Wednesday, October 16, 2013

(HERALD ZW) Massive AU nod for Zim poll system
September 21, 2013
Zvamaida Murwira and Zvifadzo Lubombo

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson Justice Rita Makarau who was head of the African Union election observer mission in Rwanda addresses the media in that country on Thursday

THE African Union has reaffirmed confidence in Zimbabwe’s election management by appointing Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson Justice Rita Makarau head of the African Union Observer Mission to the Rwandan general elections held early this week. The appointment flew in the face of claims by MDC-T and its Western handlers, the European Union and the United States, who sought to cast aspersions on the July 31 harmonised elections by claiming ZEC’s handling of the plebiscite, was shambolic.

While the AU, Sadc, Comesa, the African Caribbean and Pacific countries and the rest of the progressive world endorsed the harmonised elections in Zimbabwe as free, fair, peaceful and credible, the Anglo-Saxon alliance that conceived and sponsored the MDC-T has refused to endorse the elections in the wake of MDC-T’s crushing defeat.

Sadc went a step further by electing President Mugabe deputy chair and Summit Troika member, effectively moving Zimbabwe from an agenda item to the leadership of the bloc.

The AU Election Observer Mission to Rwanda comprised 30 experienced observers drawn from the Pan-African Parliament, African Ambassadors/Permanent Representatives to the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, African Election Management Bodies and Civil Society Organisations in Africa.

The observers arrived in Rwanda on September 9 and most of them were to remain until today. The mission was assisted by a group of experts from the AU Commission, the Pan-African Parliament and the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa.

In an interview soon after she touched down at Harare International Airport from Kigali yesterday, Justice Makarau said she was humbled by the confidence shown in her and ZEC by the AU.

“It is a proud moment for me and Zimbabwe to lead a team of observers from the African Union. I really feel quite honoured to represent my country.”

Justice Makarau said the new system learnt from Rwanda was the obligation imposed by the law on polling officers before an election.
“Polling officers take oaths of loyalty to the country before an election,” she said.

“They swear that they will treat every candidate equally. I thought it was a good practice.”

While in Rwanda, Justice Makarau addressed the media in Kigali emphasising the continental body’s desire to see the conduct of a free and fair election.

“We are here to make sure that the election is free and fair and we expect Rwandans to come out in big numbers and vote,” she was quoted by the media in Rwanda as saying during a Press conference.

As part of her activities, Justice Makarau interacted with relevant stakeholders in Rwanda, including government authorities, the Electoral Commission, political parties and civil society organisations.

She also led the AU mission in observing all stages of the electoral process, including campaigning, voting, counting and result tabulation.
Justice Makarau used her experience which saw Zimbabwe successfully holding the July 31 harmonised elections, which were certified as free, peaceful and credible by Sadc and the AU, among other progressive institutions.

A cross-section of Zimbabweans commended Justice Makarau’s appointment, saying it showed the AU’s confidence in Zimbabwe’s poll management system.

Midlands State University lecturer Dr Nhamo Mhiripiri said Justice Makarau was qualified to lead the AU mission.
“She has the qualities and she is a learned person as far as the elections are concerned. She successfully ran elections which made us to have the new Government, so her system works and other countries would want to tap from that.”

Veteran politician Mrs Margaret Dongo said Justice Makarau built a good record by handling the Zimbabwean election in accordance to the Constitution.

“It’s because of the 2013 election which have left a record not only in Africa, but internationally,” she said.
“This shows that Zimbabwe is capable of holding peaceful elections whose system is emulated by others.

“Rwanda recognised the important role by ZEC and the smooth running of the Zimbabwean election.”
The Rwandan poll gave women an overwhelming majority in Parliament, an unprecedented 64 percent representation in the Chamber of Deputies.
For instance, during the Rwanda Patriotic Front primaries at the grassroots, it was the party’s unwritten rule for the voters to pick both a man and a woman in keeping with the gender equality principle.

Subsequently, both sexes were practically allocated an equal number of seats on the party’s 80-member list of parliamentary candidates, which also included eight from its four coalition partners.

As a result, out of 41 seats that went to the RPF-led coalition during the universal suffrage for the 53 openly contested seats, 20 of them are occupied by women, representing 49 percent.

In the Social Democratic Party camp, four out of the seven candidates who made it to Parliament are women, while two out of the five seats won by the Liberal Party went to women.

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