Wednesday, July 31, 2013

African Union, SADC Endorse Zimbabwe Poll Preparations

AU, Sadc endorse poll preparations

July 31, 2013
Herald Reporters

ALL is set for the harmonised elections today with 6.4 million Zimbabweans, representing 95 percent of eligible voters, expected to cast their ballots in 9 760 polling stations set up countrywide to elect a President, National Assembly and local authority representatives.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said all logistics were in place and the credibility of the voters’ roll, which will be used for today’s harmonised election, was not in question.

The Head of the African Union Observer Mission, former Nigerian president General Olusegun Obasanjo, and the Head of the Sadc Observer Mission, Tanzanian foreign minister Mr Bernard Membe, expressed satisfaction with preparations for the harmonised elections after paying separate courtesy calls on President Mugabe at State House in Harare yesterday.

“I have come to touch base with the President (Mugabe) and tell him how I see things going, so far so good and I wish this country all the good fortune that this country can have,” Gen Obasanjo said, adding that he had been briefed by various stakeholders, among them ZEC, the police and other stakeholders who expressed their readiness for the elections today.

“From what I have heard from ZEC, from what I have heard from the security, everybody is prepared and tomorrow (today) we will be out there in the field to see the action,” he said.

The former Nigerian president also acknowledged challenges that the country was facing, saying no country had a perfect election.

“From what I have seen, you can never talk of a perfect election anywhere in the world, it is only God’s action that is perfect not us humans but the preparations that have been made are adequate,” he said.

Mr Membe also expressed satisfaction at the peaceful environment prevailing in the country.

“At this stage what I must applaud all Zimbabweans is that what we get from the entire observation mission across the country is that there is tranquillity, peace and violence free elections and this we have recorded.

“This is impressive because if you went to other countries this time people will be running up and down but at least we are getting reports that it is a violence free environment. That is what we expect tomorrow we should maintain this degree of violence free,” Mr Membe said.

He urged Zimbabweans to come all out in their numbers to cast their vote today. Mr Membe was in the country to observe the referendum and his team also said the elections were free, fair and legitimate.

On Monday US ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mr Bruce Wharton and his Swedish counterpart Mr Lars Ronnas also applauded Zimbabweans for maintaining peace during the run up to the elections while the EU envoy Mr Aldo Dell’Ariccia also made similar remarks two weeks ago.

The commendations by various ambassadors fly in the face of unsubstantiated claims by the MDC-T that the environment has been characterised by violence and intimidation.

ZEC yesterday met the National Multi-Party Liaison committee to appraise them on preparations.

Commission chairperson Justice Rita Makarau assured the committee that no political party would derive any advantage from the voters roll, as all parties had been given equal access to the electoral register.

“The voters roll does not work in anyone’s favour. There is no party that can claim that it was disadvantaged because of the voters roll. It (voters roll) was made available to everyone at the same time. The best way now is to move forward and accept this voters’ roll,” she said.

ZEC deputy chairperson Mrs Joyce Kazembe explained that although there could be names of dead people on the voters’ roll, this could not be used as a basis to discredit the register.

“It is acceptable for names of dead people to appear on the voters roll. After all, people die every day so it is very practical to have dead people on the voters roll. What we should understand is that it is no longer possible to recall the voters roll from all the polling stations and improve it,” she said.

In a statement after the multiparty liaison meeting, ZEC said the discussion had ended pleasantly although the issue of the voters roll was the contentious one.

“Today July 30, ZEC met with the National Multiparty Liaison committee to discuss among other issues, the voters roll, printing of ballot papers, the special vote, the role of traditional leaders and incidents of violence and intimidation reported by the MDC-T.

“The issue of the voters roll remained heatedly debated and contentious. The commission explained the other issues to the satisfaction of the meeting which ended on a very cordial note.”

The electoral body said all was set for the poll that is expected to be incidents free.

“ZEC reiterates that everything is ready for the harmonised election scheduled for July 31. All those who are in possession of registration slips are encouraged to carry these to the polling stations especially if they registered during the mobile voter registration exercise.”

ZEC also stated that “the secrecy of every voter’s ballot shall be protected and no one will know who each voter will vote for”.

Yesterday’s committee meeting was attended by Dr Sydney Sekeramayi and Cde Chaunoita (Zanu-PF), Mr Tendai Biti and Mr Obert Gutu (MDC-T), Mr Frank Chamunorwa and Mr Michael Mukashi (MDC), Mr Julius Mudakuvaka (ZDP) and Mr Mjobisi Noko and Ms Emilia Mukaratirwa (Zapu).

ZEC dispatched all the voting materials to various centres countrywide on Monday.

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