A leading human rights organisation has warned of widespread violence if elections are held in March this year and encouraged the country to implement key reforms before polls.
BY NQABA MATSHAZI
In a report titled, Race Against Time: The Need for Legal and Institutional Reforms Ahead of Zimbabwe’s Elections, Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned that Zimbabwe was running out of time to implement key reforms before the holding of elections.
“With the unity government making little progress in several areas, including on key legal reforms, there are genuine concerns that if elections are held in March, there will be widespread human rights violations ahead of, during and after the elections,” HRW noted.
“Such violations will undermine a credible, free and fair vote.”
HRW advised that reforms like the conclusion of the constitution-writing exercise should be implemented before elections were held.
“Time is fast running out for the unity government to institute reforms, including finalising the new constitution and allowing time for its provisions to be implemented before elections are held,” the report continued.
The report echoes several calls, advising key reforms to be implemented ahead of elections, lest the polls morph into a non-event.
President Robert Mugabe wants elections held in March this year and has threatened to call for elections whether or not a new constitution has been adopted.
The principals — Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy Arthur Mutambara — agreed on all the issues that were delaying the new constitution.
The HRW also warned that failure to implement key reforms could see a spiraling of violence, lawlessness and chaos.
“The absence of meaningful institutional reforms to facilitate full restoration of the rule of law increases concern for human rights protections ahead of Zimbabwe’s next elections,” the report continued.
To break the vicious cycle of human rights abuses, the organisation advised that the inclusive government must implement legislative reforms, institutional reform focusing on replacement of partisan government officials.
HRW also advised that South Africa should prevail on the inclusive government principals to ensure there was a level playing field during the next election.
The report says Sadc should also monitor the deployment of monitors ahead of any election and should strengthen the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (Jomic).
Previous efforts to galvanise Jomic have drawn a blank, as the government continues bickering on the role of commissioners seconded by the regional body.
Among reforms that must be implemented are constitutional, electoral, media and security sector reforms.
The MDC formations have often accused Zanu PF of being a stumbling block but the former ruling party has denied it.