January 26, 2023

Why the Communique of the residents associations is important?

Executive Director (CHRA) Loreen Mupasiri

Loreen Mupeseri is the Executive Director of Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA). Executive Editor Clive Makumbe spoke with the service delivery champion explaining the need to build citizen agency in terms of advocacy on electoral reforms as well as to mobilize and motivate citizens to vote.

CM: Can you explain, what a coalition of the residents’ associations’coalition is?

LM: The Residents Associations Coalition for Electoral Reform is a collective of 25 residents associations drawn from the different provinces of Zimbabwe, whose objective is to advocate for free and fair elections in Zimbabwe.CM: What inspired you to form a coalition of residents associations?

The Coalition was brought to life by the need to coordinate residents associations’ efforts in the advocacy for electoral reforms as well as to ensure that we build national consensus on the key electoral reform advocacy issues that we are pushing for. The other underlying factor is the need to build the individual and collective agency of residents associations in voter mobilization and advocacy for free and fair elections. We realized that if we work as a collective, we will be able to build and strengthen the capacity of other smaller and upcoming residents associations to effectively mobilize residents to participate in electoral processes within their own constituencies.

CM: Which electoral reforms do you think, need to be addressed before we go for the 2023 elections and why?

LM: Operationalization of section 129 of the Zimbabwean Constitution which provides for recall of elected officials. Residents’ position is that the Electoral Act should then provide for procedures and regulations where the recalls should be confirmed through a referendum where at least two thirds of registered voters within that particular ward/constituency can vote for or against the proposed recall. It is against the principles of administrative justice for recalls to be vested in the political part alone and not the electorate.

Women’s quota for Local Authorities- Residents feel that the women’s quota for local authorities should not be based on appointments but women should represent actual wards. This is the only way we will ensure gender responsive public service delivery in local authorities. Women are most affected by service delivery challenges e.g. water and they need representatives who have the power to make decisions regarding the social services that they need. In addition, appointment without representation in actual wards is not empowerment of women but tokenism. The women’s quota should not be regarded as a handout to women but as a deliberate step to reclaim the right of women to be part of the decision makers in local governance.

Delimitation- there is need for transparency and accountability in the delimitation process and it should also be inclusive so that citizens and CSO actors can add their voice. There have been cases where rural constituencies have unreasonably been added to urban ones towards elections and citizens perceive this as an attempt to distort the voting population.

CM: Though you have created a coalition of residents associations is it enough to push for electoral reforms change in Zimbabwe?

LM: We would not say it is enough because issues of policy advocacy require all sections of the society to come together and push for change. However, it is the right step in the right direction and we will be able to influence changes within our constituencies. Furthermore, being cognizant of the need for coordinated and unified advocacy, the Residents Associations Coalition also seeks to collaborate with other coalitions e.g. women’s rights sector, Youths, People with Disabilities etc.

CM: Can you shed more light on the diaspora vote and why it is critical in the upcoming 2023 elections?

LM: This a key electoral reform issue, which will ensure that every Zimbabwean gets the right to vote. Although section 67 of the constitution gives voting rights to every Zimbabwean, the Electoral Act of 2008 and the Electoral Regulations Act of 2005 restrict voting rights to Zimbabweans on official government assignments only. Any other Zimbabwean living abroad is required to physically present him- or herself at their registered polling station to cast their vote and this is discriminatory. There is a need to align the Electoral Act to the dictates of the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land. Providing for the diaspora vote will be a display of democratic advancement in Zimbabwe and it has the potential to address the political stalemate that has been obtaining in Zimbabwe since 2008.

CM: Though political institutions around the world remain male dominated. Is it even thinkable or achievable to realize 50-50 representation of women and men in Zimbabwe’s political spheres?

LM: It is achievable as long as there is political will. However, more interventions need to be done by both Government and CSOs in terms of creating a conducive environment for women’s participation in political institutions and this can be done through policy and institutional reforms.

CM: Since Zimbabwe is a youthful country with approximately 67.7% of its 13 million total population under the age of 35. What strategies have you in place to make them vote this upcoming 2023 elections?

LM: Women and youths are our target social groups in our voter mobilization and civic empowerment programme as residents associations. Our key strategies include use of communication and information dissemination platforms that appeal to youths (e.g. social media, radio), strategic collaborations with youth organizations, identifying key service delivery issues affecting women and youth and them developing messaging that connects such issues to the importance of voting; targeting youth and women influencers as message carriers as well as targeting first time voters with voter education.