UN wades into Zim poll dispute

THE United Nations and the United States Department of State have added their voices to the growing chorus by international and regional blocs expressing concern over the disputed August 23 and 24 polls.

THE United Nations and the United States Department of State have added their voices to the growing chorus by international and regional blocs expressing concern over the disputed August 23 and 24 polls.

In a statement, UN secretary-general António Guterres highlighted issues such as the arrest of observers, voter intimidation and threats of violence, harassment and coercion.

Florencia Soto Niño-Martínez, Guterres’s spokesperson, said the UN chief was closely following developments in the country.

“The secretary-general is closely following developments in Zimbabwe’s elections. He is concerned about the arrest of observers, reports of voter intimidation, and threats of violence, harassment and coercion.

“The secretary-general calls on political leaders and their supporters to reject any and all forms of violence, threats of violence, or incitement to violence, and to ensure that human rights and the rule of law are fully respected,” Niño-Martínez said.

Guterres called on Zimbabwe’s political actors to peacefully settle any disputes through established legal and institutional channels.

He urged the competent authorities to resolve any disputes in a fair, expeditious and transparent manner to ensure that the results are a true reflection of the will of the people.

Guterres’ message comes as several organisations have condemned the elections following severe criticism from observer missions.

Government stands accused of arresting 41 election observers, using a shadowy group Forever Associates Zimbabwe to intimidate voters and abusing the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to remain in power.

US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller last night said Zec should avail disaggregated polling station results.

“The United States notes in particular the systemic bias against political opposition during the pre-election period and reports from respected civil society groups that Zec officials pressured election observers to sign altered polling station result forms.

“We call on Zec to make the disaggregated polling station results publicly available to increase confidence in the result tabulation process,” he said.

Miller also condemned the intimidation and disruption of lawful election observers throughout the electoral period and arrest of staff from respected civil society organisations observing the elections.

“These arrests prevented efforts to independently verify Zec’s announced results, a fundamental component of democratic processes in the region and around the world.

“Furthermore, threats directed against members of the Sadc electoral observation mission are dangerous, and we call upon the government of Zimbabwe to cease these inflammatory and unacceptable attacks,” he said.

Miller added that the actions belied President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s repeated pledges to respect the rule of law, transparency, and accountability.

“The United States is engaging regional leaders to share our concerns, including what this means for the international community’s nascent efforts to re-engage the Zimbabwean government.

“There is much at stake for the people of Zimbabwe and the region. We urge all Zimbabweans to remain peaceful and pursue grievances through established legal channels,” he said.

Across the Limpopo, South Africa, in a statement yesterday, congratulated Zimbabwe for “organising and holding” the harmonised elections to elect the President, National Assembly and Local government representatives.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “I congratulate President Emmerson Mnangagwa on his re-election. I wish him and the people of Zimbabwe well for the upcoming term.”

Namibian President Hage Geingob also congratulated Mnangagwa, tweeting: “On behalf of the people and Government of the Republic of Namibia, I extend warmest congratulations to @edmnangagwa  on his re-election as President of Zimbabwe. I also extend felicitations to @ZANUPF_Official,  our sister party, on the victory in the peaceful elections of 23-08-23.”

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (Zimcodd) yesterday called on government to uphold the rule of law and protect human rights to build a thriving democracy.

“Upholding the rule of law and protecting human rights are critical aspects of a thriving democracy. Zimbabwe must prioritise the independence of the Judiciary, guarantee freedoms of expression, assembly, and association, and ensure the safety of journalists and activists,” Zimcodd

“By doing so, the country can build an environment where citizens feel secure in expressing their views and participating in the political process.”

The organisation said the African Charter emphasised the importance of accountable and effective governance.

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