Invitation to poll observers applauded

HARARE - Pronouncement by President Emmerson Mnangagwa that international observers are free to observe this year’s harmonised elections have been applauded by election and human rights watchdogs.

Election Resource Centre director Tawanda Chimhini said while the willingness by Mnangagwa to allow observers to watch the 2018 elections was welcome, such an invitation should be accompanied by deliberate efforts to strengthen legal provisions for their invitation and accreditation.

“This must include, without being limited to, removing Executive influence in the accreditation committee, which currently compromises the independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) and legally providing for accredited long-term election observation which currently is not provided for,” said Chimhini.

He said strengthening legal provisions for the observation will be a clear indication of the new administration’s sincerity in ensuring free, fair and credible polls.

Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network director Rindai Chipfunde-Vava said Mnangagwa’s pronouncements speak to one of the five key points developed to ensure credible elections in Zimbabwe.

“Observation of electoral processes promotes transparency, accountability and strengthens democracy and as such mechanisms must be put in place to ensure that there is long-term presence of the observers to cover other critical aspects of the electoral cycle such as primary elections, campaigns and the post-election period,” said Chipfunde-Vava.

Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) director Okay Machisa said the most important thing is that the head of State has declared and put a commitment that international observers who in the past were barred from taking part in our elections were welcome this time around.

“We want to applaud Mnangagwa for extending the hand to international observers and I am sure apart from the European Union and (the) United Nations there are others that have interest in investing in the country that might also be interested to observe the elections.

“It is important to note that observation of election is not only done on the voting day but that there is the pre and post-election periods that need to be observed. In my view international observers should by now be in the country because the elections are there in five months or so,” said Machisa.

He said observers are just there to observe what is unfolding on the ground and they can produce reports which are helpful in determining the freeness of the polls.

“They have to be on the ground before the elections so that they observe if there are no violations in terms of human rights liberties and whether the elections are confirming to international standards,” he said.

Machisa called on Mnangagwa to pronounce a clear roadmap on the elections by issuing the actual dates of the polls, when there would be inspection of the voters’ roll because observers, political parties and civil society would want to plan.

“We want to know when the nomination courts will sit, all this needs planning but without clear cut dates participants would work in the dark. There is no need to still keep these dates speculative,” he said.

More importantly, said Machisa, was the pronouncements of when electoral reforms will be implemented.

“As always we have demanded for laws that speak to the Constitution and because of such we are having the Diaspora vote case in the Constitutional Court next month.

“But these are reforms we just have to be given and we cannot be seen going to demand them from the courts — the new government should just give us these reforms without resorting to the courts.

“We want electoral reforms that give contesting political parties, the government, the Zec, observers and monitors parameters to say this you can do and that you can’t,” said Machisa.

He added that soon they will engage with Mnangagwa as civil society so that they table some of these issues.

“Our umbrella bodies are making effort to arrange a meeting with the President and I am sure he will be willing to meet us — he has been engaging with almost everyone and I am sure soon we will meet him.”

He urged politicians to desist from hate language as we approach the elections.

“We urge political parties’ commissars to desist from using hate language and the president has said it over and over again. There is no need to remind each other of the violence and horrors of past elections, we are in a new dispensation and we need to observe our peace.”

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