HARARE – African Union (AU) is deploying observers this week to troubled Zimbabwe to monitor the run-up to bitterly contested polls, the AU said yesterday.
The AU’s Democracy and Electoral Assistance Unit said the observers have been invited to monitor parliamentary and presidential elections.
The AU’s decision was announced as Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court ordered President Robert Mugabe two weeks back to stage the polls by July 31, a date immediately rejected by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, arguing it was too early and accusing him of creating a political crisis.
On Saturday, southern African leaders meeting in the Mozambican capital Maputo at a special summit told Zimbabwe principals to ask the Constitutional Court to seek an extension of the deadline by two weeks.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, African Union Commission chairperson, approved the deployment of the “Long Term Observers (LTO) Mission to the scheduled July 2013 general elections in the Republic of Zimbabwe.”
“The Democracy and Electoral Assistance Unit of the Department of Political Affairs of the African Union Commission, has in effect concluded plans as mandated by the Commission for the deployment of the African Union Long Term Observers to Zimbabwe on June 15 until August 14, 2013,” said a statement issued yesterday.
“The LTOs are expected to be joined by the Short Term African Union Election Observer Mission one week to Election Day.”
The Zanu PF leader — who faces his greatest electoral challenge in 33 years of power — has said Western countries, pointedly the 27-nation European Union and the US, were not welcome to observe the poll.
Mugabe repeatedly accuses former colonial power Britain, the EU and US of being behind Zimbabwe’s political crisis which has been driven by a dispute over the takeover of white-owned land.
He has said he will not allow in observers from Western countries, which he accuses of backing the opposition.
The AU observer team draws its mandate from various African Union Instruments and most importantly the AU Guidelines on African Union Election Observation and Monitoring Missions of 2002, the OUA/AU Declaration on Principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa of 2002, the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, 1981 and African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG) of 2007 and the African Union Long-Term Observation Framework 2012.
“The mission will remain in constant interaction with the AU Commission and submit weekly report to the Chairperson through the Democracy and Electoral Assistance Unit prior to the scheduled July 2013 Election,” said the statement.
Dlamini-Zuma told a news conference in Geneva earlier this week that the Zimbabwe courts have said the elections must take place and no one should second guess the courts.
“ And so do we listen to the courts? Or do we not listen to the courts?” Dlamini-Zuma said.
“I thought a lot of you have always been talking to us about the rule of law and respect for the Judiciary. So I don’t know. The Zimbabweans must sort it out, whether they listen to the Judiciary and go with what the Judiciary has said, or whether they ignore it.”
Mugabe invoked emergency powers to bypass Parliament and fast-track changes to the Electoral Act and declare the voting date.
Patrick Chinamasa, Justice and Legal Affairs minister has said there was no need for the media or security reforms that Tsvangirai and leader of the smaller MDC Welshman Ncube says must be enacted before an election takes place. – Gift Phiri, Political Editor