On 23 August 2023, Zimbabweans will vote to elect councillors, members of parliament, and a president. Ambassador Amina Chawahir Mohamed, former Cabinet Secretary for Education and Foreign Affairs of Kenya, will lead a team of Commonwealth election observers to Zimbabwe for the upcoming election.
The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, constituted a Commonwealth Observer Group (COG) at the invitation of Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
Zimbabwe is currently undergoing a membership assessment process to rejoin the Commonwealth and this election marks a significant step in Zimbabwe’s democratic governance. This will be the second successive COG to observe the country’s harmonised elections since Zimbabwe left the Commonwealth in December 2003.
Approximately 6.6 million people are registered to vote in this year’s election and will have the right to cast their ballot for the presidential candidate and candidates for both houses of the national assembly, and local councillors.
Enduring support for democratic governance
Commenting on the COG’s establishment, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC said:
“The Commonwealth’s commitment to fostering peaceful democratic governance is unwavering. Our engagement in Zimbabwe’s electoral process signifies our dedication to transparent, inclusive, and credible elections. By adhering to the principles of the Commonwealth Charter, we aim to promote transparency, reinforce democracy and the rule of law, and safeguard the right of the Zimbabwean people to participate in their nation’s democratic journey.”
Secretary-General Scotland acknowledged the commitment of the COG members to this important mission and extended gratitude to each observer for their willingness to serve the Commonwealth in this capacity.
Commonwealth Observer Group
Reflecting the diverse expertise and experience of Commonwealth member countries, the COG consists of 15 eminent individuals from various backgrounds, including politicians, diplomats and experts in law, human rights, gender equality and election administration.
The observers will be in Zimbabwe from 16th – 29th August 2023 and will be supported by a staff team from the Commonwealth Secretariat led by Joshua Setipa, Senior Director of the Strategy, Portfolio, Partnerships and Digital Division.
The Commonwealth Observer Group members, in alphabetical order by country name, are:
- Amb. Amina Chawahir Mohamed, Chairperson, Former Cabinet Secretary for Education and Foreign Affairs, Kenya
- Hon. Philip McMurdo, Former Judge of the Supreme Court of Queensland, Australia
- Hon. Pelonomi Venson, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Botswana, and Journalist, Botswana
- Lomcebo Dlamini, Human Rights Expert, Eswatini
- HE Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Former UN Special Representative of the SG for West Africa and the Sahel, Ghana
- Prof. Prajapati Trivedi, Commonwealth Special Envoy for SDG Implementation and Professor at Management Development Institute (MDI), India
- Dr Nasim Zaidi, Former Chief Election Commissioner of India
- Amb. Aloun N’Dombet-Assamba, Former Jamaica High Commissioner to the UK and Former Politician, Jamaica
- Wyvolyn Patterson, Mass Communications Expert, Former Editor in Chief of the Gleaner, Jamaica
- Dr Samuel Oe-Amseb, President of Association for Local Authorities in Namibia (ALAN) and Former Mayor of Outjo, Namibia
- Nighat Dad, Lawyer and Digital Rights Expert, Pakistan
- Amb. Julius Peter Moto, Former Uganda High Commissioner to the UK, Uganda
- Baroness Denise Patricia Kingsmill, Member of the House of Lords (Labour Peer), United Kingdom
- Brian Hunter Speers, Past President, Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA), United Kingdom
- Kryticous Patrick Nshindano, Former Chief Elections Officer at the Electoral Commission of Zambia
Strengthening the electoral system
The mandate of the Group, which is independent and impartial, is to observe the preparations for the election, the polling, counting and the results process, and the overall electoral environment. The observers will assess the conduct of the process as a whole and, where appropriate, make recommendations for the strengthening of the electoral system in Zimbabwe.
Prior to deployment across Zimbabwe, the Group will have briefings with the electoral authorities, political parties, law enforcement agencies, the diplomatic community, media and civil society groups representing women, youth and people with disabilities.
Upon fulfilling their mandate, the COG will submit a comprehensive report containing their observations and recommendations to the Commonwealth Secretary-General. This report will subsequently be made public and shared with the Government of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, political party leadership, and Commonwealth member governments.