Zimbabwean Parliamentary Election, 2005 - Foreign Observers

Foreign Observers

Zimbabwe ratified new Southern African Development Community rules in August 2004 governing principles and guidelines on elections; however, no reports on Zimbabwe's compliance have been issued by the body. One of the stipulations is that SADC monitors be invited 90 days before the poll.

By February 4, an SADC team tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that Zimbabwe complies with the regional protocol had yet to receive permission to visit.

Non-government organisations (NGOs), among them Amnesty International, 32 Nigerian NGOs and 17 from Zimbabwe, have expressed concern about the continued abuses of human rights in the country. African Union Chairman, President Olusegun Obasanjo, has been urged to prevail on Zimbabwe, to fully implement recommendations of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR), on improving human rights conditions. The Commission made a fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe in June 2002, and the Union's findings and recommendations were adopted in January 2005, at its summit in Abuja.

"The majority of human rights concerns documented by the fact-finding mission in 2002 remain serious problems today," the NGOs said.

On February 19, 2005, 32 nations were invited by President Robert Mugabe to observe the parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe.

  • Domestic poll observers require a 'registration fee' of US$17 (in local currency) - approximately the monthly minimum wage.
    • approved Zimbabwean observers only announced two days before the elections
  • International observers (except South Africa) are required to pay US$300, while South African observers pay US$100. Of international observer teams, only South African ones have sufficient personnel and resources to cover rural areas.

Other organisations among those invited are the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, Law Society of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Election Support Network, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Affirmative Action Group, Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, Centre for Peace Initiatives in Southern Africa and the Southern African Institute for Democracy and Good Governance.

Aziz Pahad, deputy foreign minister for South Africa, said the country has been invited to observe the Zimbabwean poll in at least five different capacities.

It has been invited as a member of SADC, as chair of the organ on politics, defence and security, and as a neighbouring country. The ruling African National Congress has also been asked to send an observer team, while parliament has set up a multi-party delegation.

Five members of South Africa's governing African National Congress party arrived in Harare on March 10 headed by James Motlatsi, the first foreign observers.

The 20-member South African parliamentary observer mission led by ANC chief whip Mbulelo Goniwe left for Zimbabwe on March 14, and will return to South Africa on April 3. On April 18, the Independent Democrats Member of Parliament and mission member Vincent Gore withdrew, saying that since their arrival in Harare, the mission had been plagued by inefficiency, bad planning "and wasted time".

There is also a South African government delegation, led by Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana, which arrived March 15.

The 50-member SADC observer mission including 10 South African delegates headed by Minerals and Energy Minister Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (later Deputy President), spokesperson South African foreign affairs official Nomfanelo Kota, left on March 15.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU)—a member of the South African ruling party alliance— sent a fact-finding mission in October 2004 to talk to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and research conditions for a fair poll. They were deported from Zimbabwe within hours after police broke up a meeting between them and ZCTU.

On February 2, 2005, a second mission led by Zwelinzima Vavi, Secretary-General of COSATU, was turned back at Harare airport, charged under Section 18A of the Immigration Act which relates to prohibited immigrants. In response, George Bizos, a respected human rights lawyer, said that all Southern African Development Community members are allowed to enter Zimbabwe without applying for a visa.

After a meeting the next day between the unions in South Africa Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said "It is quite clear at the moment as things stand that there cannot be free and fair elections".

ZCTU requested that an independent electoral commission be established and international observers be allowed in the country, and the government also needed to scrap strict laws restricting the opposition's access to the media and barring it from holding public rallies and meetings without police permission.

Under the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), it is a requirement for organisers of public meetings to first notify the police of the intention to gather. It is an offence, under the same law, for more than five people to meet without notifying the police, who have the prerogative to permit or deny permission to hold public meetings. ZTCU suggested that the date of the elections be postponed. ZCTU themselves have been barred from observing the election.

Amnesty International has said that Zanu-PF has used threats and intimidation against opposition supporters ahead of the elections which now cannot be free and fair.

Read more about this topic:  Zimbabwean Parliamentary Election, 2005

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