The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum has been documenting political violence since its inception in 1998, and, since July 2001, has been issuing Monthly Political Violence Reports. In addition, the Human Rights Forum has issued a total of 34 special reports, many of these concerned with violence during elections. The Human Rights Forum has consistently indicated that the majority of the violence recorded has been undertaken by both state agents and supporters of the ZANU PF party. The Human Rights Forum has been vindicated in its allegations, both by the reports of independent human rights organizations and bodies as well as by the decisions of the Zimbabwean courts. The Human Rights Forum’s reports have received little or no consideration from the Government of Zimbabwe, as there is little or no evidence that any of its allegations have had serious attention, and the Human Rights Forum has had to continue to express its concern. Ahead of the March 2008 poll, the Human Rights Forum issued a comprehensive report on the probability of the elections being free and fair, and drew particular attention to the deteriorating human rights climate. The Human Rights Forum pointed out that there has been a steady increase in the number of alleged violations being reported to itself and its members since 2004.

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Zimbabwe Elections 2008: Examining The Popular and Presidential Choice - Hiding or Run Off?

While the world waits anxiously for the announcement of the Presidential Elections in Zimbabwe, it seems to pay less and less attention to the results that have been already revealed and their implications – not only for how they will affect the political terrain in Zimbabwe and the SADC region, but also for what can be deduced about the occluded Presidential results.

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This paper considers the general appointment of persons by the President of Zimbabwe to positions in the new inclusive government and specifically in terms of any Act of Parliament or the Constitution. The issue of these appointments has proved contentious, with the MDC-T claiming that the appointments which have been made (and one which has not) violate the agreements relating to power sharing between the parties. On the 27th January, 2009 the Extraordinary Summit of the SADC issued a communiqué which stated that:· the allocation of ministerial portfolios endorsed by the SADC Extraordinary Summit held on 9 November 2008 shall be reviewed six (6) months after the inauguration of the inclusive government.· the appointments of the Reserve Bank Governor and the Attorney- General will be dealt with by the inclusive government after its formation.· the negotiators of the parties shall meet immediately to consider the National Security Bill submitted by the MDC-T as well as the formula for the distribution of the Provincial Governors;Despite the MDC’s complaints, SADC has done nothing to follow up on this communiqué. ZANU PF has refused to “deal” with these issues, insists that it has not breached any of the agreements with the MDC, and that there is nothing unlawful or improper in the actions of President Mugabe in relation to these appointments.

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The registration of voters and the compilation and maintenance of an accurate national voters’ roll has been recognized as an essential and key part of the electoral cycle. Since the voters’ rolls record who may or may not vote, they may ultimately have a determining effect on who wins the poll. Equally importantly, it is imperative that the voters’ rolls, being the cornerstone of the administration of a democratic election, be accurate and up to date. While an incomplete voters’ roll may disenfranchise those who might otherwise be entitled to vote, an inflated roll containing duplicate entries, names of persons who have emigrated or of dead voters, lends itself to electoral fraud. For if the roll is inflated a false and increased ballot count can be effected (through ballot box stuffing, multiple voting or manipulation of the figures on returns) without appearing blatantly implausible against the number of registered voters. Inaccurate voters’ rolls have a knock-on effect on the delimitation of constituencies, portraying an inaccurate number of voters for each area. In a first-past-the-post system, such as that adopted by Zimbabwe for all elections other than the presidential, this assumes increased importance as the number of “wasted votes” may be increased due to wrongfully delimited areas based on a false presentation of the number of voters in a particular area. In the same way, an inflated roll acts as the justification for printing an excessive number of ballot papers, further opening possibilities for electoral fraud.

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On the 29th March 2008 Zimbabwe simultaneously held elections for the presidency, two houses of assembly and local government councils, as required by a recent constitutional amendment. The synchronisation of these four polls earned the elections the moniker “harmonised elections”, distinguishing these polls from the run-off in the presidential election held on 27 June, 2009 after no candidate officially emerged with an absolute majority (50% plus one vote). There were two salient features of the period immediately after the harmonised elections which dominated political comment, observers’ reports and the media: the long delay in releasing the results of the first round of the presidential election, only announced on the 2nd May, 2009, and the endemic political violence that erupted, unmatched in scale and brutality since the Gukurahundi years. Reports from human rights NGOs revealed that over 170 MDC supporters were murdered in over 17 000 incidents of violence and abuse and that more than 20 000 homes were burnt and destroyed, resulting in massive numbers of internally displaced people fleeing the violence. With the exception of isolated and probably retaliatory attacks, the victims of the violence were almost exclusively those perceived to be MDC supporters. The perpetrators were almost exclusively ZANU PF supporters and predominantly members of the army.

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The publicly proclaimed objective of the SADC political mediation in Zimbabwe was to create political conditions for the holding of free and fair elections in Zimbabwe. The negotiations have led to a series of changes to the constitution, the electoral laws, the laws regulating freedom of assembly and the operation of the print and electronic media. The ruling party and the main opposition party agreed to these changes to the law.There was considerable scepticism about this Mbeki led mediation process. After President Mugabe made a few insignificant amendments to electoral laws ahead of the 2005 elections, President Mbeki disingenuously proclaimed that conditions had been put in place to allow free and fair elections to take place. Many believed that the SADC mediation process would follow the same route and that Mugabe would only agree to a few insignificant changes to the electoral and political terrain shortly before any elections. These changes would be made at the last moment and would not result in any real opening up of the political space. Even if more significant changes were agreed to, they would be implemented so close to the election that they would not make any difference. They would, however, be exploited to allow Mbeki and SADC to characterise the elections as free and fair.

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Two heads are better than one.

With the exciting realisation that the current Electoral Act requires an absolute majority for the election of Zimbabwe’s President has also come some confusion. Some of the confusion arises from the dilemma of whom to support and why, but some arise from misapprehension of the applicable laws.As the Electoral Act quite clearly establishes in section 110(3), for a person to be elected President of Zimbabwe, this person must have an absolute majority of the valid votes cast. It is not a simple majority as is the case for the Parliamentary elections; the winner must have more than 50% of the votes. Robert Mugabe cannot be declared the winner if he just gets more votes than the next candidate: if he gets only 46%, and Simba Makoni and Morgan Tsvangirai get the remainder between them, Robert Mugabe will not immediately be President under the existing law, and a run-off will be required within 21 days.

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The forthcoming elections are provoking considerable excitement, mainly over whether Robert
Mugabe will survive the most serious challenge yet to his political hegemony over Zimbabwe.
However, it seems very difficult to anticipate what outcomes there could be in early April. In part
this is because the electoral laws need some clarification, particularly the apparent conflict between
Section 110(3) and Paragraph 3 of the Second Schedule of the Electoral Act, and in part because of
the very complicated political situation in Zimbabwe and the apparent splits within ZANU PF over
whether Mugabe should remain in power.
Dealing with the first issue, Section 110(3) of the Electoral Act states that the winner in the first
round of a Presidential election must have an absolute majority of the valid votes cast, however
Paragraph 3 suggests that the Chief Election Officer has the power to declare as the winner the
candidate with the “greater” or the “greatest” number of votes. Paragraph 3 of the Second Schedule
is a hangover from the previous Electoral Act, and, if the principles of good legislative interpretation
are followed – which may not be the case – then the substantive clause, Section 110(3), should

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