EISA Zimbabwe: Chronological overview of work


Pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) entered into with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) in September 2011, EISA provided technical assistance to ZEC on the electoral process and specifically in the implementation of its Five-Year Strategic Plan. As part of the preparations for the planned referendum on the new constitution and the Harmonised Elections (Presidential, Parliamentary, Senatorial and Local Authorities) to follow in 2013, the signatories planned a set of activities to be implemented throughout 2012, in which notable progress was made. However, factors which retarded the electoral process and posed challenges to the implementation of the project included the slow constitution making process as well as uncertainty around the holding of by-elections in various constituencies of the country.

Following the completion of the constitution draft, the principal parties to the Global Political Agreement (GPA) undertook internal consultation and review of the draft constitution commonly referred to as the "Copac draft" derived from the Constitutional Parliamentary Select Committee (COPAC) which is spearheading the constitution making process. The three parties are the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T) and Movement for Democratic Change-Mutambara (MDC-M). The intra-party consultative process has resulted in delays of the constitution making process as in some cases parties' higher structures disagreed with some proposals which would have been agreed to by their negotiating teams. This, has therefore, in many instances subjected the draft to endless negotiations, stalemates and interventions by the parties' hierarchy. As a result, the referendum and elections which were to be held in 2012 have now been shifted to 2013.

The second challenge was the Supreme Court ruling instructing the State President to proclaim byelections in three vacant constituencies following a court action by three former MDC-M Members of Parliament. Initially, the President appealed against the Court ruling and when he lost the appeal, he then asked for an extension of the deadlines stipulated in the court ruling for the proclamation on two occasions. This development made it difficult for ZEC to plan as it was not sure whether to prepare for the by-elections or fully fledged elections. This uncertainty disrupted the ZEC/EISA programme for a while.

The above notwithstanding, substantial amount of work has been done and significant achievements have been recorded from January to December 2012. In its endeavours, the EISA Zimbabwe Field Office received expert support from the EISA head quarters and drew expert inputs from an array of institutions including the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa, National University of Science & Technology (NUST), the South African Council of Churches (SACC) and the South African Press Ombudsman. This report presents a summary of activities carried out in four thematic areas during the 2012 period and the achievements under each of these activities are highlighted.

The project's achievements since its inception in 2011were further consolidated in 2012. These are, the creation of a platform for participation, improved relationship between ZEC and stakeholders and increased opportunity for constructive dialogue among all electoral stakeholders. Specific achievements are discussed in the following sub-sections.


The opening of the office formed part of the broader EISA regional programme as well as having a specific focus on promoting democracy through supporting the referendum and electoral processes. EISA and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in September 2011 where, under this cooperation, EISA provides technical support to ZEC in a number of areas including electoral assistance, contributing to building stakeholders' trust and participating in the electoral process within an enabling electoral environment. The important aspect of this initiative is that it introduces a multi-stakeholder approach to the electoral process and, in this way, contributes to a credible and transparent electoral process. This is aimed at providing stability to the highly competitive and, at times, violent elections over the past decade.

During this review period, the support provided by EISA to ZEC has seen the relationship with electoral stakeholders, including the media, political parties and CSOs, strengthened and a recognition by stakeholders of ZEC's efforts to reach out to all stakeholders. EISA's regional project, Strengthening Electoral and Democratic Processes in the SADC region provided an opportunity for a two-person study tour to South Africa to observe the May 2011 South African local government elections.

The EISA/ZEC partnership was supported by the French Embassy, the Royal Norwegian Embassy and Sweden (through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) during 2011. EISA's regional programme was supported by the DANIDA, Sweden (through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and SDC.


The bulk of activities carried out under the project "Promoting Democracy in Zimbabwe through Supporting the Referendum and Electoral Processes" were geared towards ensuring ZEC's readiness in organising the two events. With the financial support from Sweden (through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)), the Royal Norwegian Embassy, the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the European Union (EU), ZEC's ability to effectively and efficiently manage electoral processes was improved as EISA provided numerous opportunities for ZEC personnel to gain new knowledge and skills that were relevant to the successful implementation of ZEC's mandate. In recognition of the successful partnership between the two institutions, ZEC and EISA renewed their Memorandum of Understanding in November 2013 for a further four years. The support provided to ZEC has contributed towards the following achievements during the period January to December 2013:

  • Enhanced capacity of ZEC personnel to manage electoral processes.
  • Increased awareness of the electoral process by voters.
  • Improved ability to manage conflicts by ZEC and other statutory institutions.
  • Increased stakeholder engagement by ZEC.

EISA's work took place in a challenging environment with the harmonised elections being called for 31 July 2013. The referendum took place in March 2013 with an overwhelming endorsement of the Constitution. EISA also engaged with electoral stakeholders such as political parties through EISA's regional and continental programmes such as the Strengthening Electoral and Democratic Processes (SEDP) in the SADC Region" and the Annual symposium - Understanding the Causes and Consequences of Political Party Alliances in Africa. As a result of these initiatives a substantial amount of work was done and significant achievements have been recorded from January to December 2013. There was a consolidation of the strategic partnerships between ZEC and key stakeholders, as well as the enhancement of the capacity of all role players in the electoral process. ZEC has become more accessible and more transparent in its business by way of increased interaction and collaboration with all electoral stakeholders.


EISA meeting with political party reps EISA continued to provide support to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and electoral stakeholders in 2014, focussing on 2013 post-election interventions, with additional support provided by the European Union (EU). EISA's support to the ZEC has contributed to creating a platform for participation by all stakeholders, and more specially by CSOs, the media and political parties, improving the relationship between the ZEC and national electoral stakeholders, increasing opportunities for constructive dialogue between all electoral stakeholders, and facilitating more inclusive and participative electoral processes.Acheivements included:

  • Supporting ZEC in convening a workshop from 2-8 March 2014 to take stock of the progress made in implementing its five-year strategic plan.
  • Seven members of ZEC undertook a study tour to observe the European Parliamentary elections.
  • ZEC convened a multi-stakeholder dialogue on voter registration, following an internal conference where ZEC considered different registration systems.


On 1 July 2016 EISA resumed its operations in Zimbabwe following a two year hiatus. The project aimed at supporting the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) in line with the MOU signed in late 2011. Zimbabwe was due to hold Harmonised Elections again in 2018. The support to ZEC was funded by the European Union (EU) for 30 months.

Zimbabwe faced multiple challenges of a continuing ailing economy, political polarisation, and demand for electoral reforms by varied electoral stakeholders and external interest groups, as well as unprecedented citizen unrest. Contestation for power became more robust especially following the split of the governing ZANU-PF party. Electoral stakeholders made more demands on ZEC to deliver on its constitutional mandate to administer elections, including registration of voters. The new constitution bestowed the registration of voters on ZEC - a function which used to be performed by the Office of the Registrar of Voters which is largely seen as not independent nor impartial.

The EISA support to ZEC entails the following activities:

  • Multi-stakeholder consultations on voter registration;
  • Continuous engagement with political parties on the electoral process;
  • Implementing strategies for continuous voter education;
  • Continuous engagement with the media; and
  • Conducting the 2018 post-election review.


Factionalism and power struggles in 2017 around presidential succession threatened to tear the ruling ZANU-PF party apart, while the economic situation continued to deteriorate. On 15 November 2017 the armed forces carried out "Operation Restore Legacy", which it claimed was intended to stabilise ZANU PF. The army coerced President Mugabe to resign on 21 November 2017 and Emmerson Mnangagwa, previously removed and expelled from the party, was sworn in as president with military support.

EISA EDR workshop 2017

During 2017 EISA supported:

  • Continuous engagement with electoral stakeholders including political parties, civil society organisations (CSOs), media and faith based organisations on the electoral process with the view of strengthening the relationship between the ZEC and electoral stakeholders; and
  • the development of a gender sensitive voter education strategy in consultation with all stakeholders.


Zimbabwe continued to face numerous challenges ahead of the 2018 Harmonised Elections, notably increased demand for electoral reform and controversy over a government decision to take over the procurement of Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) kits from the United Nations Development Programme at the eleventh hour. Stakeholder perceptions were that the Government and ZEC were not sufficiently transparent in procurement process and they were concerned about the limited time that remained for the conduct of a rigorous voter registration process.

Elections were set for 30 July 2018 and key election processes were completed by ZEC, including the finalisation of voter registration, the compilation of the provisional voters' roll and the public inspection of the same. Parliament also enacted the Electoral Amendment Bill 2018, which among other things, provided for the appointment of a senior special police liaison officers for each province to deal with election violence; enabled ZEC to set up multiparty liaison committees at all levels six months before dissolution of parliament and provided for enforcement of the stakeholder electoral Code of Conduct.

EISA supported ZEC with electoral stakeholders' consultations, including parties, media and CSOs (including faith based organisations. Through these engagements the ZEC provided updates to stakeholders on the electoral preparations and especially on the voter registration process.