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SA consortium: Zim vote not free and fair

Staff Reporter

Based on the present evidence and analysis of the Southern African Development Community guidelines, Zimbabwe's elections cannot be pronounced free and fair without qualification, a South African observer consortium says. The consortium said it had requested, but was not afforded, observer status.

Based on the present evidence and analysis of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) guidelines, Zimbabwe’s March 31 elections cannot be pronounced free and fair without qualification, a South African observer consortium says.

The Zimbabwe Observer Consortium comprises the South African Council of Churches, the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference, the South African NGO Coalition, Institute for Democracy in SA, the Centre for Policy Studies, and the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation.

The consortium said in a statement on Thursday it had requested, but was not afforded, observer status.

However, members of the consortium did visit the country prior to and during the elections, consulting widely with NGO and political groupings in Zimbabwe, interviewing a cross-section of Zimbabweans, and following the election process both from within and outside of the country.

Zimbabwe had become an authoritarian state and the election was held within this context.

“A normal election remains difficult to contemplate without significant changes in the constitutional, legal, institutional and cultural environment,” the statement said.

Among other things, the governing Zanu-PF had at its disposal the resources and privileges of incumbency, which it employed to its own advantage.

Numerous donations to communities accompanied government ministers as they campaigned and were used as vote buying.

 

“We consider the politicisation of observation missions, in particular the preferential treatment of invited missions in accordance with their stated friendship to Zanu-PF to be regrettable.

“In particular, conclusions arrived at by the South African observer missions failed to address the critical issues affecting free and fair elections standards and have thus compromised their role as honest and non-partisan observers.”

The suspension of excessive violence and the opportunity to vote did not in themselves constitute a free and fair election as required by the SADC guidelines.

The election also fell short of stringent SADC standards and the African Union commitment to democracy.

“Based on the present evidence and analysis of the SADC guidelines, the coalition cannot pronounce the elections as being free and fair without qualification.

“We particularly regard as morally questionable the pronouncement by the South African Observer Mission that primarily due to the peaceful climate that prevailed during the elections; the elections are necessarily free and fair.

“As to the credibility and legitimacy of the outcomes, the coalition believes that this judgement must and will be made by the people of Zimbabwe, their courts and their political parties,” the statement said.—Sapa

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