THE opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said yesterday it had prepared a dossier to be submitted to a Southern African Development Community (Sadc) delegation which was expected in t
he country last night.
The Sadc delegation of lawyers from South Africa, Lesotho and Namibia — countries which form the regional body’s troika for politics, defence and security that monitor elections — is due to assess whether Zimbabwe is complying with election guidelines adopted in Mauritius last August.
The troika’s chairman is President Thabo Mbeki who has been at the forefront of resolving Zimbabwe’s political and economic crisis.Mbeki and other Sadc leaders are racing against time to ensure Zimbabwe holds a free and fair election in March.
The Sadc team is scheduled to examine Zimbabwe’s electoral laws and institutions to see if they have been sufficiently adapted to facilitate a free and fair election. Some Sadc countries want the United Nations to be involved in Zimbabwe’s election.
Sadc leaders are anxious for Harare to comply with the regional bloc’s principles governing democratic elections in the region.
The Sadc protocol stipulates that member states should hold regular, free and fair elections.
It encourages the establishment of “all-inclusive, competent and accountable national electoral bodies staffed by qualified personnel” as well as competent legal entities to arbitrate in the event of disputes arising.
The Sadc protocol also demands that for elections to succeed political and civil liberties such as freedom of assembly and expression must be upheld. Parties should also be given equal access to the public media to campaign.
Member states are encouraged to prevent electoral fraud and cheating.
Zimbabwe has enacted two new laws in a bid to comply with the Sadc rules.
A purportedly independent commission has been set up. Voting will be done in one day instead of two and the counting of votes will be done at polling centres.
However, the MDC says the electoral reforms are cosmetic and piecemeal. MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has been travelling in Africa and Europe to mobilise the international community to bring pressure to bear on Zimbabwe to hold a genuine election.
The MDC’s dossier says the legal framework and political environment are hostile to a free and fair poll.
MDC legal affairs secretary David Coltart said the dossier would be submitted to the Sadc team so it could understand the situation on the ground.
“We have a comprehensive document which we will submit to them on the current situation,” he said.
The dossier says the environment is not conducive for free and fair elections. It cites a series of legal and political factors that would make it impossible for Zimbabwe to hold a legitimate election.
The MDC document says laws such as the Public Order and Security Act, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and Broadcasting Services Act were restrictive.
It also says political intolerance and violence were still high, while political and civil liberties were being curtailed. The dossier indicates that repression and human rights abuses would militate against a free and fair election.