Chaired by the former President of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama, the group is composed of 23 eminent people from across the Commonwealth. They include specialists in law and human rights, as well as gender, youth and media engagement.
“As independent observers, our mandate is to consider factors that affect the credibility of the electoral process and report on whether the vote has been conducted according to the national, regional, and international standards to which Zimbabwe has committed itself,” said Chairperson Mahama in his arrival statement. “We will perform our role with impartiality, independence and transparency.”
Zimbabwe withdrew from the Commonwealth in 2003. In May, the current President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, wrote to the Secretary-General asking her to initiate the re-admission process. In the same letter, he requested the Commonwealth to observe the July elections. The final report of the observer group will contribute to the Secretary-General’s informal assessment of whether Zimbabwe should re-join the Commonwealth.
For Chairperson Mahama, Zimbabwe’s commitment to democratic principles is especially important. “It was here in Harare, in 1991, that Commonwealth Heads of Government issued a seminal declaration committing their countries to a set of principles, including democracy, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, just and honest government; and fundamental human rights,” he stated.
There are 130 registered political parties – of which 57 will be contesting the elections. For the first time, four women are among the twenty-three Presidential candidates.
The two most prominent parties vying for seats are the current ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and the Movement for Democratic Change – Alliance (MDC Alliance).
Commonwealth observer missions assess whether electoral processes are credible and transparent. They promote good governance, reinforce democracy, protect human rights and the freedom of citizens to choose their leaders.
The Commonwealth Observer team comprises:
- HE John Dramani Mahama, Former President of Ghana (Chairperson)
- Mr Gary Dunn, Former Deputy Secretary-General, Commonwealth Secretariat, Australia
- Mr Darrel Bradley, Former Mayor of Belize City, Member of Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) Board, Belize
- Rev Mpho MW Moruakgomom, President, Association of Local Authorities and Chairperson of Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) Board, Botswana
- Dr Fonkam Azu’u, Former Chairman, Electoral Board, Cameroon
- Ms Sabrina Grover, Strategic Partnerships Advisor, Young Diplomats of Canada, Canada
- Prof John Packer, Conflict Resolution Expert, Canada
- Prof Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, Former Chairman, Electoral Commission, Ghana
- Mr Jayanta Roy Chowdhury, Journalist and Senior Editor, India
- Judge Margarette May Macaulay, Former Judge, Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Jamaica
- Justice Willy Munyoki Mutunga, Retired Chief Justice, Kenya
- Advocate Mary-Ann Ooi Suan Kim, Barrister, Advocate & Solicitor Malaysia
- Dr Francis Agius, Former Minister and Former Head of Parliamentary Delegation to the Council of Europe, Malta
- Mr Tim Barnett, Former Member of Parliament, New Zealand
- Ms Andie Fong Toy, Former Deputy Secretary-General (Political), Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, New Zealand
- Ms Clare A Keizer, Editor-In-Chief of Searchlight newspaper, St Vincent and The Grenadines
- Ms Marcella Sesay Samba, Chairperson National Elections Watch, Sierra Leone
- Ms Janet Love, Commissioner, Electoral Commission, South Africa
- Mr Nikoli Edwards, Former Vice Chairperson Policy, Advocacy and Projects, Commonwealth Youth Council. Trinidad and Tobago
- Prof Sylvia Tamale, Gender Expert, Uganda
- Lord Robert Hayward OBE, Member of the House of Lords, United Kingdom
- The Rt Hon the Baroness Margaret Jay, Member of the House of Lords, United Kingdom
- Judge David Radford, Retired Senior Circuit Judge, United Kingdom