HomeLocalFree and fair climate must precede polls — Fishmongers

Free and fair climate must precede polls — Fishmongers

THE Friends for Zimbabwe Group that met in Copenhagen, Denmark, last week to discuss the state of the inclusive government, debt relief, public finance administration and sanctions has called for credible, legitimate and violence-free elections that are accepted by the people.

The international group, also known as the Fishmongers Group, said in a statement there should be a free and fair environment before elections are held in Zimbabwe.
The call by the Fishmongers, which include the United States, Britain, Japan, Germany, France, Sweden, Holland, Norway, Canada and Australia, comes after President Robert Mugabe announced a possible election mid next year despite criticism from business and human rights organisations that the country was not ready for polls.
“Credible and legitimate elections in line with Sadc guidelines, free of violence and acceptance of the will of the people are central to the democratic transformation in Zimbabwe,” they said.
“To reach this point, the Zimbabwean government would need to create the enabling environment, and agree on and implement significant reforms as stipulated in the GPA. Zimbabweans should not face violence and intimidation to cast their votes.” 
The aim of the group is to provide economic and humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe for support and recovery.
The meeting was also attended by representatives from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), United Nations, World Bank and African Development Bank (ADB).
Sadc-appointed mediator President Jacob Zuma last month called on the three principals to come up with a road map first before elections.
“We welcomed ongoing regional efforts to support democratisation in Zimbabwe and we actively encourage regional actors, and Sadc and South Africa in particular, to further assist Zimbabwe in ensuring the conditions for credible, legitimate and peaceful elections,” said the group.
The group agreed to continue providing assistance to the inclusive government and is expected to give the country US$500 million in 2011.
“We commended the significant gains in macroeconomic stabilisation and encourage the continuation of efforts aimed at strengthening economic recovery, the promotion of enhanced transparency and the implementation of structural and legal reforms including the protection of property rights that will help attract foreign investment,” the Fishmongers said.
“Collectively, we are intensifying our efforts to support democratic reform, enhance the livelihoods of the poor and restore basic services. (The group’s) programmes benefit Zimbabweans regardless of political persuasion.”
The group went further to say: “For example, through the now operational ZimFund, support is provided for the rehabilitation of water and power delivery systems. In 2010, every child in primary school has been provided with new text books, and 600 000 households have received agricultural inputs. In 2011, we expect our collective programmes to total more than US$500 million.”
ZimFund is a multi donor trust fund for Zimbabwe that is managed by the African Development Bank (ADB) whose purpose is to contribute to early recovery and development efforts in Zimbabwe by mobilising donor resources and promoting donor coordination in Zimbabwe.
Last month, ADB approved two local projects requiring US$58 million, namely water and sanitation aimed at rehabilitating projects in Harare, Mutare, Masvingo, Kwekwe and Chegutu and power and environmental projects. The proposed power project is aimed at rehabilitating portions of power supply network and improve environmental and safety management at Hwange Thermal Power Plant and power transmission and distribution.
Though the Fishmongers welcomed the progress made so far by the inclusive government, for instance the restoration of basic services, the constitutional process, launching of Human Rights, Media and Electoral Commissions and “a significant improvement in macroeconomic management,” the group said a lot still needed to be done.
“However, serious concerns remain relating to the protection of fundamental rights, the rule of law, governance and respect for agreements,” said the group.
They are promoting enhanced transparency and the implementation of structural and legal reforms including the protection of property rights that will help attract foreign investment.
“We look to the International Financial Institutions to deepen their engagement, including, inter alia, an IMF Staff-Monitored-Programme when all requirements have been met,” said the group.
The group also called for transparency in the exploitation of natural resources in a manner that empowers and benefits the people saying that compliance with commitments under the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme for rough diamonds is of critical importance.
“Increasing state revenue and a strengthened public finance system provides an opportunity to improve living conditions of ordinary Zimbabweans.”

Wongai Zhangazha

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