The SADC observer mission has sharply criticised Zimbabwe’s election, saying parts of the poll fall short of regional and national standards.
It is an unprecedented criticism of Zimbabwe’s election by SADC, which has in the past been slammed by critics for endorsing flawed elections in the country.
In a preliminary report released by the observer group, Nevers Mumba, head of the mission, said while the lead-up to the poll had been peaceful, delays in the delivery of voting material on election day dented the credibility of the poll.
“The mission observed that the pre-election and voting phases of 23-24 August harmonised election were peaceful and calm. However, the mission noted that some aspects of the harmonised elections fell short of the requirements of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the Electoral Act and SADC principles governing democratic elections,” Mumba said.
ZEC delays on voting day disenfranchised voters, as some left before they could vote. He says ZEC had assured observers that it was ready to deploy enough material. The delays
Before election day, ZEC had assured our mission, and other stakeholders, that all necessary voting materials, including ballots, were available and ready for use,” Mumba said. “The subsequent information from ZEC that they did not have adequate ballot papers has the unfortunate effect of creating doubts about the credibility of this process.”
Mumba criticised the role of ZANU PF affiliate FAZ. Mumba said his team had observed FAZ officers setting up desks near polling stations, which he said intimidated voters.
“These and other unidentified persons, who were not polling officers, were observed taking down voters’ names before casting their votes.”
SADC also criticised Zimbabwe’s “Patriot Act”, saying it restricts free expression. According to Mumba, in his interactions with the opposition and other activists, they told him that even meeting SADC would likely get them arrested under the law.
State media also came in for SADC criticism.
“While the mission noted some improvements compared to 2018, the content of the public broadcaster and the state-owned newspapers were in favour of one political party contrary to the relevant provisions of the Constitution, the Electoral Act, and the revised SADC guidelines on democratic elections, which require state-owned media to be impartial,” SADC says.
Over recent days, the state-controlled Herald has attacked Mumba, accusing him of siding with the opposition.