Political parties aggrieved by the electoral process should use legal means to seek redress in order to avoid conflict, head of the Sadc Election Observer Mission (SEOM) Tete Antonio has counselled.
Speaking at the launch of the observer mission in Harare yesterday, Mr Antonio called for dialogue between the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and all stakeholders around areas where there are disagreements in order to have a free, far and credible election.
He said the demands by opposition parties around the need for transparency on storage and distribution of election material need to be balanced with provisions of the country’s laws.
“At this initial stage of the mission’s observation process, we also take note of some of the concerns raised by stakeholders regarding the following issues:
- The need for greater transparency regarding the storage and distribution of electoral materials;
- The need for continuous consultations between ZEC and stakeholders on the measures for securing printed ballot materials and other related electoral inputs;
- The need for continuous dialogue on the issue of the design, inspection of printed ballots;
- The need for the timeous provision of the BVR voters roll in a format that conforms with the Constitution and the law.
“While the mission will continue to engage the ZEC to seek clarity on these and other related matters, we also urge the aggrieved parties to follow the law in seeking redress.
“We appreciate that the process of legal and constitutional reform can be delicate and will often require wide consultation and may not always be to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.
“As such, it is critical that all differences are settled amicably and within the confines of national law.”
The Sadc mission, he said, is observing the elections based on the revised Sadc Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections of 2015.
This approach entails deploying the Sadc Electoral Advisory Council (SEAC) goodwill and pre-election mission, followed by the long-term observers (LTOs) and short-term observers (STOs).
The SEAC mission was deployed on a four-day tour of duty in March, followed by the LTO mission, which began work on July 7, and the STO, which hit the ground on July 18.
He said: “These various structures, together, constitute the SADC Electoral Observation Mission.
“The SEOM consists, in total, of 63 observers from members states, namely: Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Namibia, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia. The mission is supported by 16 experts and administrative staff from the SADC secretariat.”
He praised President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s for opening up political space in the country and ensuring a peaceful pre-election environment.
“As we reflect upon these historical imperatives, we must also acknowledge that Zimbabwe went through another transition on 14 November 2017.
“This process appears to have stimulated greater respect for political and civic freedoms in the country and may serve as a positive influence on the conduct of peaceful elections in the country.
“Furthermore, it is notable that the political environment following this transition remained calm; and that election campaigning proceeded peacefully.
“However, this tranquillity was disturbed by an attempt on the life of His Excellency President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa in June, 2018 at a political rally, held at White City Stadium in Bulawayo.
“The bomb blast, we understand, injured the Vice President H.E. Kembo Mohadi and several senior aides.
“Sadc has strongly condemned this dastardly act with the contempt it deserves, and hopes the perpetrators will face the consequences of the law.”
He added: “After more than a decade of estrangement from the international community, we cannot overemphasise the critical importance of Zimbabwe securing the confidence of its international partners to enable the revival of the economy and the consolidation of its democratic gains.
“Peace and stability, hence, remain key to ensuring that this goal is realised.
“Democratic elections, if properly managed and when anchored upon consensus-based rules and international human rights principles, can contribute significantly to peace and stability.
“Conversely, poorly managed electoral processes can serve as triggers of conflict.”