HARARE– The Zimbabwe government intends to invite at least 63 different groups and countries to observe the upcoming 2018 general election to be held between July and August this year.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has promised to hold free, fair and credible elections, and to buttress his promise, the government has for the first time in over a decade opened the elections to observers from the European Union (EU) and other countries previously hostile to it.

According to a proposed list gleaned by New Ziana, the government will invite all the 15 fellow member nations of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) as well as the SADC Parliamentary Forum to send observers. The Common Market for East and Southern Africa (Comesa), the African Union (AU) Commission and the Pan-African Parliament are also on the list.

On the international front, the government intends to invite the Commonwealth, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the EU Commission and the EU Parliament while other countries in Europe which are not part of the EU, including Russia, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey, will also be welcome.

Note that the United Nations does not observe elections of member countries, read part of the proposed list originating from the Legal and Consular Office in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade dated March 6.

Diplomatic missions accredited to Zimbabwe would also be allowed to accredit five diplomats per embassy as polls observers upon request. The African Caribbean and Pacific Group (ACP) and the ACP-EU joint Parliamentary Assembly are also on the list.

Individual countries invited include Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, Cuba and India. The government has also invited former liberation movements transformed into political parties, including the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa, the Botswana Democratic Party and the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA).

Two eminent individuals have also been invited, Jeffrey Flake a Senator for the US state of Arizona and Andrew Jackson Young Jr, a former US Congressman. The Senator (Flake) currently serves on the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and was one of the chief drafters of US sanctions which were re-imposed on Zimbabwe in February this year.

The US sanctions on Zimbabwe were first imposed when the country was under President Robert Mugabe two decades ago because of political differences with Harare. It had been expected the embargo would be lifted after the takeover of new administration led by President Mnangagwa last November but this did not happen as the sanctions were instead adjusted to include fresh demands as part of the conditions for their lifting.