Whereas the year 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action and is thus cause for all women to celebrate progress towards gender equality, COVID-19 has become a fly in the ointment.
This is the view expressed by the Chairperson of the Regional Women’s Parliamentary Caucus of the SADC Parliamentary Forum, Honourable Anne-Marie Bilambangu. She said this in her maiden speech at the start of the 47th Plenary Assembly Session which took place virtually.
According to UN Women, the Beijing Platform for Action imagines a world where each woman and girl can exercise her freedoms and choices, and realize all her rights, such as to live free from violence, to go to school, to participate in decisions, and to earn equal pay for equal work.
Honourable Bilambangu said: “The COVID-19 Pandemic has spoiled the party by causing destruction and even reversing the hard-fought gains we had made toward women’s rights over the past two decades and a half.”
She said the global pandemic has not only exposed how society is reliant on women “both on the frontline and at home”, but had also exposed “the structural inequalities across all spheres from health, economy, politics, sexuality to social protection”.
Noting that women make up most of those in the informal sector, earn and sell less, hold jobs that are less secure, she said they are more likely to lose income, they were especially vulnerable to the negative effects of COVID-19 which “has only served to aggravate their situation”.
Turning to the impact of COVID-19 on the education sector she cited UNESCO estimates that out of a total population of students enrolled in education globally, over 89% were out of school because of COVID-19 closures.
She said: “This represents 1.54 billion children and youth enrolled in schools or universities, including nearly 743 million girls. Over 111 million of these girls are living in the world’s least developed countries, where getting an education is already a struggle.” Honourable Bilambangu said COVID-19 related social distancing and restriction of movements had led to an increased dependency on digital technologies but her lobby body was “dismayed”
that most women and girls in SADC had limited access to these technologies due to insufficient ICT infrastructure, especially in the rural areas.
She expressed concern, also, over a spike of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) cases against women and girls under COVID-19.
“Factors now perpetuating GBV include movement restrictions which result in reduced access to health and other services; diminishing living conditions; economic stress and disempowerment; unequal access to assets; goods and services for livelihood and security; unequal education and skills and lack of decent work and in fact democratic dividends and of course, the risks caused by internet and cyber-space,” she said.
She commended the SADC Parliamentary Forum(PF) for working towards the development of the SADC Model Law on GBV which, she hoped, “would go a long way in addressing the legislative and policy gaps that exist within our Member States”.
She enjoined the Plenary Assembly Session to support efforts to correct long-standing inequalities that women face and build resilient communities that are sensitive to the difficulties women and girls face.
With schools gradually being opened, she called on parliaments to build governments’ capacity to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19.
“We should also prioritise gender and age sensitive interventions that are responsive and reflective of the unique realities of girls, children with disabilities and other marginalised children in our schools.” She stressed the need to make sure that responses to the public health crisis due to COVID-19 ensure that everyone enjoy Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) and have access to services, education and information guaranteeing equal rights or are in line with the various regional and international instruments.
“In this regard, I wish to commend the SADC PF and National Parliaments for the sterling work they are doing to advocate for comprehensive SRHR services for all without discrimination and in prioritising the health and rights of women, girls and other vulnerable groups through the SRHR Programme.”
She expressed optimism that MPs would ensure that the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development suffers no setbacks, particularly in the Member States holding general elections this year that include the United Republic of Tanzania. “We need to continue lobbying for gender equality in Parliaments and other decision-making institutions.”
Honourable Bilambangu emphasised the need to ensure that responses to COVID-19 are gender-sensitive. “We need to be sensitive to the challenges that women and girls are facing daily due to COVID-19, and work toward mitigating these problems. We should then make sure that women have equal representation in all COVID-19 response planning and decision-making.”
Staff Writer in Maputo, Mozambique
On what has been hailed as a great day and a milestone for the SADC Region, the Plenary Assembly Session of the SADC Parliamentary Forum last week adopted the first ever SADC Model Law on Election.
The Chairperson of the SADC PF's Standing Committee on Democratisation, Governance and Human Rights Hon Wavel Ramkalawan from Seychelles, moved for the adoption. He argued that the new Model Law is a "very relevant tool that would assist SADC Member States to incorporate provisions of the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections and other regional and international election instruments into national legislation and policy".
The Plenary complied and passed the soft law.
The Member of Parliament for Berea 27 Constituency Honourable Motlatsi Maqulepo recently collaborated with a businessman who runs taxis in Maseru to donate shoes and sanitary towels to needy children.
Under this collaboration, the businessman, Mr. Mphethe Morakabi provided 69 pairs of shoes which Hon. Maqelepo distributed to needy children who attend Thuathe Primary School and Lancers Gap Primary School, which are located in Sehlabenga sa Thuathe.
Hon. Maquelepo took this opportunity to distribute sanitary towels to over 70 pupils who had already started having their menstrual periods. Before distributing the sanitary towels, the MP addressed the learners at the schools who included boys and encouraged them to accept menstruation as a normal part of any girl’s development.
He, however, noted that many school-going girls do not go to school when they are having their periods if they do not have proper sanitary towels for fear of embarrassment, should they accidentally soil their skirts.
Noting that in some cultures some people regard girls having their menstrual periods as a sign of sexual maturity and said this has had resulted in many children getting married before they were physically and mentally prepared for marriage.
He explained that girls who fall pregnant while they are still young were at a greater risk of experiencing pregnancy-related complications and said all over the world, many girls who fell pregnant when they are young die while giving birth. Additionally, Hon. Maqelepo explained that early pregnancy disturbs girls’ formal education, making it almost impossible for them to acquire a sound education that can enable them to land good-paying jobs.
The MP stressed the fact that education was the gateway to a good life and encouraged girls and boys to remain in school and to work hard.
Hon. Maqulepo discouraged boys not to attend initiation schools when they were still young and encouraged those who go through initiation schools to go back to school.
The lawmaker is a member of the Human and Social Development and Special Programmes of the SADC Parliamentary Forum. Under this programme, he has actively supported the implementation of a Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR), HIV and AIDS Governance Project which the SADC PF has been implementing in seven SADC Member States including Lesotho, with funding from the Swedish Embassy based in Lusaka, Zambia.
The first phase of this Project, which began in 2014, ended in March 2018. It sought to build the capacity of female Members of Parliament in particular and that of National parliaments in general, to advocate for universal access to SRHR, HIV and AIDS services.
The recipients of the shoes and sanitary ware were carefully selected on the basis of their socio-economic status. Many of them are orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs).
Hon. Maqelepo thanked Mr Morakabi for partnering with him. He encouraged other business people and individuals to emulate the businessman in making a difference in the lives of boys and girls.
A lady teacher at Thuathe Primary School commended Hon. Maqelepo and said it was rare for male MPs to be so passionate about SRHR-related issues. She said the MP’s discussion with learners about menstrual health had gone a long way towards demystifying issues related to menstruation. Over the years there have been numerous reports of some girls dropping out of school after being ridiculed for soiling their skirts when they start menstruating without adequate preparation.
Preliminary Mission Statement by the SADC Parliamentary Forum Election Observation Mission to the 2018 Zimbabwe Harmonised Elections
Mr Justice Dr Patrick Matibini, Sc., Fciarb, Mp
Head Of Mission And Speaker Of The National Assembly Of The Republic Of Zambia As Well As A Member Of The Sadc Pf Executive Committee
On 1 August 2018
At Harare International Conference Centre In Harare, Zimbabwe
- Honourable Manuel Domingos Augusto, Head of SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) and Minister of International Relations for the Republic of Angola;
- Your Excellency Hailemariam Desalegn, Head of the African Union Election Observation Mission and Former Prime Minister of the Republic of Ethiopia;
- Esteemed Heads and Members of International Election Observation Missions;
- Justice Priscila Makanyara Chigumba, Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and ZEC Commissioners here present;
- Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
- Esteemed Leaders of Political Parties;
- Members of Civil Society Organisations;
- Media Representatives;
- Distinguished Guests;
- Ladies and Gentlemen
It is my singular honour and privilege to present the SADC Parliamentary Forum Election Observation Mission's Preliminary Statement on the 2018 Zimbabwe Harmonised Elections.
In line with its goals of protecting electoral integrity within the SADC Region, the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF),  constituted a 22-Member Election Observation Mission to the 2018 Zimbabwe Harmonised Elections following an invitation by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC). The Mission comprised a Pre-Election Technical Assessment Mission which was in the country from 14 to 26 July and the main Short Term Observation Mission which arrived in Zimbabwe on 26 July to 02 August 2018.
The Mission comprises Members of Parliament drawn from five National Parliaments of SADC countries, namely Angola, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia and is supported by officials from the SADC PF Secretariat and National Parliaments.
I was honoured to be the Head of the Mission while Hon. Agnes Limbo from the National Assembly of the Republic of Namibia is the Deputy Head of Mission.
This Mission is the fifth SADC PF Election Observation Mission to be deployed in Zimbabwe, with similar Missions having been deployed during the 2000, 2002, and 2013 general elections as well as the 2013 constitutional referendum. The SADC PF Election Observation Mission to the 2018 Harmonised Elections is also the 42nd Election Observation Mission to be deployed to a Member State since 1999 when SADC PF started observing elections in the SADC Region.
The purpose of this Preliminary Statement is to share with ZEC and other stakeholders the Mission's findings and recommendations, which are aimed at strengthening electoral institutions and promoting the integrity and efficacy of elections freeness, fairness as well as the overall credibility and integrity of elections in Zimbabwe and the entire SADC Region.
This Preliminary Statement details the Mission's findings, overall assessment and recommendations to date. The Mission is well aware that this Preliminary Statement is being issued when the tabulation, verification and declaration of results is still ongoing. SADC PF will continue to observe the post-election developments and will capture these in a more detailed Final Report that will be compiled and published within 60 days from the date of this Preliminary Statement. SADC PF will, in line with established practice, formally present the Mission's Final Report to ZEC and share experiences for electoral reforms in line with the SADC Model Law on Elections which SADC PF is currently finalising.
2. TERMS OF REFERENCE
The Mission's Terms of Reference were based on the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections (2015) and the African Charter for Democracy, Elections and Governance (2007), among other international election instruments. More specifically, the Mission's observation work was guided by the following points of inquiry that are contained in the SADC PF's Benchmarks for Assessing Democratic Elections in Southern Africa (2013) :
i) Political Context and the Campaign Environment;
ii) Constitutional and Legal Framework;
iii) Electoral System and Boundary Delimitation;
iv) Electoral Management;
v) Media Coverage;
vi) Role of Security Forces;
vii) Role of Traditional Leaders;
ix) Participation of Youths;
x) Electoral Dispute Resolution;
xi) Voter Education;
xii) Registration of Parties and Nominations;
xiii) Political Party Funding and Campaign Funding;
xiv) Voter Registration and the State of the Voters Roll;
xv) Voting Operations and Polling Arrangements;
xvi) Vote Counting;
xvii) Declaration of Results;
xviii) Complaints and Appeals Procedures;
xx) Areas of Improvement; and
xxi)Overall Assessment of the entire Electoral Processes.
3. DEPLOYMENT PLAN
The Mission deployed its Teams in five of Zimbabwe's 10 provinces, namely; Harare Metropolitan, Mashonaland West, Mashonaland East, Manicaland and Midlands. The teams were deployed as follows:
Mr Justice Dr Patrick Matibini, SC., FCIArb, MP, Head of Mission
Hon. Agnes Limbo (Deputy Head of Mission)
Chongo MUSONDA - Staff
John CHELU - Staff
Cleophas Gwakwara- Staff
Hon. Botlogile Tshireletso- (Team Leader)
Hon. Jorge Augusto
Hon. Chunga Ponde Mecha- (Team Leader)
Hon. Sedirwa Kgoroba
Hon. Stevens Mokgalapa- (Team Leader)
Hon. Elizabeth Phiri
Hon. Ruth Andriano Mendes - (Team Leader)
Hon. Hlomane Patrick Chauke
Sheuneni Kurasha - Mission Coordinator
Unaro Mungendje - Finance and Logistics
Mr Tawanda Mubvuma - Rapporteur
Ms Cecilia Njovana - Mission Secretary
SADC PF Secretariat
SADC PF Secretariat
Parliament of Zimbabwe
4. OBSERVATION METHODOLOGY
The Mission held consultations with stakeholders including ZEC, political parties, civil society organisations (CSOs), media, security forces, academia and the general electorate. The Mission also observed political campaign rallies, witnessed door-to-door campaigns by political parties and candidates and monitored the mass media. Consultations were held with other Election Observation Missions including SADC, African Union, Electoral Commissions Forum of SADC (ECF - SADC), Commonwealth, European Union, Carter Center, National Democratic Institute (NDI)/International Republican Institute (IRI) and local observers. The Mission also reviewed the constitutional and legal framework governing Elections in Zimbabwe as part of its methodology.
5. GUIDING PRINCIPLES FOR THE SADC PF MISSION
In carrying out its observation work, the Mission was guided by the key observation principles of impartiality, neutrality, comprehensiveness, transparency, inclusiveness and objectivity.
6. MISSION FINDINGS
6.1 Political Context and the Campaign Environment
The Mission noted that the 2018 Zimbabwe Harmonised Elections are the second elections to be held under the new Zimbabwe Constitution adopted in 2013 and the first elections following the political transition which saw the former President Robert Mugabe resigning on 21 November 2017 and being succeeded by former Vice-President, Emmerson Mnangagwa on 24 November 2017. In addition, the Mission noted that the elections were duly proclaimed through Statutory Instrument 83 of 2018 issued in terms section 158 of the Zimbabwean Constitution, declaring 30 July as the Election Day and 8 September as the day for presidential election runoff, if need be.
Stakeholders, including political parties, candidates and the electorate indicated that more democratic space had opened-up in the build-up to the 2018 elections. The environment allowed political parties to campaign unimpeded throughout the country and citizens to enjoy the rights enshrined in the Constitution. It was also indicated that although the Public Order and Security Act had not been aligned to the new Constitution, the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) granted authority to all political parties to hold public assemblies including rallies and demonstrations in a professional and timely manner.
Against years of international isolation, the 2018 elections are viewed by a broad range of stakeholders within and outside Zimbabwe as crucial in restoring the legitimacy of the State and the country's re-engagement with the international community.
Overall, the Mission observed that in spite of the 2018 elections having been a very tight contest, Zimbabweans are commended for exercising political tolerance and maturity which contributed to the peaceful environment during the campaign period and on Election Day. However, the Mission took note of isolated cases of election-related offences in the pre-election period such as inter-party and intra-party violence, intimidation and defacing of campaign posters.
The Mission urges Zimbabweans to continue in the spirit of tolerance and harmony in the post-election period.
6.2 The Constitutional and Legal Framework
The Mission observed that Constitution of Zimbabwe, the Electoral Act [Chapter 2:13] and the regulations issued in terms of the Act, comprehensively provide for all aspects of organising and conducting elections in Zimbabwe.
The Constitution provides for the protection of citizens' fundamental rights and liberties which include freedoms of expression, assembly and association, movement, freedom of conscience and religious belief, as well as participation in elections. Section 58 of the Zimbabwean Constitution in particular, provides for the freedom of assembly and association and Section 61 provides for freedom of expression and freedom of the media. Section 66, subsection 2 (a) of the Constitution safeguards the citizens' right to move freely within Zimbabwe while Section 67 provides for the political rights.
The Mission is generally satisfied that the afore-stated rights and freedoms were respected and exercised without undue hindrance during the campaign period and on Election Day.
The Mission welcomes the various electoral reforms introduced through the Electoral Amendment Act of 25 May 2018, which include statutory limits on the amount of contingent ballot papers to be printed in an election and the setting of timelines for determination of election results petitions. The reforms responded to some of the recommendations made by observers during the 2013 elections. The reforms also contributed towards improving the legal framework governing elections in Zimbabwe.
The Mission noted the significant progress that Zimbabwe has made in improving the constitutional and legislative framework governing elections in the country in line with the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.
6.3 ZEC and Election Administration
ZEC is established by the Constitution as the body responsible for the preparation, conduct and supervision of Elections and Referenda in Zimbabwe. Furthermore, the Constitution expressly mandates ZEC to ensure that elections and referenda in Zimbabwe are conducted efficiently, freely, fairly and transparently.
The Mission notes the low levels of confidence expressed by some political parties in ZEC, in particular, with regards to the design, printing, storage and transportation of ballot papers. Cognisant of progress made in addressing these matters in other SADC countries, the Mission urges ZEC to engage stakeholders with a view to drawing lessons from these countries in the post-election period.
The Mission notes that ZEC has adequately prepared and managed all aspects of the electoral process such as training and deployment of electoral officers, procurement of electoral materials, registration of voters, provision of voter education and other logistical arrangements timeously and in accordance with the electoral timetable.
The Mission took note of concerns regarding the inadequacies of ZEC's communication strategy which was perceived to be reactionary in some instances as opposed to being proactive.
6.4 The Role of Security Forces
The Mission observed that ZRP trained its officers in election instruments, human rights and police duties during elections. ZRP, also constantly liaised with ZEC and other stakeholders including the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) and CSOs in providing security to the electoral process. Stakeholders also commended the professional manner in which ZRP had policed public assemblies during the campaign period. On voting day ZRP played an important role in guaranteeing public safety and providing security without interfering with the electoral processes across the country.
6.5 Voter Registration and the State of the Voters' Roll
The Mission notes that the 2018 Zimbabwe Harmonised elections were the first elections in which ZEC assumed full control for the compilation of a new voters roll. ZEC used biometric technology for the compilation of a new voters roll which ushered polling station based voting for the first time in Zimbabwe.
The SADC PF Mission learnt that ZEC undertook an extensive biometric voter registration exercise from 14 September 2017, culminating in a total of 5,695,706 voters, of which 3,073,190 were female while 2,622,516 were male, at the closure of the voters roll of the 2018 elections on 8 February 2018. The Mission took note that a local civil society organization, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), carried out an independent audit of the voters roll and concluded that the roll was a significant improvement over the 2013 Preliminary voters roll. In particular, the audit did not identify anomalies in the 2018 voters roll that affected a large percentage of registrants or that were concentrated amongst registrants, of a particular area, gender or age. Furthermore, the audit also revealed that the 2018 voters roll has a significant number of new registrants, as well as more urban and young registrants when compared to the one used during the 2013 elections.
6.6 Civic and Voter Education
The Mission commends ZEC for the collaborative approach to voter education which saw ZEC accrediting a record number of CSOs to undertake voter education. The voter education efforts benefited from the amendment to the Electoral Act to provide for the direct receipt of foreign donations to fund voter education activities by CSOs as opposed to via ZEC as was the case previously.
Voter education assumed a multi-pronged approach which included print and electronic media adverts, door to door campaigns, distribution of posters, pamphlets and leaflets, roadshows, use of billboards and operation of an electoral information dissemination call centre, including in local languages. In addition, the Mission observed that the contesting political parties also played a significant role in providing voter education to their members during the build-up towards the 2018 Zimbabwe Harmonised Elections.
6.7 Legislation Governing Regulation of Political Parties
The Mission observed that Zimbabwe has no law governing the establishment, registration and operation of political parties. Political parties only need to make announcements that they have been established. The absence of a law governing the registration and operation of political parties has led to the proliferation of political parties, thereby presenting administrative challenges for ZEC in determining the number of political parties when organising meetings and designing the ballot papers. Drawing from experiences elsewhere in the SADC region, there is a need to promulgate a law to govern the registration and operations of political parties.
6.8 Political Party Funding
The Mission noted that political party and campaign funding in Zimbabwe is regulated by the provisions of the Political Parties (finance) Act [Chapter 2:11]. According to the Act, political parties and candidates that would have garnered a minimum threshold of five percent of the votes cast during the most recent elections are entitled to a proportional allocation of state funding as determined by the government annually.
6.9 Media Coverage of the Elections
The SADC PF Mission noted the critical role played by the media in enhancing awareness on the election process including voter registration, voter education and candidate nominations and communicating the political choices available for the voters. This went a long way in promoting public interest and encouraging public participation in the Elections.
The Mission took note of the trend of acute polarisation that generally characterised the coverage by mainstream media, both private and public print and electronic media prior, during and post the 2018 Zimbabwe Harmonised Elections. Further, the Mission expresses its concern regarding the continued trend of bias by the public media towards the ruling party in its coverage of elections as was observed during the 2013 elections. The SADC PF Mission, therefore, urges for ethical and balanced reporting during elections.
The Mission also noted the robust use of social media especially in urban areas, by various political parties, candidates and other stakeholders as a tool for communication. The Mission however, received concerns on the abuse of social media and the negative impact it has on political participation of women.
6.10 Gender Mainstreaming and Participation of Women
The Mission notes that out of the 23 Presidential candidates, only 4 candidates were women, while out of the 1631 direct election National Assembly candidates, only 240 (14.7%) were women. The same pattern replicated itself in the local authority elections where out of 6576 candidates, 1132 (17.21%) were women. The SADC PF Mission noted that most of the political parties did not have deliberate policies to promote the inclusion of women as candidates in accordance with the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.
The Mission commends the provision in the law for 60 quota seats for women in the National Assembly and the 'zebra system' for Senatorial seats where the law requires that the first candidate on the list should be a woman.
6.11 Electoral Dispute Resolution Mechanisms
The Mission commends the amendment to the Electoral Act to provide for the setting up of Multi-Party Liaison Committee's (MPLCs) at least 12 months prior to the date of election as opposed to soon after the sitting of Nomination Courts as was the case before. The MPLCs are a strategic platform for alternative dispute resolution and consensus building between political parties and ZEC. The Mission witnessed the MPLCs in operation at national and provincial levels.
6.12 Voting, Counting and Declaration of Results
ZEC deployed sufficient numbers of staff to manage polling stations and the officers were evidently trained and they managed the process professionally. Voting proceeded smoothly in most polling stations observed by the Mission teams. The Mission also commends the polite and helpful way Electoral Officials liaised with political party agents in resolving issues during the voting, verification and counting process.
There were adequate polling stations with clear signage in most cases. Most polling stations visited by the Mission's teams on Election Day opened at 0700 hours and closed at 1900 hours in line with the law.
Voting materials were available in adequate quantities and voting proceeded smoothly in a peaceful environment. The polling station design guaranteed the secrecy of the vote. Voters who were already queued up by 1900 hours were allowed to vote in line with the law.
The counting process was done in a stringent and orderly manner following procedures. All reconciliations were done in consultation with and to the satisfaction of party agents. However, some polling stations particularly temporary structures, did not have adequate lighting and this slowed the counting process.
The Mission commends the posting of results for each polling station outside the respective polling station.
7. GOOD FEATURES AND PRACTICES FROM THE 2018 ZIMBABWE HARMONISED ELECTIONS
The Mission observed the following features and good practices from the 2018 Zimbabwe Harmonised Elections:
i) The mature and tolerant manner in which Zimbabweans conducted themselves prior to the elections, on Election Day and in the immediate post-election period.
ii) Higher voter turnout at most polling stations.
iii) The peaceful and conducive environment in which the 2018 elections were held.
iv) Timely distribution of election materials and deployment of trained polling officers as well as security personnel.
v) The stringent and orderly manner in which ZEC managed the voting and counting process on Election Day.
vi) Use of technology by ZEC during the voter registration and verification exercise.
vii) The provision in the law for the setting up of Multi-Party Liaison Committee's (MPLCs) at least 12 months prior to the date of election as opposed to soon after the sitting of Nomination Courts as was the case in the past.
viii) ZEC's preparation of a comprehensive and credible voters' roll during their first attempt at applying biometric technology.
ix) The introduction of polling station-based voters roll and polling station specific voting.
x) Introduction of legal provisions to ensure the mainstreaming of gender in the entire electoral process.
xi) Opening-up of funding regulations to enable CSOs to receive external funding directly as opposed to via ZEC for purposes of conducting voter education.
xii) Provisions in the law which limits the maximum number of ballot papers that can be printed for any election to not more than 10% of the number of registered voters eligible to vote in the election.
xiii) Decentralised structure of the ZEC which allowed the ZEC to effectively discharge its mandate working hand in hand with stakeholders at Constituency, District, Provincial and National levels.
xiv) Prioritisation of special groups such as those with disabilities, the elderly and pregnant mothers during voting in order to ensure they exercise their right to vote.
xv) The high number of polling stations to ensure that all voters have easy access to the polling stations.
xvi) Nationwide civic and voter education by ZEC assisted by CSOs and political parties to generate interest in and knowledge of the voting process.
xvii) The provision within electoral legislation for the establishment of an Electoral Court which is required to resolve post-electoral disputes within 3 months of being lodged with it and the resolution of possible appeals to the Supreme Court and which appeals are required to be determined within 6 months.
xviii) Counting and declaration of ballots at polling stations and the posting results outside the polling station.
xix) The legal requirement for announcing the election outcome within five days.
xx) The Gazetting of the polling day, (30th July 2018) as a public holiday to enable as many Zimbabweans as possible to exercise their democratic right to vote.
xxi) Number of women in ZEC including the Commissioners and electoral officials.
xxii)Public denouncing of political violence by the leadership of the main political parties as well as other stakeholders such as religious groups and civil society.
xxiii) The use of national IDs as proof of identification during voting instead of having separate voting cards and readily accessibility of national IDs for those who would have lost them during the election period.
8. AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
The Mission observes the following as areas requiring improvement to further enhance the credibility and integrity of elections in Zimbabwe:
i) The need to promulgate the law to govern the regulation of political parties in Zimbabwe.
ii) The need for ZEC to improve on its communication strategy for purposes of confidence building with stakeholders.
iii) The need for ZEC to engage political parties and stakeholders to establish consensus on measures to enhance transparency in the management of elections, in particular, the printing, storage and transportation of ballot papers.
iv) The need to strengthen the legal framework governing media coverage of elections in order to enhance fair, balanced and responsible reporting by the media especially the public media.
v) The need to develop strong legal and administrative mechanisms to encourage and support the adoption of women as candidates so as to ensure gender parity in political and decision-making positions in line with the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.
vi) Need to improve lighting in polling stations especially in temporary structures.
vii) The need to streamline the counting process to make it less tedious.
viii)The need to standardise timelines for the verification of ballot papers.
9. PRELIMINARY ASSESSMENT OF THE 2018 ZIMBABWE HARMONISED ELECTIONS
Based on its overall findings of the electoral processes to date, the Mission is satisfied that there existed a conducive and peaceful environment in which the Elections were conducted. This accorded Zimbabweans the opportunity to freely express their will in voting for the candidates of their choice.
The observed pre-election period from 14 July, the Election Day and immediate post-election period as at 31 July 2018, was observed to be peaceful, free and transparent.
SADC PF will continue to observe the post-election process, including the final declaration of results and post-election developments, and will pronounce itself ultimately in its Final Report.
I thank you
 The SADC Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF) is a Regional inter-parliamentary forum for national Parliaments of SADC Member States established in 1996 and was approved by the SADC Summit in 1997 as a consultative and deliberative body in accordance with Article 9 (2) of the SADC Treaty. It is currently composed of 14 National Parliaments, namely Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Eswatini, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
MASERU- The Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho will soon begin a process of reviewing and where necessary, reforming national laws and policies as the country takes bold steps to ensure greater access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights, HIV and AIDS services for all her citizens.
Recent outreach and oversight missions to various health and correctional facilities in parts of Lesotho by Members of Parliament and Senators exposed gaps in the country’s SRHR, HIV and AIDS response which were negatively affecting some citizens, especially key populations.
The MPs and Senators who belong to the Social Cluster, HIV and AIDS and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Committees in the National Assembly, met various people including sex workers and members of the LGBTI community. They then compiled reports which they shared during unprecedented roundtable discussions with Cabinet Ministers and Permanent Secretaries of relevant line government Ministries here last week.
In impassioned submissions, the lawmakers implored the Ministers to take decisive steps to ensure that the rights of all citizens including key populations were upheld so that universal access to SRHR, HIV and AIDS services becomes a reality.
The Minister of Justice, Human Rights and Correctional Services, Hon Mokhele Moletsane, one of the Ministers that received the reports, immediately took heed and promised action.
In an exclusive interview, the Minister commended the lawmakers for undertaking the oversight missions and for sharing their findings.
“This has been a very useful and important gathering where, as Ministers, MPs, Non-Governmental Organisations and government officials we interacted on very important issues of HIV and AIDS in relation to the so-called key populations,” he said.
He added that the meeting had enabled stakeholders to better appreciate the work that the SADC Parliamentary Forum was doing in responding to the global HIV and AIDS epidemic under the SRHR, HIV and AIDS Governance Project that Sweden and Norway are funding in seven SADC Member States including Lesotho.
“The invitation by the Portfolio Committee to Ministries that are directly working with Key Populations (the Ministry of Justice, Human Rights and Correctional Services which deals with safe custody of inmates; Ministry of Gender; the Ministry of Health; and the Ministry of Social Development which is the custodian of vulnerable people) was well thought-out.”
He said the reports shared by the MPs and Senators had enabled him to better appreciate “the peculiar needs of prisoners, women and men who form a substantial part of the population in our prisons.”
The Minister added: “This was an eye-opener. We should always bear in mind that we don’t talk only of females and males in our population. We should remember that there is the LGBTI community. As we provide services, we should remember that they are part of the nation. Like everybody else, they have rights.”
Pressed on what needs to be done going forward, Hon Moletsane was clear.
“We should now embark on a rigorous transformation of our legal framework. We must come up with new laws to cater for key populations. We need new policies. Parliamentarians should embark on that rigorous reform to cater also for the needs of special groups within our institutions.”
Hon Moletsane expressed optimism that the Social Cluster and Parliamentary Committee on HIV and AIDS would help the Government of Lesotho to develop laws and policies “to take care of everybody.”
He said as a follow up, he would invite all relevant stakeholders to his Ministry “so that we embark on a review of any piece of legislation that needs to be repealed or amended so that we realise the rights of every citizen, especially prison inmates.”
Asked what had struck him the most from the reports shared by the lawmakers, Hon Molestane first took a deep breath before saying: “The realities in our communities and the level of our ignorance as a society. We know gay people exist, but we have never taken time to understand their special situation and their special needs.”
He said what the lawmakers reported following their interactions with different members of the community including key populations warranted the full attention of the Executive and Parliament.
“We need to respond to these challenges, whether through the national budget or legal reforms. We can no longer ignore or pretend that these (key populations) do not exist. We have to act,” he said.
He commended the MPs and Senators for throwing light on matters that for long had been skirted.
“They are determined to work and enlighten us. When it is done at this high level of governance, it says a lot. Parliament is taking its mandate seriously.”
He said Lesotho was going through exciting times towards universal access to SRHR, HIV and AIDS services. He called for all hands on board.
“Let us join hands and look into the future so that we can celebrate being part of that change. As an individual and as an official of government, I am determined … to be part of those willing to bring about change,” he said.
Hon Moletsane said he was keenly alive to the challenges that lay ahead.
“It is not going to be easy. We are a religious community but I am going to add my voice to numerous voices that are already advocating for change.”
He said he would instruct officials in his Ministry to engage all stakeholders to be part of the envisaged transformation. He commended the SADC PF for building the capacity of MPs to advocate for universal access to SRHR, HIV and AIDS services and said enlightened lawmakers can make a huge difference.
“The importance of MPs cannot be over-emphasized. If MPs have a better appreciation of the needs of special populations, it would be very easy for us to work with them to respond to these challenges. People look up to us as leaders to wisely legislate to empower them.”
Other Ministers who attended the discussion are: Hon. Matebatso Doti, Minister of Social Development; Hon. Mokhele Moletsane, Minister of Justice and Correctional Service; Hon. Nkaku Kabi, Minister of Health
Hon. Mahlompho Mokaeane, Deputy Minister of Gender and Sports; Hon. Maphoka Motoboli, Deputy Minister of Education, and Hon. Manthabiseng Phohleli, Deputy Minister of Health.
November 20 is Children's Day, is an international celebration intended to bring nations together to promote child welfare. For the first time in the history of the National Assembly of Seychelles, a 13-year-old Seychellois child addressed her lawmakers on World Children's day. In an impassioned address, the child, Shayane Hoareau, spoke about the challenges - including those related to Sexual Reproductive Health Rights - that children face growing up in the picturesque island country. These were her words, which have been slightly edited for clarity.
Honorable Members of the National Assembly and all Seychellois who are listening,
It is a great honor to be the representative for all Seychellois children and for addressing the National Assembly this morning.
My name is Miss Shayane Hoareau and I'm 13 years old.
On November 20, 1989, the United Nations drafted the Convention for the Rights of the Child. The Government Seychelles had signed this document on September 20, 1990.
This means that not one of us can say that we haven't heard of this document.
This document addresses what a child needs, even before they are born until they have reached the age of maturity - that is, 18 years of age here in Seychelles.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child has 54 articles and although I do not know all of them by heart, I believe that whatever is detailed is good for children.
It is also good for parents and is good for the community as well.
A number of things have been done in Seychelles so that our children can rejoice in those rights and help us to grow as responsible citizens.
They have the right to be born, the right to access healthcare, the right to live with their parents when they are separated, the right to go to school.
All of this has been possible thanks to the devotion of the Government of Seychelles towards this Convention.
For that, we say a huge thank you.
Before I go further please permit me, Honorable Members, to paint a portrait of the situation that children in Seychelles are living in today.
A 2015 study shows that 3 out of 5 children in the class of S1 through to S5 have been abused sexually. The majority of the time by a member of their own family.
The youngest was a three-month-old baby who died as a result of sexual abuse.
Here in Seychelles!
Children are involved in sexual intercourse from a very young age, and often with one or more partners.
The youngest to fall pregnant was aged 10. Ten years old!
However, the law does not allow a child to consent to sex before the age of 15. The law prevents access to contraceptives for such children. They have to wait until the age of 18.
How many more young mothers should there be before the law is revised?
In addition, children get access to alcohol easily.
However, the law states that you have to be 18 years old to get access to alcohol.
Where are we getting it from?
Cigarettes as well.
Drugs, let's not talk about it.
Before we even reach the age of maturity, at least 14% of children between the ages of 11 to 16 have tried some kind of substance.
In addition, children are being used to sell drugs.
Some have had to get into prostitution to be able to support the drugs lifestyles of their parents.
And let's not forget those that even in their mother's womb, some children have tried drugs and are born with the effects of drugs.
Even in the family, children grow up on their own.
Parents are busy. Parents work. Parents have separated. Children suffer.
The number of suicide attempts amongst children continues to increase.
Schools. We all know. Academic levels are coming down and continuing to go down.
Where is the problem?
To whom does this problem belong to?
This is the reason why we the children wanted to address with the National Assembly on this day.
Put yourself in the shoes of Dylan Rose, which was only 12 years old.
Instead of playing football, going to school, he lived on the streets, slept wherever he could find a spot. He ate what he could find until he lost his life.
Who would wish this on their children?
In fact, there is an article that addresses the protection of children just like Dylan.
Ladies and gentlemen, all that we see on the television have arrived at our door today.
Regardless of the dangers, of all this education and awareness, the attitudes of certain adults do not change!
Young children continue to be neglected, get abused and maltreated!
There are more suitable ways to raise and discipline children.
I would like to thank the National Council for Children, NCC, which has been engaged in educating adults on all of this.
If you, the adults, want us to become better, then you have to lead us by example.
There's a saying 'Children see, Children do!'
We feel that the finger is being pointed at us.
But my grandfather has always said that there are three fingers pointing back at you when you point the finger at others.
Everything that is happening is a reflection of our society.
As children, we do not condone violence.
We don't want violence among children, between children and their parents, between children and their teachers, stealing and deaths.
All of this is not good for us.
Mr. Speaker and all the Members of the National Assembly, all Seychellois who are listening, today, I am making history by being the first child to address the National Assembly of our country, Seychelles.
Article 3 of the Convention States:
In all decisions made, the best interests of children must be taken into consideration. We would like to be listened to, even if some of the things we say might not make much sense to you.
This reminds me of an incident that happened in America that I watched on the Internet.
The driver of a huge truck that miscalculated its path and was stuck under a bridge.
The road was blocked. There was a lot of panic. The engineers, mechanics, police, and many professionals came to try and find a solution. While they were discussing, a small boy came up with his bike.
He approached the person in charge to ask whether he could speak.
No one listened. Finally, a young man asked him what he needed.
That little boy asked if they had tried removing the air from the tyres.
Immediately, the man tried out his idea and was able to remove the truck out from under the bridge.
Mr. Speaker, honourable members, the truth comes out of the mouth of a child. We have ideas, a lot of ideas, and we can help resolve the problems that sometimes the adult themselves have created.
How many developments will be made without taking the child into account? Many housing estates, for example, don't have facilities for playing!
We need a place where we can run, sing and play all kinds of games if we like. Give us a chance to develop sports, cultural and traditional activities. It is our right to know our history and to keep our culture alive.
But if you do not show us, how are you supposed to protect our heritage tomorrow?
Mr. Speaker, we also have our dreams. We also have our vision for the future. Do not only see us as the source of the problems in Seychelles.
Instead, view us as the resource that can help to resolve these issues.
We are the key. We are the future. But remember, we are also the present. We are not just an expense. We are a good investment.
Continue to treat us with respect and dignity so that we can also grow up with those same values. If you wish us a good morning, we will also wish you a good morning.
Yes, we know that having rights also comes with responsibility. We have our part to play. Parents also have theirs. And all the leaders of this country also have a role to play. Don't just say that children have rights. Learn about these rights and see where you can help.
Support services that provide support to our children. Help those services to become stronger and effective so that they will prevent the bad people from taking advantage of us.
Think of the most vulnerable children - abandoned children, children who are poor and children who live with disabilities. Don't treat them like they are lesser, on the contrary help to create a better environment to help them develop their potential to the maximum possible.
Mr. Speaker, Members of the National Assembly, we depend on our adults to protect our interests. Already, by giving us a moment of your time, you, the Honorable Members have shown engagement towards us.
We promise to work hard at school so we can contribute to taking our country forward.
Thank you for listening to us despite the fact that you are busy with the budget. For once this assembly today has become the assembly for all children too.
We also thank everyone for listening.
Long live all children in Seychelles!
Long live our national assembly!
By Moses Magadza
Ezulwini, Swaziland : The SADC Parliamentary Forum is considering joint training sessions for journalists and Members of Parliament as it moves to strengthen the capacity of the two partners to advocate for universal access to sexual reproductive health rights and related issues.
The chairperson of the Human Development and Special Programme (HDSP) of SADC PF, South Africa Parliamentarian Ahmed Shaik-Emmam, revealed this last week. He was tabling the report of the HSDP at the 39th Plenary Assembly Session of SADC PF.
The HSDP is implementing a four year SRHR, HIV and AIDS Governance programme with funding from Sweden.
The Executive Director of the Prison Care and Counselling Association
(PRISCCA) in Zambia, Dr Godfrey Malembeka, has warned that HIV epidemics in the world's prisons can fuel epidemics in mainstream communities unless steps are taken to safeguard the health of prisoners.
Dr Malembeka sounded the warning while addressing a Consultative Capacity Development Session for Zambian Civil Society Organisations working on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, HIV and AIDS. The session sought to map out a strategy for engaging the Parliament of Zambia.
Noting that the African continent was the hardest hit by the global HIV and AIDS epidemic, Dr Malembeka bemoaned the fact that prison settings in Sub-Saharan Africa had received "surprisingly little" attention in terms of national and international funding to respond to the epidemic.
PRISCCA represents thousands of serving and ex-prisoners in Zambia. Dr Malembeka is an ex-prisoner, having spent four years in jail. Thereafter he spent 16 years working closely with the Government of Zambia on efforts to rehabilitate ex-prisoners. He therefore, boasts of a wealth of experience in issues that affect prisoners or when they leave detention.
He said PRISCCA submits related reports to the Parliament of Zambia twice a year. The organisation also uses Parliament Radio to discuss issues that affect prisoners. It takes MPs out for a retreat every year to further debate those issues. Additionally, PRISCCA takes MPs on visits to some of the country's correctional facilities so that the lawmakers witness first-hand the challenges in those settings.
He said the SADC Region alone had approximately 650 000 incarcerated people, 19 000 of those in Zambia.
Stressing that good prison health was equal to good public health, Dr Malembeka warned that unless steps were taken to keep prisoners healthy, the health of people outside prisoners would be in jeopardy.
"HIV in prison is both a public health and a human rights issue. It is also a legal issue and there are myths and stigma, surrounding incarceration," he said.
He cited overcrowding and poor physical conditions in most prisons as major challenges in HIV prevention.
With prison populations being predominantly male, Dr Malembeka said male-to-male sexual activities were frequent.
"There are three types of sexual activities in prisons. The first is consensual, where a few people have agreed to live like that because some are there for life or serving more than 30 years."
The second type was rape, which was fuelled by prisoners that preyed on juveniles or the weak.
"The third type is circumstantial sex. Sometimes because of overcrowding, male prisoners end up naked and squeezed close together in such a way that some 'dreams' can come," he explained.
He called for research to determine the levels of sexual activities in prisons, saying much of it was not reported and therefore not documented.
"Potential links for transmitting HIV from prisons into the general population are high due to stigma, marriage break ups and lack of partner notification."
Dr Malembeka said lack of knowledge and education among prisoners about the risks of contracting and transmitting HIV coupled with the absence of protective means and proper medical care, increased prisoners' risks to HIV infection.
"Most of our sisters who are incarcerated are divorced in advance because (few people) are ready to wait for their spouses."
He said over half a million women and girls were being held in penal institutions worldwide.
"Women are especially vulnerable to sexual exploitation and may trade or be forced to trade sex for food, goods or drugs with other prisoners or staff," he said.
Turning to factors that contribute to HIV in prisons and that MPs could examine, Dr Malembeka cited weaknesses of the criminal justice system, overcrowding, poor food and nutrition as well as lack of health care and lack of follow up on released prisoners.
Others included poor adherence to ART treatment, lack of prevention commodities such as condoms the mixing of pre-trial detainees, juveniles and convicted people.
Final Communique of the Multi-Stakeholder Consultative Workshop on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), HIV and AIDS held on the 13th and 14th October 2017, at Out of Africa Lodge, Otjiwarongo, Namibia
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Parliamentary Forum is implementing the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), HIV and AIDS and Governance program through seven SADC member parliaments. Namibia only joined the initiative in October 2016. The SRHR, HIV and AIDS and Governance program aims to strengthen the capacity of SADC National Parliaments to advocate for, and influence responses to sexual and reproductive health and rights, HIV and AIDS and Governance challenges in the SADC region.
As part of the implementation of the program, the SADC Parliamentary Forum in collaboration with the National Assembly of Namibia convened a Multi-stakeholder Consultative Workshop on 13th and 14th October 2017 at Out of Africa Lodge in Otjiwarongo, Namibia. The workshop was attended by forty six participants including Members of Parliament (MPs) and staff, representatives of government ministries, key populations and Civil Society Organization (CSOs) responsible for gender,education, health and youth. In attendance was also Honourable Petrina Haingura, the Chairperson of the Women Parliamentary Caucus of Namibia.
The workshop was aimed at strengthening the understanding of stakeholders and engaging participants regarding the implementation of the SRHR, HIV and AIDS and Governance program and clarifying the different roles they play and should play in its coordination.