Campaign for Electoral Integrity

Campaign Focal PointSarah Tobhi Motha
Telephone contact+27 79 766 5803
WhatsApp+27 79 766 5803
Description of the Issue
Electoral corruption is among leading factors contributing to contested and  controversial electoral outcomes. Allegations of vote buying, rigging, gerrymandering, vote-buying and fraud xx feature in most elections in Africa and beyond. In many cases, this leads to serious conflicts and sometimes into full blown wars leading to loss of human lives, displacements and serious human rights violations. Regardless of the deleterious effects of electoral corruption on democracy and enjoyment of human rights, there is little attention given to it.
What is the proposed solution?

In a study on Zimbabwean elections, ACT-SA noted that laws that punish electoral corruption exist but they remain as paper tigers because of lack of enforcement. To this end, ACT-SA tracks cases of electoral corruption targeting countries that have elections in Southern Africa. This is done through an Electoral Corruption Tracker. In addition, it carries out research and uses the research findings to inform its evidence-based advocacy activities.

What has ACT-SA Done?

Defining Electoral Corruption

ACT-SA started by first defining what electoral Corruption is. The working definition used by ACT-SA is as follows:

Electoral is the manipulation, abuse or interference with electoral management processes, legal and policy frameworks, voters and their voting rights, electoral outcomes and other related activities before, during and after the elections by state and non-state actors to give advantages to one political player over others.

The definition is significant because of the following characteristics: 

  • It separates the definition of electoral corruption from its common forms or its manifestations as given by other authorities such as ; 
  • It recognises the fact that electoral corruption is perpetrated by both state and non-state actors; 
  • It is not confined only to activities around the electoral cycle but encompasses other activities outside it that affects the electoral outcomes; 
  • It notes that there are some activities that are legal such as boundary delimitation exercises yet they can be abused to favour one political player over others;

Tracking Electoral Corruption

Informed by the above definition of electoral corruption, ACT-SA tracks the following:

a)   manipulation of Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs) and other state institutions;

b)   abuse of state resources to further the interests of a political party;

c)   manipulation of electoral laws and policies;

d)   manipulation of electoral rules;

e)   manipulation of voters;

f)           manipulation of the voting process

g)   manipulation of government programmes to appear as if they belong to a political party;

h)   manipulation of electoral outcomes;

The manipulation of the rules involves the development of electoral laws and policies that create an uneven playing field to benefit one party at the expense of other contestants. On the other hand, the manipulation of voters entails preference-formation and expression in which the voters are manipulated to favour a certain political party.  And, the manipulation of the voting process is normally perpetrated by electoral management bodies that are biased towards certain political parties in the electoral race. This happens when, for instance, staff or board members of an electoral management body are made up of individuals believed to be loyal to the appointing authorities, constituted by the ruling party.

Forms of electoral fraud, sometimes referred to as election manipulation, voter fraud or vote rigging, involves illegal interference with the process of an election, either by increasing the vote share of a favored candidate, depressing the vote share of rival candidates, or both. These are intentional, illegal actions aimed at changing or influencing or forcing the results of an election.

In Zimbabwe voters have consistently been manipulated and deceived by politicians in many ways that include:

  •  Politicians make false or empty promises, which will never be fulfilled.
  • These politicians only resurface during election campaigns and immediately disappear after being elected;
  • After being elected, they become unapproachable and meeting them becomes very difficult;
  • At times they even change their residential areas, drinking places and telephone contacts.

Politicians and other stakeholders use several strategies to deceive the electorate, such as media bias, deceptive political communication, provision of particularistic incentives mainly vote buying or sanctions, intimidation, coercion and various forms of undue influence. The following have been used by Zimbabwean politicians:

a)   Recording Serial Numbers of voter registration Certificates: In the run-up to the 2018 general elections in Zimbabwe, there were several reports of political party actors recording serial numbers of voter registration certificates under the pretext that they will be able to determine how a voter would have cast his or her vote. Post the 2023 general elections, the leading political party in Zimbabwe set up booths at each polling station requesting voter details as its post elections review exercise under its flagship arm called FAZ. This was an attempt to intimidate voters before the election.  This is false, they will not know whom a voter would  have voted for. This is an attempt to deceive voters.

b)  Property Invasions: Towards elections, some illegal activities are allowed. Early March 2018 Gaika Mine situated in Kwekwe was grabbed and handed over to the youth, under the guise of its youth empowerment programme. After elections, they were removed. The intention of politicians was to deceive the electorate.  

c)   Giving  land to the Youth: The youths constitute more than 60% of the voting population, and as such politicians have always tried to make sure that the youth vote for them through giving them plots of land. Below are some of the reported cases.

·        In Manicaland and in 2017, 4000 youth were allocated stand numbers in some parts of the Province.

·        In 2017, and the former Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere pledged to dole out 1,500 hectares of land for various youth programmes throughout the country, in a move perceived as a vote-buying gimmick ahead of the 2018 elections.

During the run up to the 2023 elections, the government launched the Presidential Title Deed program in Epworth which was a plot to woo urban voters. This program was in direct conflict with established property rights enshrined in the Constitution as no due process was followed in the allocation of land and subsequent issuance of the Deeds,

d)       Distribution of Free Food and Other Commodities: Politicians have the habit of dishing out free food and other goodies ahead of elections. Some politicians are defending themselves under the pretext that they love the electorate. But the question is the timing of the distribution, which is only done during election campaigns. There have been cases of the electorate getting free medical care, boreholes being drilled for them, rentals being paid for, given free groceries and getting free money for projects. This is vote buying not love regardless of any justification.

e)       Abuse of Traditional Leaders: In Zimbabwe traditional leaders have been consistently abused by politicians for political gain, which is unlawful and unconstitutional. On 28 October 2017 at the official opening of the 2017 National Conference of Chiefs in Bulawayo, Chief Fortune Charumbira, who is the President of the Chief’s Council, made unfortunate remarks when he called upon chiefs to campaign for President Robert Mugabe in the 2018 national elections.  The utterances besides being unconstitutional, demonstrates the fact that traditional leaders have been captured for political gain. The remarks by Chief Charumbira have received condemnation and litigation in a case filed by the Election Resource Centre -Vs- Chief Fortune Charumbira and National Council of Chiefs and Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Case HH 270-18 / HC 1718/18 which was not opposed. It is also not proper for politicians to offer gifts to chiefs and traditional leaders to procure their support in the elections.

f)        Abuse of state resources in elections: There are an increasing number of cases of the abuse of state resources, including human resources, for political campaign activities. Political activities must not be funded through tax payers’. The abuse of civil servants to organise party campaigns at their official working hours and using government resources such as vehicles, and stationery among others is not proper. Some of the key resources that featured during election campaigns included access to land as witnessed in the 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2018 elections. Other shining examples include access to food in 2002 and 2018 elections, to jobs and livelihood opportunities in the 2008 election, to business opportunities and informal economy as well as credit lines and housing stands in the 2013 election. During the 2008 election campaign farm implements were distributed two weeks before the election.  

3.       Improper Political Contributions: It should be noted that not all donations to political parties are clean since some of them are made in anticipation for future personal gain.  Thus donations made with the intention or an expectation that the party will, once in office favour the interests of the donor over the interests of the public amounts to corruption. Private companies like Varun Investments which manufactures Pepsi Products, National Foods which manufactures grain products have routinely made contributions to the 1st Lady’s initiatives which smacks of corruption through buying favours.

Important reports produced by ACT-SA as part of its advocacy efforts

What is Electoral CorruptionDownload
Nature, Prevalence and Impact of Electoral Corruption in Zimbabwe Download
UMPIRES AND GOAL-KEEPERS? Unpacking the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s Neutrality at the 2023 Elections in ZimbabweDownload
Rewarding the losers – A case study of the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) Download

Responses in support and against the campaign

Nature, Prevalence and Impact of Electoral Corruption in ZimbabweLetter of Complaint from ACT-SA to ZECZEC Response to ACT-SA
9 December 20225 September 20192 October 2019
The  Zimbabwe Civil Society Anti-Corruption Coalition (ZCSACC) commissioned a study seeking to understand the nature, prevalence, extent and impact of electoral corruption in Zimbabwe. Learning from the deleterious and bad effects of electoral corruption witnessed in other countries such as Kenya, Gambia, Gabon, DRC and São Tomé and Príncipe, the study was commissioned to inform recommendations seeking to improve the integrity of Zimbabwean elections. Obliterating cases of electoral corruption is part of strategies to prevent disputed electoral outcomes that often leads to protracted litigation and heightened tension among political opponents and the resultant tension erupting into violence leading to unnecessary deaths, and gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The ZCSACC notes that electoral fraud is strongly emerging as one of the leading triggers of electoral skirmishes that leads to wars in the world. This study has shown that acts of electoral corruption are widespread throughout Zimbabwe and they continue with impunity. Institutions mandated to fight corruption often give a blind eye. For instance, the Zimbabwe Republic Police responded to one of the members of the Coalition that they did not see any problem with the District Development Fund (DDF) teaming up with a ZANU PF candidate to drill 15 boreholes in Glen View South ahead of a by-election scheduled to be held on 7 September 2019 in the Constituency. More worrying is the observation that some of the acts of electoral corruption are publicly covered by the media appearing as if they are normal. Against this background, the law enforcement agents and policy-makers give a blind eye. Download a copy of the ReportIn a letter to ZEC, the ACT-SA Chairperson, Mr. David Jamali raised  concerns  of electoral corruption,in  the run-up to the Glen View South by-election penciled for the 7th of September 2019. Through this letter, ACT-SA asked ZEC  to carry out investigations and take appropriate action, to prevent a repeat of the same considering the epidemic nature of electoral corruption in the country. 
A ZANU PF candidate had drilled 15 boreholes with the assistance of  the District Development Fund (DDF) in Glen View South ahead of the 7th of September 2019 election. The drilling of the boreholes was perceived as vote buying for and on behalf of the candidate representing the ruling ZANU PF party.
 The official opening of some of the boreholes by ZANU-PF during campaigns in the Constituency, speaks volumes on the intention to buy votes. DDF trucks carrying borehole rigs were spotted moving in convoys with vehicles carrying ZANU-PF supporters clad in their full party regalia. This has largely been viewed as a form of vote buying or attempts to influence voting preferences, which amounts to electoral corruption. In keeping thereof, ACT-SA is gravely concerned with the timing of the drilling of the 15 boreholes thereof. The behavior raises suspicion considering that there are so many other areas in and out of Harare facing a water crisis, yet these areas have been ignored. That said, we hereby ask the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to investigate this matter to its logical conclusion and take appropriate action against politicians buying votes to win elections as well as all those in charge of the said DDF who have agreed to use state resources to advance political interests. We have attached hereto, one of the Statements issued by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) on the same matter. Yours sincerely; 
In a letter to ACT-SA, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) said that it does not have the legal standing to investigate cases of electoral corruption. Instead, ZEC referred the case to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) and the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP)