A European Union team observing upcoming elections Zimbabwe on Saturday (19 August) denied a state-owned newspaper story alleging they were involved in a bribery scandal.
Voters in the southern African country dominated since independence in 1980 by the ruling ZANU-PF and burdened by a long history of tainted elections, cast ballots on 23 August to elect a president, lawmakers and local government councillors.
Citing unnamed sources, The Herald daily newspaper on Friday reported that an EU media team had met 18 journalists and handed out whiskey and grocery vouchers to “influence journalists to make outlandish claims that seek to sully the whole election process”.
The EU election observation mission (EOM) “is astounded by the defamatory and malicious accusations made in an article, published in local Zimbabwean media,” said head of the delegation Fabio Massimo Castaldo.
“These allegations are based on unsubstantiated rumours and entirely fabricated,” his statement said.
He described previous attempts to discredit his mission and concluded that such stories were “blatant disinformation of the Zimbabwean public”.
“They reflect a continued effort to undermine the EU EOM and credible election observation,” said Castaldo, adding his observers do not participate in “inappropriate activities”.
The EU is one of several foreign organisations invited to observe the tense polls.
Others monitoring the polls include the African Union, the Commonwealth and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Twelve candidates are running for the presidency, but the competition is essentially a race between President Emmerson Mnangagwa, 80, and Nelson Chamisa, 45, in a country beset by corruption, inflation, poverty and unemployment.