Damning Zim election report released after legal battle

2014-11-15 12:19

A report by two South African High Court judges, which found the Zimbabawe elections of 2002 not to be free or fair, has been made public following a lengthy legal battle.

"These [Zimbabwe] elections [of 2002], in our view, cannot be considered to be free and fair," said then high court judges Dikgang Moseneke and Sisi Khampepe in the report.

The report was published on the Mail & Guardian's website last night after the newspaper was given the report earlier in the day.

Moseneke and Khampepe said they had reached this conclusion after "having regard to all the circumstances, and in particular the cumulative substantial departures from international standards of free and fair elections found in Zimbabwe during the pre-election period."

The report found, among other things, that 107 people had died in the midst of pre-election violence and intimidation in certain areas of the country.

The deaths were believed to be politically motivated killings of mostly opposition politicians, between March 2000 and March 2002.

This violence and intimidation had the effect of curtailing freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly and association of voters to varying degrees.

Zimbabwe's electoral laws were also "drastically amended and manipulated by executive decrees", the consequences of which were felt upon voter education and the voters' roll.

On the polling days, there were a reduced number of voting stations in urban areas, particularly Harare and Chitungwiza, but the report acknowledged that in other constituencies, polling stations were easily accessible and their operations conducted satisfactory.

The secrecy of the ballot was also found to have been generally respected and impartial assistance given to voters where necessary.

"We observed no material counting irregularities," Khampepe and Moseneke said in their report.

"If any existed, they were not drawn to our attention or reported on."

The two judges were sent to Zimbabwe by former president Thabo Mbeki as observers during its 2002 elections.

The Mail & Guardian reported that the report was made public yesterday after a ruling by the Constitutional Court, following the newspaper's legal battle for access to the report.

The newspaper had applied for access to the report over five years ago in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act.

The report draws on the work of Danish political science professors Jorgen Elklit and Palle Svensson, who set out criteria to evaluate the "free-ness" and fairness of an election.

These include international standards relating to the time prior to voting day, on the polling days, during ballot counting and after the election.

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