Tuesday, June 10, 2008
There are no election observers officially on the ground with just 17 days left before Zimbabwe's presidential run-off ballot.
the 29 March poll, which saw the ruling ZANU-PF lose control of
parliament for the first time since independence in 1980, there have
been widespread reports of election violence that has left at least 60 people dead according to the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Robert Mugabe, who is seeking to extend his 28-year rule against his
rival, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, on 27 June, has characterised the
opposition as agents of British and US imperialism attempting to
The 29 March poll saw Tsvangirai win 47.9
percent of the ballot, which fell short of the 50 percent plus one
ballot required for a first round win. Mugabe managed 43.2 percent in
the first round.
The justice ministry this week began
extending invitations to election observers and said accreditation
would "be done by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) upon
production of a letter of invitation" from the ministry.
Chipfunde, the director of the Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network
(ZESN), an umbrella body for 38 non-governmental organisations
promoting free and fair elections, told IRIN: "We have not been invited
for accreditation and because of that, we cannot go and monitor
preparations for the run-off, despite the fact that time is running
No voter education
ZESN cannot conduct voter education because "even though it is now some
time after we applied to go out to the electorate, ZEC has not yet
responded, so we are hamstrung."
ZESN has been hit by a double
whammy, after the government recently ordered all NGOs to suspend their
activities with immediate effect and reapply for registration, accusing
civil society groups of aiding and abetting the MDC.
week, local government minister Ignatius Chombo said NGOs were using
food aid in selected rural communities, in which ZANU was losing the
strong support it used to enjoy, to woo the electorate to vote for the
"NGOs cannot ... go into local authority areas to compete
with the government. These organisations are primarily there to
complement government efforts where necessary. At no time should NGOs
make sporadic forays into programmes that are not specified in the
memorandum of agreement [between them and government]," Chombo said.
the director of the National Association of Non-Governmental
Organisations (NANGO), Cephas Zinhumwe, denied NGO involvement in
politics, and said the "ban" on NGO activities had "ugly implications".
"The suspension of the field work of NGOs is indefinite and
that brings a lot of uncertainty — given the fact that we are not sure
when it will be lifted — particularly at this time when the population
urgently requires humanitarian assistance," Zinhumwe told IRIN.
2007/08 international donor agencies provided food aid to 4.1 million
people, more than a third of the population. Zimbabwe is suffering
acute shortages of power, fuel and basic commodities, and has an annual
inflation rate unofficially estimated at more than one million percent.
The 2008 maize harvest is forecast to fall short of the national human
food requirement by about one million tones.
NGOs that were involved in electoral activities "can’t monitor" the
run-off ballot, and that they had been effectively "crippled", by
"The suspension goes beyond humanitarian
activities; the electoral process that includes inspection of voters’
rolls, observations across the breath and depth of the country for
adherence to set down procedures and rules and voter education, among
other things, are now extremely difficult," Zinhumwe said.
Observers to arrive soon
has denied European Union and other observer missions from Western
countries admission to monitor the elections, and diplomatic missions
resident in the country have been harassed by the authorities after
investigating claims of election violence.
Mugabe has said the
government would invite observers from the African Union (AU),
the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Common Market of
Eastern and Southern Africa - a trade-based bloc - the Economic
Community of West African States and representatives from Asia, Latin
America and NGOs from developing countries. However, there is no
indication as yet if all those apparently permitted to monitor the poll
would do so.
The government official daily newspaper, The
Herald, reported an advance party of SADC observers had arrived,
comprised of technical staff headed by Colonel Thanki Mothae, the
director of SADC's organ on politics, defence and security. Mothae said
that the regional body's observers "would start arriving this weekend
while the bulk of them would arrive next week."
SADC would increase the number of observers from the 163 in the 29
March elections to "between 300 and 400" because "it was felt that we
need more observers".
SADC gave a clean bill of health to the
29 March poll, although the MDC has expressed concern at the pattern of
election violence which sees violence fall away in the immediate run-up
to the ballot and its aftermath.
Apart from the 60 politically
motivated killings, the MDC claims torture camps have been established,
thousands of people displaced and homes razed by youth militias,
veterans of Zimbabwe's liberation war and soldiers in a campaign of
retribution against those who voted for the opposition in the March
The military has intimated that should Tsvangirai win the 27 June ballot, there would be a coup d'etat.
met with UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon at the at the UN's global
food summit in Rome, Italy, and agreed to a suggestion that a
high-ranking UN official be sent to the country ahead of the run-off
MDC spokesperson, Nelson Chamisa, said the delay in
inviting observers was one of the strategies by the "illegitimate
government to cling onto power as much as possible".
are so many pits and hurdles in the electoral field and more delays
will just worsen the situation. There is no way in which we can have
free and fair elections when voters are being killed, our rallies are
being banned, we are not getting space on national television and the
official papers and our leaders are being arrested, all this out of the
sight of the very crucial observers," Chamisa told IRIN.
Source: IRIN NEWS http://irinnews.org