YESTERDAY’S parliamentary election differed from the 2000 and 2002 polls as observers said that the political environment was peaceful and hoped that it would remain like that. <
The deputy leader of the South African Observer Mission Ngoako Ramatlhodi said the situation was peaceful and stable.
“The situation is peaceful at the moment and we are expecting everyone in Zimbabwe to exercise his /her democratic right by going out and voting,” said Ramatlhodi.
“Everything is in good condition. As observers we are praying that the elections will be free and fair,” Ramathlhodi added. “The South African Observer Mission commits itself to fulfilling its mandate without fear or favour.
“The mission is determined to ensure that the people of Zimbabwe exercise their right to choose their leadership without hindrance,” he said.
Ramatlhodi said his team noted relatively smooth progress but had still stepped in at times to prevent political clashes.
In an interview with Reuters, SA mission head, Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana, said his team had to intervene in tense situations.
“We know what is happening on the ground. We have had to intervene to deal with tense situations that could undermine the process,” Mdladlana said without elaborating.
South Africa’s observers, who angered MDC leaders in recent weeks with statements appearing to endorse the poll, have said they will not pre-judge the outcome.
“We have a mandate to intervene when there is a situation that might work against a free and fair election and we have done that several times. This message is understood by both President Mugabe and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai,” Mdladlana said.
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) chairman Judge George Chiweshe told poll observers in a separate briefing last week that his body was ready to see that voting will go smoothly.
Five hundred international observers including delegations from the South African government, parliament and ruling ANC, the Southern African Development Community and the African Union were deployed across Zimbabwe to monitor the poll.
Zimbabwe did not invite the Commonwealth, the United States, or the European Union, which it says are biased against Harare.