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Election Observers Late

THE presence of regional and international observers as well as United Nations (UN) peacekeepers in the country ahead of the presidential run-off will be ineffective at this late stage, analysts have said.


The president of the MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai, believes that the presence of a Sadc observer mission and UN observers and peacekeepers will help end the post-March election violence against opposition supporters before the June 27 run-off.

Tsvangirai will square up against President Robert Mugabe, whom he out-polled in the first round but failed to garner sufficient votes to assume the presidency.

The MDC leader hoped that if the observers and peacekeepers were dispatched in time, this would stop the wave of violence against the party’s supporters being perpetrated by alleged Zanu PF militia and state security agents.

“It is quite clear to us that (President) Robert Mugabe is prepared to do literally anything to secure victory,” David Coltart, an MDC Senator, was quoted as saying this week as he added his voice to calls for election observers from the UN.

But analysts said Mugabe’s government — hostile to the prospect of international observers — would not only refuse to heed calls to accept international observers but also continue with the violent campaign in which the MDC claimed that 66 of its supporters have been killed, 200 are unaccounted for and 25 000 people displaced.

National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) chairman Lovemore Madhuku said it was pointless for regional and international observers to now come into the country with the hope of establishing whether the election was free or fair.

“We are now left with less than two weeks, there is absolutely no point in having the observers around,” Madhuku said.

“The so called run-off election will only yield a result in which Zanu PF wins. As long as an election is flawed, you can be assured that no matter how many international observers and even peacekeepers are around, nothing will change.”

Madhuku said a run-off was not viable for the country and that in any case, Mugabe’s government would not accept the presence of international observers, monitors and peacekeepers.

“They will never permit their presence. If they do, it will be shortly before the election,” Madhuku said.

Madhuku said the peacekeepers and observers should have been deployed well before the election.

“If you want peacekeepers and international observers, it has to be before an election,” Madhuku said. “There should be no run-off. It will needlessly result in quite of a lot of deaths by the end of the election.”

University of Zimbabwe (UZ) lecturer in Political Science, Professor Eldred Masunungure, concurred with Madhuku’s sentiments saying the only way for observers to be effective was for them to be deployed in time, in sufficient numbers and for them to cover the entire country.

“There has to be sufficient feasibility in terms of how they cover the rural areas,” Masunungure said. “They have to be here in time so that they can make a difference. It is now too late for their presence to be of any use.”

Masunungure said the observers had to observe politically-motivated violence, the police and the media terrain as well.

“ZBC has been atrocious since March 29,” Masunungure said. “Monitoring the police has been of little benefit to us. The performance of the police has been very horrible, barring rallies and harassing members of the opposition.”

The ZBC has blacked out Tsvangirai and the MDC from the screen save for negative publicity and this has been in contravention of the Sadc protocol governing elections that was adopted in August 2004.

At the same time, the police last week said they could not permit Tsvangirai to hold rallies and used spurious claims that they feared there would be assassins in the crowds that would possibly seek to kill him.

Time has been running out for the effective deployment of regional and international observers and monitors. The MDC had hoped for their deployment before June 1.

By June 11, only 50 Sadc observers from Botswana had been stationed in the country. Three hundred and fifty from other Sadc countries were yet to find their way into Zimbabwe.

At the same time, the UN was permitted to send a special envoy to the country for the time being.

Both regional and international observers are now caught in a complex situation — one in which they are damned if they do come with less than two weeks before the polls and damned if they don’t come at all.

“What difference will the presence make now?” Masunungure asked. “It is already too late. It is a different matter for an advance team to stay in five-star hotels in Harare or in other provinces and listen to briefings given to them while they enjoy the plush surroundings of their hotels. They have to observe what is on the ground.”

Masunungure said the Zanu PF government would delay the arrival of UN observers and peacekeepers and then permit them into the country with less than a week left before the election.

“Mugabe’s government is likely to put all sorts of obstacles, bureaucratic and administrative, in the way,” he said.

But Joseph Kurebwa, a UZ Political Science lecturer and pro-Zanu PF analyst, said there was absolutely no need for a UN peacekeeping mission. Kurebwa said the level of violence in the country was far from that which would warrant UN peacekeepers.

“In terms of violence, it is a very low level of conflict between the two parties,” Kurebwa said. “It does not warrant a peacekeeper mission. It would require the UN Security Council to decide the situation as critical and alarming and we all know the violence is far from that.”

Kurebwa also said there was no need for a UN observer mission as there was already a country team in the country.

“There is a UN country team in Zimbabwe,” Kurebwa said. “If the UN wishes to observe, then it should do so through the country team resident in Zimbabwe. The country team can register as observers.”

A Human Rights Watch report released this week seems to give the impression that Mugabe’s government does not care about its regional or international image any more.

The report discusses the violent campaign which it said was aimed at decimating the opposition and ensuring that Mugabe was returned as president in the runoff elections.

It names the violent campaign as having been codenamed Operation Mavhoterapapi and says that if the current conditions are maintained, there is absolutely no possibility of a credible free and fair election.

The report names senior army and police officers allegedly behind the violence campaign buttressing arguments that image and reputation in the coming runoff is the last thing on Zanu PF’s mind.

Masunungure said Mugabe’s government was simply prioritising matters and its reputation was currently not topping the list.

“Any regime wants to protect or promote its reputation or repair a damaged reputation,” Masunungure said. “Zanu PF and government’s reputation is extremely soiled and government is obviously keen to spruce it up. But it depends on whether they will jeopardise their chances of winning the runoff if they do so.”

Masunungure said Zanu PF would prioritise retaining power and shelve the invitation of observers and peacekeepers.

“If other priorities clash with their winning the election, they will have to be forced down the ladder,” he said. “Zanu PF has a reputation to protect but winning this election is far more important. They will do it all costs.”

In the past elections, the Zanu PF government has invited “friendly” observer missions from the Sadc community. These have not observed the entire period running up to the elections and in most cases coming into the country just a month or less before the elections.

Political violence has risen from 2005 parliamentary election levels and now resembles the levels of witnessed in the June 2000 parliamentary elections and the March 2002 presidential elections.

By Kuda Chikwanda

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