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Namibian Human Rights Group Assails Zimbabwean Election Observer


A Southern African human rights group is criticizing the presence of a particular observer to this week’s elections in Namibia. Namibia’s National Society for Human Rights says one of Zimbabwe’s three election observers is the former director of Zimbabwe’s secret police, the Central Intelligence Organization. The group says Shadreck Tongesai Chipanga has been accused of widespread human rights abuses in his country – including violent electoral intimidation in his own constituency of Makoni East. Mr. Chipanga is heading an observer team for the parliamentary forum of SADC – the Southern African Development Community – which has 40 observers in Namibia. Mr. Chipanga is in the Oshana Region – about 700 kilometers northwest of the capital, Windhoek.

Phil ya Nangoloh is the executive director of the National Society for Human Rights. He says the presidents of Namibia and Zimbabwe are close, and he believes that Mr. Chipanga may have been sent to Namibia to interfere with the polls. Mr. Ya Nangoloh says one of the preconditions for free and fair elections is election integrity. He says SADC has failed to ensure integrity by allowing Mr. Chipanga to monitor the elections.

In response, the The Secretary General of the SADC Parliamentary Forum, Dr. Kasuka Mutukwa, says his group will reconsider its rules for accepting elections monitors. Dr. Matukwa says the only SADC criteria now on the books is that a given member country of the Southern Africa Development Community, or SADC, send as election monitors members of their own parliament. That team must include members of the ruling party and an opposition party with prior experience monitoring elections. Women must also be members of a country’s monitoring team.

Dr. Mutukwa says this is the first time that an observer’s history has caused controversy; as a result, he says the SADC Parliamentary Forum will likely consider whether its requirements should be amended for accepting regional observers for election monitoring.