Zimbabwe has nothing to hide in its conduct of elections and welcomes all observer missions and diplomats to observe the forthcoming polls slated for August 23 and make their recommendations in an impartial manner, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister, Dr Frederick Shava said yesterday.
Dr Shava said this while briefing foreign observer missions and diplomats on the country’s state of preparedness ahead of the elections.
Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, Deputy Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Kindness Paradza and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, Dr Gerald Gwinji also addressed the meeting.
“On August 23 2023, the electorate will choose its leaders at both local and national levels. All observer missions and diplomatic missions are welcome to observe the elections, and I wish to underscore that you are free to make your observations and recommendations in an impartial manner. I assure you that we have nothing to hide as we have conducted free and fair elections since attaining independence in 1980,” Dr Shava said.
He added that the Government valued the role played by observers in the elections especially in its engagement and re-engagement efforts.
“I wish to say to you all, that you are an important part of us, as a country, and therefore, it is imperative that you participate in every stage of this important process, guided by mutual respect. These elections are vital to us and the world, in the context of our agenda on engagement, re-engagement and reaffirmation,” he said.
The minister expressed confidence that the peace and tranquillity that is prevailing will continue during and after the election period adding that Zimbabweans were law-abiding and peace-loving people.
“It is our sincere hope that no trouble makers will try to damage our good reputation as a peaceful and democratic nation,” he said and urged all observers to familiarise themselves with the Code of Conduct for election observers and all requirements for accreditation with ZEC, before embarking on their missions.
In his remarks, Minister Ziyambi briefed the observer and diplomatic missions of the legal framework governing the elections including the constitutional amendments to extend the women’s quota system in the National Assembly, which was supposed to end this year, by a further 10 years.
He also detailed the electoral steps that have been taken so far by Government and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission that include the delimitation of boundaries, voter registration and education, the proclamation of the elections date by the President, the sitting of the nomination courts, ZEC’s engagements with various stakeholders including establishment of various statutory sub-committees like the media monitoring and observer accreditation and political parties’ liaison sub-committees among other issues.
“The Republic of Zimbabwe is committed to these harmonised elections and that we go through the process in a transparent, peaceful and free and fair manner. The Republic of Zimbabwe is committed to leading the process and is proud to take ownership of this process thereof,” Minister Ziyambi said and urged all political players to carry out their activities in a lawful and peaceful manner and ensure life remains normal during and after the elections.
Deputy Minister Paradza said Government had opened up the media space through repeal of repressive laws like the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and licencing of new television and radio (including community) stations.
“This election comes after the repeal of this draconian law, AIPPA and also the Public Order and Security Act. We now have the Freedom of Information Act, which is more than friendly and in addition we have opened up the airwaves. We go into these elections with six additional television stations which are ready to deploy crews across the country to cover this election and in addition to that we have a television station from East Africa, Azam TV which is operating in this country.
“This has brought diversity in the media sector and a wider choice in terms of news consumption,” he said.
Deputy Minister Paradza also said ZEC was also using the 14 community radio stations licenced to carry out voter education in local languages and added that as Government they implored the media and journalists to report in a factual, fair and credible manner.
He also told the observers and diplomats that various media houses in the country had established elections desks to solely focus on the harmonised elections.
He said Zimbabwe Newspapers Group, the largest integrated media group in the country and the public broadcaster ZBC, were also offering political parties free airtime through their television and radio stations.
“Coming to Zimpapers, they are giving free airtime to political parties to say out their manifestos, they are giving four hours during prime time for that but some are not taking up that time and it’s not our problem as a ministry but we are saying come and utilise that time,” he said.
Deputy Minister Paradza said apart from the free airtime, Zimpapers had also reduced its advertising rates for the elections and was also carrying out in-house training of its reporters on elections coverage.
Turning to ZBC, Deputy Minister Paradza said the public broadcaster had set up internal committees to ensure fair and credible reportage of the elections but again said some political parties were declining to use the free coverage airtime from the broadcaster.
“Most of these opposition parties do not want to utilise this free airtime, they refuse. Where the reporters are saying please we need to interview you, the parliamentary candidates, the local authority candidates, ‘come and say out your manifestos’, only a few have come through and its something we are encouraging the political parties to come and utilise the airtime,” Deputy Minister Paradza said.