OBSERVERS to the June 27 presidential run-off started arriving in the country this week amid concerns by stakeholders that their arrival was too late given the wave of political violence that swept through the country since the March 29 elections.
The MDC has claimed that suspected Zanu PF activists and war veterans, acting in cahoots with security forces, in a crackdown that has drawn wide criticism from within Zimbabwe and beyond, have murdered 66 of its officials, supporters and activists.
Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC leader, while addressing a press conference in Harare said it was apparent that Zanu PF was behind the violence.
“It is quite clear that the loser has embarked on a violent campaign against the masses. It is obvious that it is the loser who has a score to settle with the people because they did not vote for him, hence the violence that has been witnessed,” Tsvangirai said.
About 400 observers from Sadc will be dispatched to various parts of the country to monitor the electoral environment as well as conduct.
Apart from the Sadc team of observers, the Zimbabwe Independent witnessed a team from the Pan African Parliament (PAP) observer mission doing the rounds in central Harare while other organisations friendly to the Zimbabwe government are expected in the country next week.
The United Nations (UN) said it was willing to send an observer team, but was yet to be invited by the government.
Sources within the Sadc observer body told the Independent yesterday that their visit to Zimbabwe was more of a formality as nothing concrete or binding would come out of the mission.
“We are here as always. Some of us come from countries where our leaders would make statements that do not really mean anything to the people of Zimbabwe,” one of the observers said.
“You are bound to hear statements like this election was free and fair. The usual stuff.”
He added that what further exacerbated the situation was the divisions within the bloc itself, with some member states rallying behind President Robert Mugabe while others were in favour of a more critical approach.
South Africa has been the chief architect of the moves to provide cover to Mugabe through its president, Thabo Mbeki.
Despite all the international pressure, Mbeki has stood firmly in favour of Mugabe, leaving many local and international analysts wondering about Mbeki’s impartiality when mediating in the Zimbabwean crisis.
“The biggest challenge is to have Sadc having one voice on the issue of the election,” said the observer.
“That point where we have differing views on the same situation is worrying to say the least. If there is violence, then let us all say so. African leaders need to be united in condemning these acts of violence.”
The observers said they had been given operational times in which they would conduct their business of monitoring and observing the poll.
Sources revealed that they had been ordered, unofficially though, to conduct their operations from morning until as late as 5pm. This, the sources said, was unheard of, as they were conscious of the fact that violence and intimidation was done under the cover of darkness.
“Some people have told us that we can not exceed 5pm hours when we are doing our runs because it is pretty dangerous for us to do so,” the observer said.
“This is impossible because for us, we are clear of the fact that violence happens at night and if we are to be active enough, we will get to come across these incidents of violence and intimidation,” the observer said.
Dispatching the observers, the director of the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence, Peace, and Security, Tanki Mothae, said there was need for observers to be “careful of our statements”.
“We need to be very careful of the statements that we make when we are out there. These should not be individual statements as they are bound to put the organisation into disrepute. The main purpose of Sadc is to assist the people of Zimbabwe to go through this (election) peacefully and smoothly,” Mothae said.
The arrival of the observer teams comes in the wake of a pledge by the United States government that it would pour into the observation process of the presidential run-off US$7 million.
US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters that the US government would avail the money through its channels to enable the observer teams to carry out their work as effectively as possible.
“We are going to contribute US$7 million to the election observer effort. The money is not only to ensure that there are proper, sufficient numbers from countries that are going to supply the observers, but that they have the resources to do their job on the ground,” McCormack told journalists during a briefing on Wednesday.
By Nkululeko Sibanda