On the 23rd and the 24th of August 2023 Zimbabwe went to the polls to elect their Presidential Candidate, House of Assembly and Local Government leaders who will take charge of the country for the next five years. The observation process conducted by IMBISA observers as roving observers in Zimbabwe’s August 2023 Harmonized elections played a crucial role in ensuring transparency, fairness, and credibility in the country’s electoral system. The observers provided valuable insights into the electoral process, assessing its adherence to regional and international standards and best practices.
As the IMBISA Region we applaud the nation of Zimbabwe for conducting themselves in a peaceful manner as they excised their constitutional right to vote. The Catholic social teachings emphasize principles such as dignity, justice, solidarity, and promotion of the common good. When applied to elections, these teachings underline the importance of fair and transparent processes that respect the rights and dignity of all individuals. To ensure transparency and credibility, Zimbabwe invited international observers to monitor the elections. These observers came from various organizations and countries, including the African Union (AU), Southern African Development Community (SADC), and other regional and international bodies. Their presence helped to provide an independent assessment of the electoral process and build confidence among voters.
The presence of the law enforcement agents contributed a lot in the maintenance of peace and order before during and after the elections. We also applaud the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission for the timely release of the election results before the expiry of the stipulated five-day period. We also congratulate the people of Zimbabwe for the peaceful environment that continued after the announcements of the results
However as IMBISA Region we observed quite a number of challenges which include the following:
- On the day of the elections, there were significant issues with the polling stations. In some areas, polling stations opened later than scheduled due to shortage of voting materials and access to voters’ roll, which compromised the voting process as the voting materials arrived late. Additionally, in certain locations where voting started on time, disruptions occurred because the voting materials were depleted before the scheduled closing time.
- Some polling stations were not easily visible from a distance, and their locations only became apparent when one was in close proximity.
- It was observed that some polling stations were situated very close to taverns and shops that remained open for business, creating an environment that did not adequately prioritize the voting process in those areas.
- In some parts of the country there were groups of people who mounted ‘exit poll survey desks’ near the polling stations displaying logos of a political party.
- Some voters had challenges to find their names on the voter’s roll.
Despite the generally peaceful atmosphere, the aforementioned issues raised concerns about the fairness and integrity of the elections, particularly in urban areas. In response to the above mentioned challenges, various domestic and international actors have called for electoral reforms in Zimbabwe. These reforms aim to address issues such as the independence of the electoral commission, voter registration processes, media freedom, and the role of the military in politics. In light of the controversial Zimbabwe 2023 elections, the Catholic Church can play a significant role in addressing the challenges. The Catholic Church can help address the challenges encountered during the Zimbabwe 2023 elections by promoting justice, peace, and the common good of society. The pursuit of genuine democracy is rooted in respect for the dignity of every human person and the common good of society. Flawed elections not only undermine the democratic process but also violate this fundamental principle of human dignity.” – Pope Francis
Yours in Christ
+Archbishop Jose Manuel Imbaba
Archdiocese of Saurimo, Angola
Vice President of IMBISA
13 October 2023.