Date set for poll observers

Dumisani Muleya

ZIMBABWE will start officially accrediting observers for the forthcoming general election at the beginning of March, exactly a month before polling. Official sources said accreditation of loc

al and foreign observers — who have not yet received invitation letters — would begin on March 1.


The accreditation exercise will be done by the Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC) whose chief elections officer is retired Brigadier Kennedy Zimondi.


The ESC, a constitutional body, supervises the registration of voters and elections. Zimondi replaced Brigadier Douglas Nyikayaramba who was ESC chief elections officer during the disputed 2002 presidential election.


Nyikayaramba’s appointment caused controversy and government ended up claiming he was retired when he was not. He is now back in the army.

The army, loyal to President Robert Mugabe, played a key role during the past two disputed elections in 2000 and 2002. Elections bodies are staffed with military personnel.


The newly-formed Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, a supposedly independent statutory body expected to run the coming election, can be overridden by the ESC.


Instead of having a consolidated body to run elections, Zimbabwe has five bodies, something that has caused structural problems and confusion.


Zimbabwe invited foreign observers last week in breach of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) election guidelines, which say the observers must be invited 90 days before voting day.


Zimbabwe has invited 23 African countries, five Asian, three from the Americas and only Russia from Europe to observe the election.


Regional leaders have been concerned about the delay to invite the Sadc election observer mission.


South African President Thabo Mbeki has stressed the need for observers to urgently come to Zimbabwe to assess the situation.


Mbeki, who chairs the Sadc organ on politics, defence and security, has

been awaiting official invitation from Zimbabwe to constitute the Sadc observer mission.


Mbeki will form the team by virtue of his chairmanship of the Sadc body.

After getting the invitation letter, Mbeki will form the team and mandate Sadc executive secretary Prega Ramsamy to notify the members who will come to Zimbabwe.


The Sadc observer mission should be headed by an official appointed by Mbeki and shall be the spokesperson for the team, which may comprise members from different parties in their home countries.


The team is expected to be given unfettered access within the laws of the host country to do its job of assessing the legal and political framework for the elections.