A South African election observer belonging to the opposition Democratic Alliance party could be expelled from Pretoria’s mission to Zimbabwe after issuing a report saying Saturday’s elections there are unlikely to be free and fair.
Mission head Kingsley Mamabolo has accused lawmaker Dianne Kohler Barnard of breaching the protocol of the mission working under the auspices of the Southern African Development Community by issuing an independent statement.
Former DA leader Tony Leon, now its foreign affairs spokesman, issued a statement saying that Kohler-Barnard and another DA observer "have pointed to the fact that the odds are heavily stacked against (the election) being genuinely democratic."
The statement cited gerrymandering of constituencies by Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party, insufficient allocation of polling stations to urban areas, biased treatment of the opposition by state-controlled media, and political use of food, among other issues.
A statement on the DA Web site said Kohler Barnard "did not violate any of the provisions" of SADC's guidelines on elections. "The DA has from the outset stated that our delegates will reserve the right to interact freely with all relevant and interested parties and will also exercise our right to provide considered and timely reports on observed events to such parties, including the media."
The party said its delegates to the Zimbabwe elections mission have been criticized by delegates of the ruling African National Congress for what ANC delegates have considered to be unduly harsh questioning of Harare officials.
DA spokesman Frits de Klerk told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that if Kohler Barnard is removed the party might pull its other delegates.
An aide to Mamabolo said he would only be available to comment on Friday.
More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...