The SADC Electoral Advisory Council is in Zimbabwe to assess the country’s preparedness for the holding of free, fair and credible elections, in line with the SADC principles and guidelines governing democratic elections.   

For the first time, the government of Zimbabwe has promised unconfined access to all those wishing to observe elections that are slated for this year. 

The seven member SADC delegation, which arrived in the country yesterday, held its first key engagement with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Retired Lieutenant General Sibusiso Moyo to brief him on their terms of reference.

Minister Moyo welcomed the team and asked the body to provide as much technical support as they can to warrant transparent and credible elections.

Chairperson of the SADC Elections Advisory Council, Advocate Leshele Thoahlane said their main task is to assess the state of readiness by Zimbabwe to hold free, fair and credible elections this year.

After meeting Minister Moyo, the SADC team paid a courtesy call on the Speaker of the National Assembly, Advocate Jacob Mudenda at Parliament Building in Harare.

Flanked by Senate President Cde Ednah Madzongwe and the Clerk of Parliament Mr Kennedy Chokuda and senior parliament staffers, Advocate Mudenda welcomed the delegation and expressed optimism that the electoral process will run smoothly.

The team will meet political party leaders to understand their concerns regarding the playing field.

The findings from the week long pre-election assessment process will be presented to the SADC Executive Secretary for onward transmission to the SADC heads of state.

Another mission will then be sent by the regional body to observe the elections.

Opposition parties have welcomed the opening up of electoral processes by the Zimbabwean government, saying it will help ensure a level playing field as most election disputes occur way before the polling day and those with concerns will have ample time to air out their grievances.

The SADC Election Advisory Council is being led by Advocate Thoahlane from Lesotho and other members of the council include Professor Mpo Molomo of Botswana, Justice Dorothy de Gabriel of Malawi, Reverend Daniel Ngoy Mulunda of DRC and three members of the SADC Secretariat. 

The council was created to provide an advisory role on issues concerning elections and the enhancement of democracy and good governance in the SADC region.

Teams from the African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU) are also expected to visit Zimbabwe on a similar undertaking.

Experts speak

Experts say the SADC Electoral Advisory Council’s pre-election goodwill mission will set the tone for other regional and global observers to see for themselves progress and commitment being made towards delivering a free, fair, credible and transparent  election.

The analysts added that the observer mission must however maintain the frame on their aims and local civic organisations and political parties must not distort information to suit their agenda.

“The council’s fact finding mission on the preparedness of the country to holding free, fair and credible election speaks of an endorsement on Zimbabwe’s new government walking the talk. They are here to see for themselves and what more do you expect apart from  the commitment to ensure a level playing field,” said Mr Martin Maeresa, the Dean in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities at the Catholic University.

“With more observer teams expected in the forthcoming months, political parties, civic society, academia, non-governmental organisations and decision makers’ role is to providing real information. Then the observers are expected not to be judges, the goodwill or positive image that is prevailing in the country should not be distorted for political gains and mileage,” a legal expert, Mr James Makiya said.

With President Mnangagwa having clearly spelt out the pillars from which the 2018 election must be founded, it remains imperative upon stakeholders to work towards ensuring that an election, free of violence, fair, transparent and credible is delivered for the advancement of the country’s political, social and economic stability.