HARARE – President Robert Mugabe’s declaration to ban foreign poll observers is “misplaced” and “perilous”, as the move will put the freeness, fairness and credibility of the forthcoming 2018 elections in question, an independent poll watchdog has warned.
Recently, the 93-year-old leader — endorsed as Zanu PF’s presidential candidate — told the Chinese media in Harare that Zimbabwe will not invite foreign observers, arguing that they (foreign observers) work in cahoots with opposition political parties.
“Mugabe’s statements are not only misplaced but perilous, as they further raise a lot of questions as far as the freeness, fairness and credibility of elections is concerned,” Election Resource Centre (ERC) executive director Tawanda Chimhini said.
He said Mugabe cannot be a referee and a player at the same time.
“It is not within President Mugabe’s jurisdiction but the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC)’s mandate to decide who should monitor and observe Zimbabwe’s elections.
“If…Mugabe wants to be a referee in 2018, he must not be a candidate for the 2018 election…Mugabe can’t be a player, referee and the linesman at the same time. Mugabe must be reminded that he is only a player during the 2018 elections,” Chimhini said.
Chimhini insisted that if Mugabe has nothing to hide, “why would he block the accreditation of foreign observers?”
The ERC boss said the move is unexpected since Zimbabwe is a signatory to a number of international bodies, including the United Nations, that seek to promote international best practice on elections.
“What boggles the mind is that Zimbabwe is a signatory to regional and international bodies that have clear guidelines and principles that encourage member states to hold elections adhering to international best practice,” Chimhini said.
He urged Zec to be autonomous in order to champion the interests of Zimbabweans by allowing international observers to observe.
“Honest democratic elections must be an expression of sovereignty, which belongs to the people of Zimbabwe, not the president or the executive,” Chimhini said.
He said “it is naïve, archaic and out of touch with reality in the global village” for a country to bar international observers at a time when they have widely been accepted around the world.
International observers assess election processes in accordance with international principles to ensure genuine democratic elections and domestic law.