Friday, September 27, 2013

(NEWZIMBABWE) Zimbabwe election: SADC observer mission's summary statement
02/09/2013 00:00:00
by Staff Reporter

Summary statement of the SADC election observation mission to the July 31 harmonised elections in the Republic of Zimbabwe. Presented by Bernard Membe, head of the mission, in Harare on September 2, 2013:

Close to 600 observers from SADC member countries monitored the harmonised elections that took place on July 31, 2013. The SADC election-monitoring contingent had a huge network that managed to cover all 210 constituencies from July 15 to the Election Day.

I delivered the preliminary report to the government and people of Zimbabwe on August 2, 2013, and to the SADC Troika and SADC Summit in Lilongwe on August 17 and 18 respectively.

As you may recall, the main message in the preliminary report was that the elections in Zimbabwe were free and peaceful. However, we had reserved the two issues of “fairness and credibility” deliberately waiting for the compilation of the reports from our observers in the covered constituencies.

Therefore, that is what I am going to do today. Despite the shortcomings that have been annotated in the grand report, we said and we want to reiterate that the elections that took place on July 31, 2013, were free.

Free in the sense that our observers noted that the candidates were free to campaign, free to associate free to express their views and the voters were free to cast their votes. Because of that, we therefore concluded without hesitation that the harmonised elections were free and expressed the will of the people.

The SEOM also in the preliminary report observed that the elections were peaceful. It was so said because the electoral process in the majority of polling stations and constituencies were characterised by an atmosphere of peace and political tolerance. When compared to 2008 electoral process, this year’s election has neither bloodshed nor massive arrests. Political parties and candidates were able to freely undertake their political activities unhindered and without noticeable intimidation. That is why we were quick to say it was peaceful.

In trying to gauge fairness of this election, SEOM focused its attention among others on state media, pirate radio stations and voters roll. SEOM noted that media (state and pirate) were highly polarised and for the most part biased along the political party lines. In this regard, SEOM received accusations and counter accusations from the contesting parties and saw merit on them.

To that end, SEOM recommends that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission implements the letter and spirit of Chapter 12 part 5, section 248 of the Constitution on media reform to be read together with the Electoral Act section 160(E) to 160(H) which states inter alia that “ . . . public broadcasters shall afford all political parties and independent candidates contesting an election such free access to their broadcasting service as may be prescribed . . . ” either, SEOM recommends that pirate media should end their operation forthwith.

The provision of voters’ roll in time goes to the very heart of fairness in the election process. If the voters’ roll is not made available on time, the fairness of the election is brought into question. This is because voters’ rolls are public documents and it is the duty of Electoral Commission to abide by Section 21, Sub-Section 1 of 6 of the Electoral Act.

We are saying so because, our observers on the ground reported complaints related to the delay in issuing the voters’ roll on time. And even in those areas where the voters’ roll was issued a few days before, people had no access to it until the day of voting.

SEOM urges the government to make funds available so that the printing of the voters’ roll is done on time and made available in a timely manner for people to inspect it in making the elections fair.

On credibility of the election process, a lot has been said to the negative. SEOM, however, while agreeing that there were issues such as the delay of voters’ roll and media polarisation, there were so many other elements that when put together elevated the election to a credible status: the free election environment, the peaceful environment in which the election took place, unhindered and non-intimidation to candidates and voters, free expression and campaigns, transparency and free voting constitutes the credibility under the prevailing circumstances, particularly when compared to 2008 elections.

Therefore, this election was generally credible. On behalf of the outgoing Chairperson of the Organ of Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation, His Excellency Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, and on behalf of the entire SADC family, SEOM congratulates ZEC and the people of Zimbabwe for holding a free, peaceful and generally credible harmonised elections of July 31, 2013, in which the will of the people was expressed.

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