His Excellency Mr Laurent Contini Ambassador of France to Zimbabwe presented the award to ZESN. Mr Contini commended and gave special remarks to the work that ZESN accomplished in 2008. “……this is the achievement of the civil society in Zimbabwe which must be saluted as a whole in promoting the defense of basic freedoms, freedom of association, freedom of expression, freedom of press….”, said Mr Contini. He also informed the gathering that in 2008, the five main awards have been attributed to NGOs from Liban, Maroc, Ouzbekista, Somalia and Tunisia. ZESN was among the “special distinctions” rewards which also went to other NGOs from Mexico, Peru and Togo.
Mr Contini also paid particular tribute to the Director of ZESN, Mrs Rindai Chifunde- Vava for the sterling work done in 2008.
In her acceptance speech, Mrs Vava, thanked the French Embassy for the recognition. She reminded colleagues from CSOs that were present as well as members of the Diplomatic Corps that the award was for the brave ZESN members and observers. She also gave particular accolade to all ZESN observers who were harassed, tortured, assaulted and the ZESN long time serving observer Elliot Machipisa who was brutally murdered just before the run-off for observing the 29 March harmonized elections.
She also alluded to the political situation currently distressing the country emphasizing on the urgent need for a solution on the political impasse. “ZESN believes in democratically elected leaders, but the current political environment is not conducive for the holding of free and fair elections”, she reiterated. She added that ZESN currently is in the process of advocating for electoral reforms before any election takes place in Zimbabwe. “Zimbabwe needs an independent electoral management body, a level electoral playing field, freedoms of association, expression and movement to be recognized and enjoyed by all citizens”, said Mrs Vava.
In her concluding remarks, she said, the award was going to give ZESN more strength and encouragement to endeavor in promoting a Zimbabwe where democratic rights and fundamental freedoms are upheld and enjoyed.