THE Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) has withdrawn from observing todayâ€™s presidential election run-off after Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs minister Patrick Chinamasa reduced the number of its observers by over 90%.
President Robert Mugabe and the MDCâ€™s Morgan Tsvangirai face a run-off in the poll, although the opposition leader said he was withdrawing from the race.
The government said the run-off would go ahead because electoral laws do not allow the withdrawal of a candidate in the second round.
Tsvangirai out-polled Mugabe in the first round on March 29, but failed to garner the 50% plus votes to assume office.
Zesn said Chinamasa reduced the number of observers from the 15 433 they wanted accredited to 500 and by Monday only 84 of them had been accredited by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC)
Zesn said: “On June 19 2008 Zesn received a letter from the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to reduce its number of observers from 15 433 to 500. The electoral legal framework as stipulated in Statutory Instrument 21 of 2005, second schedule Section 19 (2) and (3) clearly allows up to three static domestic observers per polling station per observer group and one per observer group at constituency tabulation centreâ€¦The eduction in the number of Zesn observers by Chinamasa reduces transparency and undermines democracy.”
Zesn said given the prescribed numbers the law allows, Zimbabweâ€™s electoral process can actually accommodate in excess of 27 000 domestic observers stationed within the countryâ€™s 9 231 polling stations across the country.
The network said its observers for the March 29 harmonised poll have been subjected to attacks, which left one dead.
“Zesn observers for the March 29 elections have been subjected to severe attacks which have left Elliot Machipisa, an observer from Hurungwe dead, 30 beaten and over 200 displaced, 14 had their homes and property destroyed,” said the network.
Zesn added that: “These are the only reported cases as hundreds of other displaced and brutalised observers went unreported. Although the above-mentioned cases have been reported to the police together with names of perpetrators, no action has been taken by the law enforcement agents. Furthermore, Zesn offices and its national director, Rindai Chipfunde-Vavaâ€™s house were raided on April 25 by police allegedly looking for subversive material.”
By Lucia Makamure