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OBSERVER MISSIONS FROM AU, SADC, COMMONWEALTH IN PLACE TO MONITOR ZIMBABWE’S JULY 30 POLLS

HARARE--Polls observer mission from African Union (AU), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) sub-regional grouping and the Commonwealth have all arrived in Zimbabwe to monitor the country's July 30 general election, the first to be held since the end of the 30-year rule of former president Robert Mugabe in November last year.

Speaking to the media after meeting Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Sibusiso Moyo here Tuesday, the head of the AU election observation mission and former Ethiopian prime minister, Hailemarian Desalegn, said the continental body expected that the prevailing peaceful environment would characterize the whole election period.

We came here to see a transparent, credible and democratic election being conducted in this country," he said. We wish you that this landmark process happens as per expectations of the people of Zimbabwe and that of the continent of Africa and also regional bloc SADC and also the global community watching and following this election."

The South African envoy to Zimbabwe, Mphakama Mbete, said the Zimbabwe government had reiterated its

commitment to deliver free and fair elections.We did articulate that we wish there be situation where there is no violence, whilst appreciating the dilemma in which the security authority of the country are under in case they are provoked and the Minister assured us that they have planned ahead for any eventuality and we hope that such a situation will not be reached where there might be an outbreak of uncontrollable violence," he said.

We leave the meeting satisfied that progress is being made and that all possible loopholes are being closed by the government, said Mbete, who also met Moyo.

Moyo commended the regional and continental groupings for deploying observers to Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe has invited foreign observers from international organizations, countries and others but we believe that Africa, the African Union and SADC are the critical observation arms, he said.

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is seeking re-election, has promised free, fair and credible elections.

Meanwhile, Hailemariam said aggrieved political parties should seek legal recourse to have their grievances on perceived electoral shortcomings addressed, noting that Zimbabwean law provided for legal recourse to any aggrieved party.

His remarks came as the opposition MDC-Alliance party has made numerous demands which it wants met before the country holds elections next Monday. Some of the demands, which are not provided for in the electoral laws, include playing a role in the design of the Presidential ballot paper despite it being the sole responsibility of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).

The MDC-Alliance also wants to physically inspect all ballot papers, to test their quality, before the election.

Hailemariam said grievances had to be presented according to the country's legal frameworks. As far as the AU is concerned I think every party to this election has to follow the legal frameworks and processes that are taking place to put across their grievances and get resolution accordingly, he said.

Meanwhile, the Commonwealth Observer Mission says the ZEC must have a big heart and do its very best to address concerns of contestants so that they participate in the process with high levels of confidence that the outcome will be a true reflection of the vote.

Mission leader and former president of Ghana John Dramani Mahama said no demand by participants in the election could be deemed unreasonable but they should be within the confines of the law.

Mahama said the Commonwealth mission, made up of 23 people, had been made aware of issues around the voters roll, the layout of the ballot paper, fairness and access to the media that some stakeholders were not happy with.

In the run up to an election, no demand is unreasonable. Everybody wants to create sufficient democratic space and have a high level of confidence that they are being treated fairly and so it is for ZEC to listen to those complaints and where it is possible within the law, to address those complaints to do so, he said referring to the opposition demands," he said.

But if it takes ZEC outside the ambit of the law I do not think it is something that they can do.

Mahama said the ability of Zimbabwe to hold a credible election would play a key role as the Commonwealth considered the application by Harare to re-join the grouping which it pulled out of 15 years ago over some

political differences. The Commonwealth last observed Zimbabwean elections in 2002 before the country left the grouping.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK