UN says Zimbabwe polls preparations on course

Mr Achim Steiner

THE United Nations says it is impressed by preparations for harmonised elections to be held by August 31 and pledged to support Government’s commitment to hold free, fair and credible elections, including current efforts at economic revival.

United Nations Development Programme Administrator and UN Development Group vice chairman, Mr Achim Steiner, said this yesterday after his meetings with Vice President General Constantino Chiwenga (Retired) and Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Lieutenant-General Sibusiso Moyo (Retired).

Mr Steiner said he was impressed by the BVR process and the ground covered so far towards achieving a free, fair and credible election.

He was accompanied by United Nations resident coordinator in Zimbabwe Mr Bishow Parajuli.

Mr Steiner, who is on a three-day visit, is expected to meet representatives from Government, the private sector and civil society.

He first met Minister Moyo and expressed the world body’s willingness to support the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), not only through providing technical support, but on public outreach and voter education exercises.

“We are very much committed to the success of this election as we are to the economic recovery of Zimbabwe as a nation in terms of its macro-economic indicators, but also in the context of sustainable development, of inclusiveness, remembering that the majority of Zimbabweans live in the rural areas, and not in the cities, and finding ways we can leverage both domestic and international financing, public and private, to invest to the benefit of the majority of Zimbabwe’s citizens,” he said.

“It is something that we in the UN are deeply committed to working with Zimbabwe.”

The UNDP was instrumental in the biometric voter registration (BVR) process by mobilising resources for the purchase of the kits.

Minister Moyo said they would exchange information in various areas during Mr Steiner’s visit.

“We are going to be exchanging a lot of strategic matters, discussions, as you aware the UNDP offers great support to a lot of programmes in this country and a lot of development programmes, not only for the economic development, but the social sectors such as health and support of the independent Zec so that it is able to deliver what His Excellency has promised: a credible election,” Minister Moyo said.

He reiterated Government’s commitment to conducting credible elections as pronounced by President Mnangagwa.

“As you are aware, right from the top, the President has committed to deliver a credible, free, fair and violent-free election and this is within the context that he is going to dialogue with all the contesting parties so that there can be a discussion of real ethics of modern politics,” said Minister Moyo.

“So, we as the Government of Zimbabwe, and supported by the UNDP, are very determined to deliver a free and credible election, which should give a clear position to the rest of the world that we must live as a member of the family of nations and that we are able to develop economically.”

Mr Steiner later paid a courtesy call on VP Chiwenga at his Munhumutapa offices, where they further discussed about the importance of holding peaceful elections and the urgency of economic development in the country.

Mr Steiner described the meeting as constructive and productive.

“The meeting touched on issues of hope and expectations,” he said. “The elections plan for this year is good news for Zimbabwe, good news for Zimbabweans and good news for the Zimbabwean economy.

“We discussed UNDP’s and UN family support to the electoral process, Zec, including to the voters, our role in helping to prepare for this free and fair elections announced by the President.”

The two parties also discussed the urgency of economic development and progress in the country.

“I emphasised that the particular role that the UN can play in thinking ahead and planning ahead is to ensure that development is inclusive; that it is sustainable development for Zimbabwe and focuses on the rural areas as much as urban areas,” said Mr Steiner.

“We looked at ways that we can strengthen the welfare and social security systems that in the long run we will ensure that people will not fall back into poverty.”

The UN team later went to witness the BVR exercise at Remembrance District Offices in Mbare, Harare, where they witnessed a 19-year-old man, who is expected to vote for the first time this year, registering to vote.

Zec chairperson, Justice Priscilla Chigumba, briefed the team on the BVR process. He urged authorities to continue working hard to ensure the process remained credible and also to maintain the people’s trust.

Mr Steiner emphasised the need for the electorate to have trust and confidence in the electoral system.