VERDICT: What different observer missions said about Zimbabwe’s election


Election observers have been releasing their preliminary reports on Wednesday’s election.

Prominent among the concerns of observers from SADC, the AU-COMESA, the Commonwealth and the EU are issues around the ballot delay on Wednesday, as well as opposition complaints over the voters’ roll, delimitation, and the role of FAZ, a ZANU PF affiliate, in the poll.

Here, we summarise some of the conclusions from the observer teams.

SADC: Some aspects of the poll not up to standard

SADC mission head Nevers Mumba said: “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.”

SADC has criticised ZEC’s handling of the delimitation, saying it may have violated the Constitution. The observer team also criticised ZEC’s delay in releasing the voters’ roll and the role of ZANU PF affiliate FAZ – which the group described as “shadowy”.

EU: Missed opportunity for ZEC

EU Chief Observer Castaldo said: “Ultimately the elections fell short of many regional and international standards, including key principles of equality, universality, transparency and accountability.”

He adds: “While election day was assessed by the EU EOM as largely calm, the election process overall was hampered by significant issues regarding the independence and transparency of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC). The ZEC missed opportunities to increase public trust in the integrity of voting and results management.

Ballot delays, he said, had fueled tensions.

“The failure of ZEC to provide critical electoral material such as paper ballots resulted in many polling stations opening with severe delays, leading to an increasingly tense atmosphere in some locations.”

AU: Peaceful, but concerning

The AU says the elections are an improvement on previous polls, but raised concern over ZEC’s poor administration on voting day, reports of intimidation, and the legal environment.

Says the AU: “The AU-COMESA EOM observed that the 2023 Harmonised Elections were conducted, up to the counting process, in a generally peaceful and transparent manner despite logistical challenges with the availability and distribution of local authority ballot papers in some areas.”

Despite the delays, the AU says 75% of polling stations that it observed closed at 7PM, the legally stipulated time.

Commonwealth: Well conducted, but significant issues

The Commonwealth raised concerns over the election day delays

“In conclusion, our overall assessment of the voting process is that it was well conducted and peaceful. However, there exist a number of significant issues that impact on the credibility, transparency and inclusivity of the process,” the Commonwealth said.

On the vote count, the Commonwealth said: “The count was a detailed and thorough process, carried out by professional, dedicated and resilient polling officials in the presence of attentive party agents and observers. The close and count followed the due process for the most part, with a high degree of transparency.”

What ZEC peers say

Mphasa Mokhochane, the head of Electoral Commissions Forum of SADC countries (ECF-SADC), a body of election management bodies in the region, has praised ZEC for how it has handled the election, but raised concerns over polling day logistical issues.

Mokhochane said they were ‘disappointed’ that some stations were not open on time because ballots were late, but were satisfied that the extension of voting had allowed everyone to vote.

Mokhochane said it was important that voting had been extended to allow everyone to vote.

On the security of the ballot, he added: “The point that the ballot paper up to now, nobody has seen ballot papers thrown on the streets, no one is having a procession with ballot paper. That means all the ballots were secured, it makes those elections credible.”