DA: Postpone Zimbabwe elections

The South African government must insist on a postponement of next month’s parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe, and call for immediate negotiations between the ruling Zanu-PF and the opposition MDC, the Democratic Alliance said on Friday.

In his weekly newsletter on the party’s website, DA leader Tony Leon said this should be done with the aim of “restoring constitutional democracy in Zimbabwe, and holding new elections within a reasonable timeframe”.

Elections are set to be held in Zimbabwe on March 31. Leon’s call for government to intervene in Zimbabwe comes on the same day a DA delegation—comprising party chairperson Joe Seremane and Chief Whip Douglas Gibson—is set to enter that country on a “fact-finding mission”.

Leon said South Africa’s Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma seemed “determined to provide prefabricated approval for a Zimbabwean election”, but available facts showed the election was already fundamentally flawed.

“As time runs out before the poll date of March 31, the minister provides increasingly confident assertions that the Zimbabwean election will indeed be free and fair, rejecting any attempts to determine the facts on the ground, and ignoring all information that suggests otherwise.”

Referring to Seremane and Gibson’s departure for Zimbabwe, he said: “all democratically-minded South Africans should wish them well on their crucial visit this weekend”.

The pair are scheduled to arrive by air in the Zimbabwe capital, Harare shortly after noon on Friday.

Leon said it appeared the Zimbabwean government was in “fundamental breach of its commitments to South Africa, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the international community”.

“Last August, the leaders of the member nations of SADC, including South Africa and Zimbabwe, met in Mauritius and adopted the SADC Protocol on Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.

“The agreement was widely hailed, and Mauritian Prime Minister Paul Berenger used the occasion to predict that Zimbabwe’s parliamentary elections in 2005 would indeed be free and fair.

“The Mauritius Protocol requires that SADC members adhere to a set of principles in the conduct of democratic elections.

“These include… freedom of association; equal opportunity for all parties to access the state media; and independence of the judiciary and impartiality of the electoral institutions.”

However, it now seemed clear the Zimbabwean government had already violated most of these principles.

“Zanu-PF youth activists have forced people to leave their homes and attend ruling party gatherings. The Zimbabwean state media have refused to run advertisements from the Movement for Democratic Change.

“And just this week, Zimbabwean police raided the Sheraton Hotel in Harare to disrupt a candidate training session held by the Movement for Democratic Change, and to arrest MDC director of elections Ian Makone.”

Leon said this was a clear violation of the Mauritius Protocol.

“We face the grim prospect of a repeat of the Zimbabwean presidential election of 2002, when the South Africa observer mission infamously declared that the result was ‘legitimate’, and the ANC sent its ‘warm congratulations’ to Robert Mugabe.”

Leon said it was too late for the Zimbabwean government to redeem its commitments; its violations of the Mauritius Protocol were “simply too numerous and too grave”.

“But it is not too late to rescue the situation from even further deterioration.

“The South African government should insist on a postponement of the parliamentary elections, and an immediate start to public negotiations between the Zanu-PF government and the opposition MDC,” he said.
- Sapa

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