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More Groups Excluded From Observing Zimbabwe Elections

More organizations are joining the list of those not invited to observe the March 31 parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions is one of the latest cases of a group not getting an invitation to observe Zimabwe's elections. Announcing the invitation of 29 local organizations he described as non-partisan, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said the ZCTU which is the umbrella body of trade unions in Zimbabwe is, " too partisan and too active a player in Zimbabwean politics to be trusted to act as an observer."

Mr. Chinamasa, who was quoted in the state-controlled daily newspaper, The Herald, also accused the ZCTU of being too close to the Congress of South African Trade Unions, COSATU. Late last year a COSATU delegation on, what it called, a fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe was deported from the country less than 24 hours after its arrival. Another delegation was refused entry into Zimbabwe this year.

The labor body has expressed concern at the plight of Zimbabwean workers and the human rights situation in the country.

Also not invited is the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa. The organization has observed 20 electoral processes in the Southern African Development Community region during the past seven years.

In a statement from its South African base, the body said it had communicated its intention to observe the election to the Zimbabwe foreign ministry, but no reply has been forthcoming. It said even if an invitation was to come now, it would turn it down in the interest of professional and credible observation of elections.

Still waiting for a call from Harare is the South African Council of Churches, which says it has applied for accreditation. Its secretary-general, Molefe Tsele, told VOA that having civil society observers reassures voters about their safety and gives them confidence in the process. He described the absence of external observers as regrettable.

Meanwhile, the main opposition party, The Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, has said it will interact with the delegation of the African National Congress, South Africa's ruling party, but not with the South African government observer group.

The MDC had earlier said it would not deal with any of the South African observer missions after accusing the South African government of prejudging the election by saying it would be free and fair.

The MDC argues the election process in Zimbabwe is still heavily tilted in favor of the ruling Zanu-PF.