party and observers drawn from the civil society were assaulted, harassed and in some cases chased away from polling stations. The net effect of this was that many counting centers had no polling agents from the opposition. The voting process was further manipulated by the reduction of the number of polling stations in areas perceived to be strongholds of the opposition, such as Harare, Gweru, Bulawayo, and Mutare.

The figures published for most rural constituencies are suspicious and do not correlate with our observations and press reports of rural voter turnout during the two days of polling.

We therefore reiterate our rejection of the election results. The will of the people has been subverted. The product of a subverted electoral process cannot be called a government, but a regime.

We also wish to express our absolute dismay at the unfortunate position taken by the South African observer group regarding the election. As Zimbabwean civic groups we hold that it was neither free nor fair. In particular there was failure on the part of the state to comply with the Electoral Act, SADC Norms and Standards for Free and Fair Elections as well as International Human Rights Instruments.

We call upon Zimbabweans to register their concern in accordance with the Constitution starting this Friday.


Nongogo (Spokesperson)
B. Kagoro (Coordinator)
B. Raftopoulos (Chairperson)

Statement on the Zimbabwe Elections

SADC Parliamentary Forum Observer Mission (Windhoek)

March 13, 2002, Harare


The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Parliamentary Forum has completed its interim assessment of the Zimbabwe 2002 elections.

On the invitation of the government of Zimbabwe by letter dated February 4, 2002, the SADC Parliamentary Forum Observer mission constituted a delegation of 70 members, consisting of 39 Members of Parliament and support staff drawn from the Secretariat in Windhoek, Namibia and eleven parliaments of the region.

It is the policy of the Forum to observe elections of all member states starting with the pre-election phase. This is the seventh election the Forum has observed in the region since 1999.

Since its inception of the observation programme, the Forum has collectively evolved Norms and Standards for Elections in the SADC region approved in March 2001. The main objective of the Norms and Standards is to ensure the conduct of peaceful, free and fair elections in the region.

In observing the elections, the Forum was guided by the constitutional and legal framework of Zimbabwe and the Norms and Standards for Election Observation in the SADC Region. Among other things, the Mission was detailed to assess the security and political environment in which the elections were to be held.


The Forum Deployed to all the ten provinces following consultations and interaction with all stakeholders, including political parties, electoral authorities, representatives of civil society, media editors, Security officers and members of the Diplomatic corps.

The teams proceeded to observe the campaign rallies, meetings, preparations for elections, location of polling stations, media coverage of elections, voting and counting processes and actions that impinged on the fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizens of Zimbabwe as enshrined in Part III of the constitution.

The Political and Security Climate

The Forum has observed that the political and security climate in which the elections were conducted was complex. It was characterized by high levels of polarization and political intolerance, lack of communication amongst stakeholders and lack of free flow of information to the electorate, which are necessary conditions for democracy to prevail.

We observed noticeable differences in the provinces but generally there was no euphoria that normally characterizes elections the SADC region.

Violence and Intimidation

The election campaign was marred by incidents of violence in all provinces of the country. Police and party leaders have not denied the fact that there has been violence in various forms. What seemed to be in question was the perpetration of that violence. Violence was visited upon ordinary voters, party supporters and leaders alike. Reports indicated that violence was perpetrated by supporters of the two main political parties-the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and the opposition Movement For Democratic Change (MDC).

Not only did the SADC Parliamentary Forum Witness some of these acts, its mission members were themselves targets of an orchestrated attack 10 kilometres out of Chinhoyi on 24 February.

However, evidence indicated that the majority of those affected were supporters of the MDC or those perceived to be opponents of the ruling party and government. Violence was manifest in the number of hospitalized victims, numerous cases of alleged torture, arson, assault and incidences of false imprisonment.

The prevalence of violence is reflected in virtually all reports from our observers in the field, which included abduction of some polling agents of MDC; in one such incident, our observer team intervened when Police in Mashonaland Central detained 24 election agents of the opposition party who were on their way to Harare to vote.

Regrettably, the phenomena of political intolerance and violence seem to have been prevalent since the 2000 legislative elections. Acts of violence appeared to be systematically employed by youth and War veterans with camps dotted around the country.

Police Conduct

In any situation of conflict, the police were expected to be impartial. In spite of the arrests made, there are significant claims that the police have been partisan in handling of the political situation when called upon to intervene. The use of riot squads to disperse potential voters in some Harare constituencies raised questions about the impartiality of the Police.

Voters Roll

A voter's register is considered a basic condition for a successful election. In this election, concerns have been raised regarding the timeous release of the voter's roll which was only made available three days before the polls, leaving no time for the electorate to verify its accuracy. As a result of this, it was observed that a large number of people were unable to vote.

Issues of the voter's roll were compounded by the announcement that a supplementary register had been prepared and would be used in the 2002 elections contrary to earlier announcements that registration for 2002 was closed.

Freedom to Campaign

In any election, contestants should be able to move freely among the electorate. In this election whereas the ruling party's campaign was relatively uninterrupted, some of opposition party meetings were cancelled or interrupted by opponents. It was however, significant, in two instances in Harare and Bulawayo, rallies of opposing parties were conducted in the same city without any violence. This should be the norm.

Polling stations

Information to the electorate and other stakeholders on the location of polling stations was not available to enable the electorate to make informed decisions. Much as we appreciate the increase of polling stations in rural areas, the reduction of the number of polling stations in urban areas had a major impact on the elections. This was particularly so in Harare and Chitungwiza where tripartite elections were held. It resulted in congestion with some people spending more than 48 hours in queues because of their sheer determination to vote.

Voting and counting

We observed that in many provinces the voting was peaceful. Well over 50 percent of the registered voters were able to cast their vote. The major exception was the Harare Province where the voting process was excruciatingly slow resulting in the extension of both times and days of voting.

There were also a number of violent incidents in which the police dispersed voters from polling stations especially in high-density suburbs. Further, although a large number of people voted, a significant number of the electorate was unable to vote as a result of logistical, administrative and other impediments. The counting proceeded very well.

It was significant to note that the recommendation from the Forum observers for the polling agents to ride with the ballot boxes was accepted and implemented. However, free movement of party agents was compromised by acts of intimidation and reported abductions in some provinces.

However, the massive turnout of voters demonstrates the commitment of the people of Zimbabwe to multiparty democracy.

Lack of Independence of the Electoral Commission

Despite various recommendations and practices in the SADC region, Zimbabwe is one of the countries without an Independent Electoral Commission. The assignment of roles to three different electoral bodies, the Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC), the Election Directorate and the Registrar-General's Office affects efficiency and causes duplication. The government should seriously consider establishing an Independent Electoral Commission as recommended by the Forum after the 2000 legislative elections and as held by the Norms and Standards of Elections in SADC.

Access to Public Media

There was lack of access to the public media by political parties other than the ruling party. The monopolization of the public media by the ruling party went contrary to the guidelines set out by the Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC) for equal and equitable access to contesting parties. The slanted coverage the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) and the Zimbabwe Newspapers deprived the electorate an opportunity to make an informed choice.


The climate of insecurity obtaining in Zimbabwe since the 2000 parliamentary elections was such that the electoral process could not be said to adequately comply with the Norms and Standards for Elections in the SADC region.


It is evident to us that elections may not, in themselves, be a panacea to Zimbabwe's complex situation of political conflict. We therefore appeal to the political leadership of the country, the churches, civil society and the business sector to join hands and begin a healing process for Zimbabwe in the face of enormous problems. An election should not be construed to be one of "victor" and "vanquished".

We also urge the Heads of State and Government of SADC countries to urgently engage the leadership of Zimbabwe to facilitate dialogue and reconciliation. We believe it is within the powers of the people of Zimbabwe, through their leaders with the support of SADC to avert a political crisis in the country and bring about peace.

Signed for and on Behalf of the SADC Parliamentary Forum Observer Mission, Harare, Zimbabwe, 13 March 2002

Hon. Duke G. Lefhoko, MP Head of Mission
Vice-Chair Hon Dr Elvy Mtafu, MP
Vice-Chair Hon. Lutero Simango, MP

Interim Statement by the SA Observer Mission on the Zimbabwean Presidential Elections of 9 and 10 March 2002

March 13, 2002

1. Pursuant to the invitation by the President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, the South African President, Thabo Mbeki, assigned a 50-person observer mission led by Dr Sam Motsuenyane, to observe the Zimbabwean Presidential elections of 9 and 10 March 2002;

2. The South African Observer Mission (SAOM) arrived in Zimbabwe in three phases from the 13th of February 2002, to ensure that in its mission it observes the pre-election, polling days and the post-elections periods;

3. Based on its mandate and its method of work which included mediation and conflict management, the SAOM recognised the sovereignty of the Zimbabwean state and observed the elections within the Zimbabwean legislative framework in an independent and non-partisan manner;

4. The members of the SAOM were deployed in all the electoral provinces of Zimbabwe to ensure not only geographic representativity, but also to cover the country-side and what were perceived to be high risk areas;

5. The SAOM was also cognisant of the international and regional significance of the Zimbabwean elections;

6. Overall, the 2002 Zimbabwean Presidential elections were a challenging exercise, and the authorities charged with conducting the elections discharged their work satisfactorily, except for the decision to reduce the number of polling stations in some urban areas - a decision which resulted in certain instances in excessively long queues and the extension of polling hours in most stations and days in Harare and Chitungwiza;

7. Based on its method of work and the deployment of its members, the SAOM hereby makes its interim observations as follows:

7.1 The regulatory environment

The promulgation of laws, right up to and during the elections, that were aimed specifically to cover the administration, regulation and management of the said elections; the reversal of some of these by the courts; the gazetting of regulations to override the courts - all created an environment that not only caused legislative uncertainty but also threatened the integrity of the electoral process.

7.2 The electoral process

7.2.1. Pre-election assessment

Campaigning was characterised by polarisation, tension and incidents of violence and intimidation. The intention seems to have been to intimidate members of other parties. The role of the SAOM and other international observers as well as the co-operation of the Zimbabwean authorities, ensured that these tensions and conflicts remained at a minimal level, thus polling days did not suffer from the same.

7.2.2 Media

The Constitution of Zimbabwe provides for a free press. The media in the country is characterised by a high level of political polarisation. The so-called independent media was biased towards the opposition MDC whilst the state-owned media gave limited access to the opposition, favouring instead the ruling ZANU-PF party. As for the international media, its role during these elections tended to be overwhelmingly in support of the opposition.

7.2.3 Polling days assessment

Conduct of the electorates, security forces, party agents as well as the closely followed rules of voting, counting and transparency procedures, all contributed to the relative peacefulness of the voting days. It is unfortunate that some registered voters were turned away because of administrative oversight. Voter turnout was, however, among the most important in Zimbabwe's 22 years of electoral history.

7.3. Post-election assessment

The end of elections should provide the people of Zimbabwe with the opportunity to address what we believe are the country's key challenges: reconciliation and economic revival.

8. The SAOM is heartened by the fact that the opposition, notwithstanding the comments expressed above, actively participated in the campaign and the elections themselves, thus legitimising the outcome of the said elections;

9. Similarly, the Zimbabwean people, in going out to vote in droves on the polling days, not to mention their perseverance in the long queues and slow voting processes, demonstrated their commitment to expressing their will in determining who should be their President;

10. Based on our observations, it is the view of the SAOM that the outcome of the 2002 Zimbabwe Presidential elections should be considered legitimate;

11. The SAOM wishes to thank the Government and People of Zimbabwe, including all political parties, for having received it and made it possible for us to contribute to their democratic process;

12. We are hopeful that now that the people of Zimbabwe have spoken, the world will respect their verdict.


Dr. Sam Motsuenyane
Leader: The South African Observer Mission

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by Africa Action (incorporating the Africa Policy Information Center, The Africa Fund, and the American Committee on Africa). Africa Action's information services provide accessible information and analysis in order to promote U.S. and international policies toward Africa that advance economic, political and social justice and the full spectrum of human rights.

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