SADC election observer chief hits back at Zanu-PF

The head of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM), Nevers Mumba, has hit back at Zanu-PF for its attack on the regional body’s elections team over its damning report on Zimbabwe’s “irregular” elections.

Mumba, a former Zambian Vice-President and leader of the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy, dismissed criticisms made by Zanu-PF spokesperson Christopher Mutsvangwa as “laughable”, saying the mission was here to observe and make “well-intentioned” recommendations.

SEOM condemned Zimbabwe’s just-ended harmonised elections, saying the polls failed to meet the requirements of the country’s own constitution and SADC principles and guidelines governing democratic elections.

After SEOM’s presentation, Zanu PF called for a press meeting, where its Secretary for Information and Publicity accused Dr Mumba of reporting on his own personal opinion to discredit the country’s polls and not reflecting the SADC electoral principles.

However, Mumba said the claims made by Zanu PF were “ridiculous”.

“The reason we did not comment or answer it but laughed about it, it’s a ridiculous statement,” he said in another briefing.

“We came here to observe every participant. Just a day before we were with President Mnangagwa and we did many things there. Before then, the first group we met was Zanu PF Secretary General, Mr (Obert) Mpofu with his entire team, exchanging ideas.”

Mumba added: “So if you take a picture with me and Mr Mpofu and you support CCC then create a story that he is favouring Zanu PF then you don’t understand the role of observers.”

The SEOM head explained that their role as observers meant going to polling stations and taking note of what was happening there.

“If we don’t go, how will we observe? Observing means we are seeing, so we went to see but we did not go with (Nelson Chamisa). That was the naughtiness of that story and that is why we did not answer it… We were at that polling station when Mr Chamisa came. We made no contact with him. We didn’t speak with him, we were observing from far, he left without any eye contact and if that is wrong, then why are we here?” Mumba asked.

“Why do we come here and put on these jackets, if not supposed to see what these people are doing, what if he had been beaten there or he claims that he was not allowed to vote, how will we know, how do you stand by that as an observer?”

The SEOM head explained elections had to be conducted correctly in order to avoid questions.

“Let me be clear about this country Zimbabwe and I hope it doesn’t get me into trouble again. This is where President Mugabe comes from, a man who really explained to us in the region what it means to be nationalistic. We must get it out of our minds that (we do elections because ) you are West or East. Some of us (do them in line with) the SADC principles. We don’t do these elections for the West and East. We do them for ourselves,” Mumba said.

“If you are not original in the manner we do the elections, we always point at each other. If they are voting in America do they say we are in Africa or Asia’s side.  They just vote for their side. Let’s get away from that and concentrate on what is our interest as Africa and Africans is. As we vote, let’s not always say we are doing it for this one or that one, Let’s do it for ourselves.  It is important for me to clear that. I didn’t want to talk about it but you started it.  We were basically doing our job. We were sent by our bosses from Botswana to make sure that we do the right thing.”

Mumba’s preliminary findings at a press briefing in Harare Friday, cited the involvement of FAZ in the poll process, delays in release of the voters’ roll and failure to deliver ballot papers on time in a lot of polling stations.

He said ZEC’s delay in releasing the voters’ roll, failure to make it searchable and analysable, and the high fees levied for its access were restrictive and affected stakeholders from verifying the veracity of the crucial poll document.

Mumba said his mission also noted infringement on freedom of assembly through use of the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act (MOPA) by Zimbabwean authorities and the high number of litigation cases surrounding the elections, critically the process of nominating candidates.

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