African observer team at Zimbabwe polls calls for new free and fair elections

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A GROUP of African lawmakers which observed Zimbabwe’s one-man election has today called for the holding of a new round of polling, dismissing last week’s vote as neither free nor fair.

Marwick Khumalo, head of the Pan African Parliament (PAP) mission, said his team of about 50 observers concluded that “the atmosphere prevailing in the country did not give rise to the conduct of free, fair and credible elections”.

“Conditions should be put in place for the holding of free, fair and credible elections as soon as possible,” he added at a press conference.
“The political environment throughout the country was tense, hostile and volatile … characterised by an electoral campaign marred by high levels of intimidation, violence, displacement of people, abductions, and loss of life.”

Khumalo, a Swaziland national, said “hate speech, incitement of violence and war rhetoric instilled fear and trepidation among voters. Statements made by esteemed leaders in Zimbabwe make it difficult to dismiss claims of state-sponsored violence and it is highly regrettable.”

Khumalo questioned the impartiality and independence of the country’s elections agency, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC). “The role of ZEC in this particular election has been more wanting than the previous election,” he said.

The mission observed a relatively low voter turn-out, also noting an “unusually high number of spoilt ballots” with “unpalatable messages” written on many of those.

No Western observers were allowed to monitor the poll but teams from the 14-nation Southern African Development Community and the African Union were granted accreditation.

Meanwhile, SADC observer mission has also given the same verdict.
“The pre-election phase was characterised by politically-motivated violence, intimidation and displacements,” Angolan Sports Minister Jose Marcos Barrica, the head of the 400-strong team of observers, said in a statement.

“The process leading up to the presidential run-off held on June 27 did not conform to the SADC principles and guidelines governing democratic elections.

“Based on the above mentioned observations, the mission is of the view that the prevailing environment impinged on the credibility of the electoral process […] The elections did not represent the will of the people of Zimbabwe” it said.

Official results showed he won 2 150 269 votes against 233 000 for opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai who boycotted the election but whose name still appeared on ballot papers.

Turnout was announced at 42.37%, and 131 481 ballot papers were rejected.

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