Press release August 22, 2023
Zimbabwe: Exclusion of Researchers and Observers May Undermine Election Integrity
Authorities’ actions could obstruct the exposure of fraud and other irregularities.
WASHINGTON—In advance of the Zimbabwean general elections on August 23, Freedom House’s director of Africa programs, Tiseke Kasambala, issued the following statement:
“We are deeply disturbed by reports that the Zimbabwean authorities have attempted to cover up wrongdoing in the electoral system by deporting regional activists, denying accreditation to local and regional election observers, and refusing access to independent media. No election conducted in such a highly restricted political environment could truly be considered free or fair. We urge the government of Zimbabwe to respond to these irregularities in a timely and transparent manner and to abide by regional and international electoral standards.”
On August 23, Zimbabwe will hold general elections. The presidential race, which features 12 candidates, is expected to be a close contest between incumbent president Emmerson Mnangagwa of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and Nelson Chamisa of the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC). The months and weeks leading up to the elections have been marred by widespread intimidation, arrests, and violence by the ZANU-PF against the CCC, as well as bans on opposition rallies.
On August 21, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) denied accreditation to the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (Southern Defenders), which was planning to deploy a team of observers from the region. Prominent individuals who planned to act as local observers have also been denied accreditation. Southern Defenders, which previously observed local elections in 2022, reported that its accreditation was denied for unspecified “security reasons.”
On August 17, the Zimbabwean authorities deported four people from the organization Good Governance Africa, including chief executive officer Chris Maroleng, after the team arrived in Zimbabwe to investigate preelection conditions. Journalists from a number of international media outlets—including Voice of America, South Africa’s Daily Maverick, and Germany’s ARD—have also been barred from covering the elections.
Freedom House is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to create a world where all are free. We inform the world about threats to freedom, mobilize global action, and support democracy’s defenders.
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