An official of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) says the regional bloc is working with leaders in Zimbabwe and other groups to ensure a peaceful general election.
“SADC is ensuring that as we go toward elections, Zimbabweans will be assisted, whichever way possible, to ensure that all parties agree and come together to a common ground to ensure that Zimbabwe holds a credible, free and fair election, at a time and date that would be publicly announced by the president [Robert Mugabe],” said Tanki Mothae, SADC’s director of Politics, Defense and Security Cooperation.
Mothae says his group is encouraged that political parties in Zimbabwe have agreed to take part in the July 31 election, despite their initial request for a delay of the balloting.
At a recent summit in the Mozambican capital, Maputo, regional leaders requested an election delay to allow adequate preparation time to ensure the vote is free and fair.
Mothae says a team of the SADC long-term poll observer mission has been in Zimbabwe since before the recent referendum, which led to the adoption of the constitution. He also says the observers are working with various groups and institutions in the run up to the vote.
“They have been very much engaged in Zimbabwe, interacting with different political parties, even before the referendum,” said Mothae. “The bulk of other observers will be in Zimbabwe, as soon as member states are ready, which is what we are waiting on now. The SADC Secretariat is busy trying to put up together a team that will go to Zimbabwe as the SADC poll observer mission.”
Mothae said he was hopeful that Zimbabwe’s electoral body will be ready to carry out a credible election despite the logistical difficulties.
“We are convinced that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is ready. The referendum was a test case, which they managed very well, and I think everybody was happy to see that under these illegal sanctions that Zimbabwe has been put under, they managed to pull through and the referendum was very well managed process,” said Mothae.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party has often accused President Robert Mugabe’s rival ZANU-PF party supporters of using violence tactics as part of a strategy to intimidate and harass opponents in the run up to elections -- an accusation ZANU-PF has denied.
Mothae says the citizens also have a responsibility to ensure the election is peaceful.
“SADC is assisting and facilitating the electoral process in Zimbabwe, but everything is in the hands of Zimbabweans,” he said. “Zimbabweans are responsible people and they must take this responsibility to ensure that their electoral process goes on freely, without intimidation.”
The regional bloc appointed South Africa President Jacob Zuma as mediator to help resolve the challenges in the neighboring country.
The SADC and the African Union have been guarantors of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) signed by President Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and rival Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s MDC that led to the formation of the unity government in 2008.
The GPA effectively ended the election dispute between the two main party rivals in Zimbabwe.