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Zim poll: human rights activists fume over snub

HUMAN rights activists and election observers are concerned that two of the “most credible” election observer groups in southern African will not be in Zimbabwe for the March 31 election.

erdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>The Southern African Development Community (Sadc) Parliamentary Forum and the Johannesburg-based Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA) have not been invited to observe the Zimbabwean general elections.

EISA has been involved in 20 elections, while the Sadc Forum has witnessed polls in 10 countries in the region since 1999, and was the only African observer mission not to declare Zimbabwe’s controversial 2002 presidential ballot free and fair.

The national director of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, Rindai Chipfunde-Vava, said: “We are very concerned — if the elections are open and we have nothing to hide, why has the invitation not been extended to the two bodies who have extensive experience of observing elections in the region?”

The Sadc Parliamentary Forum said it was not going to observe this month’s ballot as it had “not been invited in its own right as an autonomous institution of Sadc, which is a fundamental departure from the established practice”. — Irin.

Brian Kagoro, chief executive of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, a group of pro-democracy NGOs, remarked that the list of approved electoral observers included a large number of government delegations and few representatives from independent bodies.

The Zimbabwean government maintained that it had invited Sadc, and “this implies an invitation to any arms of Sadc”, spokesman George Charamba said. “We fail to understand how the forum can call itself an autonomous body of Sadc — what does that mean?”

The head of EISA, Dennis Kadima, said: “When observers are restricted, one questions whether the government is hiding something. We at EISA not only observe elections, we have also been documenting electoral processes for the benefit of all the countries in the region.” — Irin.

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