Speech for Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad at the Opening of the Conference on the forthcoming Elections in Zimbabwe, Pretoria, Monday, 04 October 2004

Chairperson,
Distinguished Participants,

I thank the SACC, the Catholics Bishops conference and the other sponsors for inviting me to make some remarks on the broad issues of democracy and elections in our continent and sub region.

Our Government believes that the time is opportune for Africans to continue to seriously interrogate and engage in matters pertaining to democracy and governance in our continent.

This conference takes place at a time when one of our continent's pillars of democracy, the Pan African Parliament, has just concluded its second sitting (first session in Addis) in Midrand where they deliberated on issues that will further enhance democracy throughout our continent.

The PAP presently only has advisory and consultative powers in its 1st term of 5 years, but is an important public platform to deal with many issues including good governance and elections. They could make recommendations on matters such as human rights, building democracy and the harmonisation of laws. There are also other similar institutions to enhance democracy and good governance e.g., the African Court of Human and People's Rights, the African Court of Justice and ECOSOC.

This conference also convenes at a time when a number of elections in our region are about to be conducted. These include elections to be held in 2005 in Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

These are important steps in our broader vision for a democratic continent that is stable and poised towards a conducive environment to create a better life for all. This wider context is critical to our understanding of the project of democratisation on our continent as we all, nationally, sub-regionally, and as a continent, strive to overcome the many challenges that confront us along this road of development and the African Renaissance.

The world's leaders, a few days ago, gathered at the United Nations (UN) in New York to outline their respective national priorities with a view to shaping an international agenda for the UN that would rally all nations on a common cause for global stability and development. What is clear from the proceedings of the UN's General Debate (UNGA59) is that the challenges confronting our continent are reflective of a more general crisis in the global system. Our Heads of State recalled the immense hope that our peoples had at the dawning of the new millennium for greater peace and stability and for the positive possibilities of globalisation to benefit all of humanity. These and other global objectives form the universally adopted agenda by which our people, particularly the most disadvantaged, place their hopes and aspirations for a better future. The deliberations at UNGA59 however, pointed to a disillusionment that these goals and aspirations may yet be elusive unless more urgent political action is taken by the developed member states to take the necessary steps to achieve full implementation.

Our leaders sounded the alarm at UNGA59 because grave challenges have emerged since the historic Millennium Summit. These challenges and the responses they have evoked have sought to undermine the system of international relations and, particularly, the universal institution that gives expression to our global system of governance - the United Nations.

The events of 11 September 2001 and the subsequent "war on terror", the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the deterioration of the situation in Palestine, and the deliberate terrorist attacks on innocent civilians on our continent and other regions of the world have all greatly impacted on the international environment and has brought into sharp focus the effectiveness of International law, including International Human Rights conventions.

The most important challenges that now confront us are issues of peace and security, social and economic development and good governance, democracy and respect for Human rights. These issues are all inter-related.

I hope that in the next few days these and many other issues confronting our continent will be dealt with extensively.

Hopefully, your deliberations will define not just the meaning and importance of democracy, elections and governance, but also the philosophical underpinnings of these concepts, and situate them within the African experience and reality.

My brief today is to discuss our continent's path to democracy.

The African Union (AU) has embraced democratic principles as one of its core values. (AU positions based on OAU decisions)

Constitutive Act of the AU

Article 3
Objectives

(a) Promote democratic principles and institutions, popular participation and good governance;

(b) Promote and protect human and peoples' rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and other relevant human rights instruments;


Article 4
Principles

The Union shall function in accordance with the following principles:

(a) Sovereign equality and interdependence among Member States of the Union;

(b) Non-interference by any Member State in the internal affairs of another;

(c) The right of the Union to intervene in a Member State pursuant to a decision of the Assembly in respect of grave circumstances, namely war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity;

(d) Respect for democratic principles, human rights, the rule of law and good governance;

As you are aware, guided by the constitutive act, the AU Summit held in Durban in 2002, adopted the OAU/AU Declaration on the Principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa which inter alia endorses the development of clear standards of accountability and participatory governance at the national and sub regional levels. These were further elaborated on by the acceptance of Principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa, the responsibilities of Member States, rights and obligations with regard to elections and election observation and monitoring by the AU.

The African leadership did so mindful of the fact that the will of the African people has to prevail at all costs. In this context, democratic elections as well as independent monitoring and observation commissions will play an important role in deepening a democratic culture in our continent. This will go a long way in bringing about governments that reflect the will of the people.

The African leadership fully understands that democratic elections are the basis of the authority of any representative government;

Regular elections constitute a key element of the democratization process and therefore, are essential ingredients for good governance, the rule of law, the maintenance and promotion of peace, security, stability and development;

It is within this context that Member States committed themselves to:

Take necessary measures to ensure the scrupulous implementation of the above principles, in accordance with their domestic constitutional processes;

Member States also reaffirmed the guidelines of the Rights and Obligations under which Democratic Elections are conducted. In terms of the Constitution of each country,

You have these documents and as you will have sessions to discuss these issues, I will not elaborate on the contents.

I earlier indicated the inter-connection between sustainable development and good governance and democracy.

"The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) recognises that there have been attempts in the past to set out continent-wide development programmes. For a variety of reasons, both internal and external, including questionable leadership and ownership by Africans themselves, these have been less than successful. However, there is today a new set of circumstances, which lend themselves to integrated practical implementation.

The new phase of globalisation coincided with the reshaping of international relations in the aftermath of the Cold War. This is associated with the emergence of new concepts of security and self-interest, which encompass the right to development and the eradication of poverty. Democracy and state legitimacy have been redefined to include accountable government, a culture of human rights and popular participation as central elements.

Across the continent, democracy is spreading, backed by the African Union (AU), which has shown a new resolve to deal with conflicts and censure deviation from the norm. These efforts are reinforced by voices in civil society, including associations of women, youth and the independent media. In addition, African governments are much more resolute about regional and continental goals of economic cooperation and integration. This serves both to consolidate the gains of the economic turnaround and to reinforce the advantages of mutual interdependence.

It is now generally acknowledged that development is impossible in the absence of true democracy, respect for human rights, peace and good governance. With NEPAD, Africa undertakes to respect the global standards of democracy, which core components include political pluralism, allowing for the existence of several political parties and workers' unions, fair, open, free and democratic elections periodically organised to enable the populace choose their leaders freely.

The purpose of the Democracy and Governance Initiative is to contribute to strengthening the political and administrative framework of participating countries, in line with the principles of democracy, transparency, accountability, integrity, respect for human rights and promotion of the rule of law. It is strengthened by and supports the Economic Governance Initiative, with which it shares key features, and taken together will contribute to harnessing the energies of the continent towards development and poverty eradication.

The Initiative consists of the following elements:

  • A series of commitments by participating countries to create or consolidate basic governance processes and practices;
  • An undertaking by participating countries to take the lead in supporting initiatives that foster good governance;
  • The institutionalisation of commitments through the NEPAD leadership to ensure that the core values of the initiative are abided by.

The NEPAD states will also undertake a series of commitments towards meeting basic standards of good governance and democratic behaviour while, at the same time, giving support to each other. Participating states will be supported in undertaking such desired institutional reforms where required. Within six months of its institutionalisation, the NEPAD leadership will identify recommendations on appropriate diagnostic and assessment tools, in support of compliance with the shared goals of good governance, as well as to identify institutional weaknesses and to seek resources and expertise for addressing these weaknesses.

In order to strengthen political governance and build capacity to meet these commitments, the NEPAD leadership will undertake a process of targeted capacity-building initiatives. These institutional reforms will focus on:

  • Administrative and civil services;
  • Strengthening parliamentary oversight;
  • Promoting participatory decision-making;
  • Adopting effective measures to combat corruption and embezzlement;
  • Undertaking judicial reforms.

Countries participating in the initiative will take the lead in supporting and building institutions and initiatives that protect these commitments. They will dedicate their efforts towards creating and strengthening national, sub-regional and continental structures that support good governance.

The Heads of State Forum on the NEPAD will serve as a mechanism through which the leadership of the NEPAD will periodically monitor and assess the progress made by African countries in meeting their commitment towards achieving good governance and social reforms. The Forum will also provide a platform for countries to share experiences with a view to fostering good governance and democratic practices.

Chairperson,

The AU principles to be effective must also be adopted by the sub-regional groupings. I am happy to report that the SADC summit held recently in Mauritius adopted the SADC Guidelines and Principles governing democratic elections.

This is not a new development - the Principles and Guidelines put together almost all the guidelines on democracy encompassed in the region, interalia, - Article 4 of 1992 Treaty establishing the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) states: "Human Rights, democracy and the rule of law" are principles guiding its members. Article 5 of this treaty commits the member states to "promote common political values, systems and other shared values which are transmitted through institutions which are democratic, legitimate and effective". It also commits member states to "consolidate, defend and maintain democracy, peace, security and stability in the region".

The biggest challenge we have to grapple with as a continent, is the implementation of our programmes to build a democratic Africa.

Let us be weary of the attention we have brought on ourselves in the eyes of the world regarding our fitness to determine our destiny. There is no doubt that this gathering has attracted attention.

This conference convenes at a time in the history of the continent when we witness a number of ground-breaking elections taking place one after the other. To name but a few, we have Botswana, Namibia, Burundi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe which goes to the polls before March 2005.

These developments are a reflection of the consolidation of democracy in Africa. It is a call for us all to use mechanisms and instruments provided by our own organisations as verifiable parameters to measure the course of direction this continent is taking.

President Mugabe, speaking a few days ago at the 59th session of the UNGA said: "In March next year, Zimbabwe will be holding its 6th democratic parliamentary elections since independence in 1980. These elections will be conducted in accordance with out national laws and the SADC Principles and Guidelines governing Democratic elections…. Zimbabwe will welcome to these elections those observers whose sole and undivided purpose will be to observe the process and not meddle in the politics of the country"

The government of Zimbabwe has announced some electoral reforms. These include the following:

The establishment of an independent Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, composed of 5 commissioners, including a designated chairperson who will be a judge. The commissioners would be appointed by the President, from a list of 7 names and will serve for a period of 5years viz. until before the next general elections. These candidates would be provided by parliament - two major parties are represented, i.e the ruling Zanu -PF and the opposition MDC. A clause in the proposals will guarantee the independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, which would be empowered to exercise its functions without any undue interference.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission would have its own remunerated staff
and would further:

  • have its own budget allocations from the parliament/government. Funding from external sources would be prohibited,
  • compile voters rolls and registers,
  • organize, conduct and supervise all Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government elections,
  • conduct civic and voter education and other public awareness campaigns.
  • deal with the accreditation of observers, subject to the electoral and other necessary conditions (partisan observers from UK and other enemies states of Zimbabwe will not be allowed)
  • conduct research on electoral issues and publish such research
  • perform other functions as may be deemed necessary within the law,
  • undertake measures for ensuring the holding of free and fair elections
  • supervise ballot stations, counting of ballot papers and announce election results, design procure, distribute ballot papers,
  • establish polling stations and necessary security conditions
  • monitor election campaigns
  • establish the rules and regulations (code of conduct)
  • and ensure compliance with he constitution
  • The appointment of a Chief Electoral Officer to manage the day to day functions of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. The Commission in consultation with the President will appoint the candidate. It is envisaged that the CEO will announce election results.
  • The establishment of an Elections Appeal Court to hear petitions, complaints etc. The court will consist of judges appointed by the Chief Justice.
  • Polling to be conducted in one day, within prescribed times as set by the ZEC.
  • The use of translucent ballot boxes.
  • Counting of votes to be done at polling stations, immediately after closure, whereupon verification by party monitors, observers, candidates and relevant documentation regarding the voting equipment and material will be signed. Electricity, candles, paraffin lights etc will be provided.

It is argued by some that these electoral reforms must be seen in the context of the Zimbabwe Constitution which guarantees the people all the necessary rights and obligations in respect of fundamental human rights and freedoms.

Others argue that the electoral reform and the non-observance of the constitution does not satisfy the requirements of the SADC Guidelines and Principles. You will be deliberating on these issues and we look forward to your analysis and conclusions.

We all bear a responsibility to a positive contribution. I am sure you will agree that the event of conducting elections is more than the mere act of presenting an opportunity for the citizens of a country to place a mark next to their candidates of choice. In fact, that act of choice is the culmination of a process that precedes and follows the events of the casting of the ballot. The true expression of this act of democracy and good governance includes the processes and activities of identifying the priorities of the nation, of freely gathering to debate national concerns, to draft manifestos and implementation plans that would realize the identified national priorities. It is important in this process to reach communities at all levels of society throughout the country to lobby their support for such manifestos. Consequently, the people will express their support for those whom they think would best realize their objectives following the elections and would become the partners of a national project to implement the mandate that they have given their elected representatives.

In this regard, each individual country has its own and unique circumstances through which it must therefore seek to realize these objectives which, in turn, contribute to the fulfillment of our regional and continental aspirations for peace and stability and for sustainable development.

As we celebrate our 10th anniversary of our democracy, we recall that 10 years ago, on the eve of our 1st elections, Chris Hani's assassination, the Boipatong massacre, the so-called black on black violence, the no-go areas on the farms and rural areas of Kwa-zulu Natal, the white right wing campaign of bombings, the existence of armed vigilante groups, the absence of a free media, etc raised the spectre of a civil war and the possibilities of having free and fair elections. Why were these fears unfounded?

Walter Sisulu - " The remarkable thing that happened…. Was that while there was tension throughout the country and many powerful forces were talking about civil war, on the day of the elections the masses of people were determined only in one thing, to make their cross, to make the elections a success. They were patient and tolerated the weaknesses and mistakes… The masses gave us all leadership in a remarkable way."

As delegates to this gathering, you have an important task ahead of you and an opportunity to contribute to this momentous national process in Zimbabwe as well as to the fulfillment of our continent's high ideals. I trust that you will discuss and debate in more detail these challenges and make every effort to constructively contribute to assisting the people of Zimbabwe to chart the course of their own destiny and to stand side by side with all of us in realizing the African Renaissance.

Thank you.


Annexure A

Member states shall commit themselves to:

  • Establish where non exist, appropriate institutions where issues such as codes of conduct, citizenship, residency, age requirements for eligible voters, compilation of voters' registers, etc would be addressed;
  • Establish impartial all-inclusive, competent and accountable national electoral bodies staffed by qualified personnel, as well as competent legal entities including effective constitutional courts to arbitrate in the event of disputes arising from the conduct of elections.
  • Safeguard the human and civil liberties of all citizens including the freedom of movement, assembly, association, expression, and campaigning as well as access to the media on the part of all stakeholders, during electoral processes.
  • Promote civil and voters' education on the democratic principles and values in close cooperation with civil society groups, and other relevant stakeholders;
  • Take all necessary measures and precautions to prevent the perpetration of fraud, rigging or any other illegal practices throughout the whole electoral process, in order to maintain peace and security;
  • Ensure the availability of adequate logistics and resources for carrying out democratic elections, as well as ensure that adequate provision of funding for all registered political parties to enable them organise their work, including participation in electoral process;
  • Ensure adequate security is provided to all parties participating in elections.
  • Ensure the transparency and integrity of the entire electoral process by facilitating the deployment of representatives of political parties and individual candidates at polling and counting stations and by accrediting national and/other observers /monitors;
  • Encourage the participation of African women in all aspects of the electoral process in accordance with the national laws.

Member States also reaffirmed the guidelines of the Rights and Obligations under which Democratic Elections are conducted. In terms of the Constitution of each country,

  • Every citizen shall have the right to participate freely in the government of his or her country, either directly or through freely elected representatives in accordance with the provisions of the law.
  • Every citizen has the right to fully participate in the electoral processes of the country, including the right to vote or be voted for, according to the laws of the country and as guaranteed by the Constitution, without any kind of discrimination.
  • Every citizen shall have the right to free association and assembly in accordance with the law.
  • Every citizen shall have the right to freedom to establish or to be a member of a political party or Organisation in accordance with the law.
  • Individuals or political parties shall have the right to freedom of movement, to campaign and to express political opinions with full access to the media and information within the limits of the laws of the land.
  • Individuals or political parties shall have the right to appeal and to obtain timely hearing against all proven electoral malpractices to the competent judicial authorities in accordance with the electoral laws of the country.
  • Candidates or political parties shall have the right to be represented at polling counting stations by duly designated agents or representative.
  • No individual or political party shall engage in any act that may lead to violence or deprive others of their constitutional rights and freedoms. Hence all stakeholders should refrain from, among other things, using abusive language and/or incitement to hate or defamatory allegations and provocative language. These acts should be sanctioned by designated electoral authorities.
  • All stakeholders in electoral contests shall publicly renounce the practice of granting favours, to the voting public for the purposes of influencing the outcome elections.
  • In covering the electoral process, the media should maintain impartiality and refrain from broadcasting and publishing abusive language, incitement to hate, and other forms of provocative language that may lead to violence.
  • Every candidate and political party shall respect the impartiality of the public media by undertaking to refrain from any act which might constrain or limit their electoral adversaries from using the facilities and resources of the public media to air their campaign messages.
  • Every individual and political party participating in elections shall recognize the authority of the Electoral Commission or any statutory body empowered to oversee the electoral process and accordingly render full cooperation to such a Commission/ Body in order to facilitate their duties.
  • Every citizen and political party shall accept the results of elections proclaimed to have been free and fair by the competent national bodies as provided for in the Constitution and the electoral laws and accordingly respect the final decision of the competent Electoral Authorities or challenge the result appropriately according to the law.

Issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
Pretoria
0001

4 October 2004

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