The Citizens Manifesto, representing the citizens of Zimbabwe, who in the past 20 months, have been coming together as residents associations, labour, faith based organisations, women and gender rights groups, disabled persons rights activists, youths and students, environmentalists, social and economic justice activists, informal traders, civil society and other concerned and progressive individuals assembled together under the banner of the Citizens’ Manifesto platform to articulate a shared vision for the Zimbabwe they want preferred the observations and statement concerning the Zimbabwe 2018 Harmonised Elections.
The organisation celebrated the way young people participated in the electoral processes, from the registration to the actual polling itself. It noted that people participated in unprecedented numbers in the 30 July Harmonised election processes and applauded the patience, peace and responsible casting of ballots on polling day itself in what was undoubtedly the first-time voting by a significant number of the electorate.
It welcomed the unprecedented opening of the political environment to political campaigns as well as local and international observers but called to attention the structural inequalities of the electoral landscape that unduly benefits the incumbent and disadvantages challengers.
“This includes conflation of ruling party and state institutions, partisan traditional leaders, political campaigns financing, access to public media and the independence and integrity of elections administration. Elections in this country can only be considered truly free, fair and credible when these structural issues are addressed.
“We affirm and defend the citizens’ right to peaceful protest. We stand guided by Section 59 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which guarantees that: ‘Every person has the right to demonstrate and to present petitions, but these rights must be exercised peacefully’. We also call for a show of responsible and servant leadership from public officials, political leaders as well as civic leaders from various formations to speak and act in a manner which promotes peace and national cohesion without resorting to reckless, divisive and inflammatory language,” Citizens Manifesto said in a statement.
It unequivocally condemned the public violence and disproportionate and excessive use of force by the state that resulted in the tragic loss of at least six lives on 1 August 2018 and called for the expeditious setting up of the promised Independent Investigative Commission on the 1 August events which must operate in a transparent and timely manner and must include credible civic representation.
The Citizens Manifesto registered its concerns on the reported cases of post-elections violence and encouraged the police and the relevant Chapter 12 Institutions, especially the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission, to thoroughly, openly, transparently and in an accountable manner investigate and bring to book all reported cases of violence and intimidation.
It expressed its deep concern over the implications of such deterioration in the human rights environment on the future of democratic practice and citizen participation in Zimbabwe.
Furthermore, it called on the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe to exercise its duty responsibly in hearing election petitions as per the dictates of the Constitution. Section 164 (2) of the Constitution rightfully states that: ‘the independence, impartiality and effectiveness of the courts are central to the rule of law and democratic governance.’ Hence it was keen to defend the independence of the judiciary, and to ensure that the judiciary is free from political pressure and interference from any quarter of society.
The Citizens Manifesto are reminding all political actors that the majority of Zimbabwean citizens yearn for peace and progress and have an urgent demand on the leaders to show leadership at the socio-economic level to alleviate the economic suffering of Zimbabweans instead of the endless political bickering.
The organisation was encouraged by the international community’s attention on Zimbabwe called on it to keep Zimbabwe on the radar and be ready to render assistance especially in mediating political tensions and promoting citizens centred solutions.
“We further call upon the international community to act responsibly in your political and economic engagements with Zimbabwe; we are tired of seeing decisions based on elite engagements with political actors without consulting the citizens who invariably bear the consequences. We call on the international community to listen to citizens’ voices beyond the political binary of partisan politics. GOING FORWARD, we the citizens, commit to holding continual in-depth consultations to sustain a collective civic voice and hold those elected to public office accountable to their mandate to make Zimbabwe a better place for all.”