Zim: Mbeki Hints At Political Reforms before 2008 elections

SW Radio Africa (London)

15 November 2007

Tichaona Sibanda

South African President Thabo Mbeki on Wednesday gave a hint there  could be political and electoral reforms in line with the SADC election guidelines, before next year's general elections in Zimbabwe.

He was responding to a question raised in parliament in South Africa.

In a written reply to a question by Cheryllyn Dudley, MP and chief whip of the African Christian Democratic party, Mbeki disclosed that negotiators were crafting the conditions necessary for holding free and fair elections, by drawing guidance from the SADC guidelines governing elections.

‘These principles, among others, advocate for the adherence to principles such as full participation of the citizens in the political process, freedom of association, political tolerance, equal opportunity for all political parties to access the state media and equal opportunity to exercise the right to vote and be voted for,’ Mbeki said.

Cheryllyn Dudley told Newsreel on Thursday that Mbeki’s pronouncement on next year’s polls was significant because it would force the Zanu-PF government to adopt the SADC election guidelines, to which they’re a signatory. But she argued the outcome of the negotiations should be the barometer of whether or not Zimbabwe would have free and fair polls.

‘Though I’m not yet convinced Mugabe will comply with the guidelines, at least it gives us the necessary ammunition should the elections be disputed. In a way what this also means is that the political situation on the ground today cannot be ignored where the ruling Zanu-PF has an upper hand against the opposition,’ Dudley said.

She said Zanu-PF still has unfettered access to state resources and public media for its campaigns, while the majority of the opposition survived on shoestring budgets. Dudley also argued that there was a real need to level the playing field, which is currently tilted very far in favour of the ruling party.

Mbeki was appointed by SADC in March to mediate between Zanu-PF and the MDC in a bid to find a solution to the country’s political and economic crisis. Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Social Welfare Minister Nicholas Goche are attending on behalf of the government, while top officials represent the MDC from its two

factions, Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube. South Africa’s Local Government Minister Sydney Mufumadi is chairing the discussions.

The MDC is demanding that elections due in March next year be free and fair. Their other demands include international control of the elections that millions of Zimbabweans abroad be allowed to vote, a new voters’ roll and the appointment of an independent Zimbabwe Election Commission to supervise the polls.

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