AFRICAN Union Commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma jetted into Harare on Wednesday to gauge the country’s preparations for next week’s elections.
But conspicuous by his absence, about a week before the vote, was former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, the head of the AU observer mission, who was expected to arrive in the country with Dlamini-Zuma.
Speaking to journalists at the Harare International Airport, the former South African home affairs minister said she was not sure whether Obasanjo would be part of the mission adding he could only be available at the invitation of local authorities.
“I think he will come if he is allowed,” Zuma said, when she was asked by journalists as to Obasanjo’s whereabouts.
Asked to elaborate, she responded: “They allowed me to come, the government obviously, is hosting us. That’s all l am saying. Like they have just allowed me to come; so there is no other meaning to it than what l have just said.”
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission deputy chair Joyce Kazembe told a stakeholders update meeting on Wednesday Obasanjo was on his way to Harare.
Members of the roughly 60-strong AU observer team have been deploying in batches. The first group arrived last month.
A group calling itself the Pan African Forum said it had rejected the AU’s decision to name Obasanjo as head of the AU mission.
David Nyekorach-Matsanga, CEO of Pan African Forum, said Obasanjo was too divisive and could create an Egypt-style scenario in Zimbabwe.
The group described former Obasanjo as a traitor who has betrayed Africa during past election monitoring missions around the continent.
Nyekorach-Matsanga said Obasanjo has a dislike for President Robert Mugabe and a “soft spot” for the opposition, something he said could cause a conflict of interest in the election.
“We don’t have any personal hatred against General Obasanjo, but this is a man who can never be trusted to observe any elections in this African continent,” he said.
Nyekorach-Matsanga said the Zimbabwe elections are critical not only to the southern Africa region, but to the whole of Africa.
“We need sober minds, a cool observer, a person who is not erratic, a person who has not betrayed Africa before, a person who has never used double standard, and a person who has never failed election observers before,” he said.
Meanwhile, commenting on her own visit to Zimbabwe, Dlamini-Zuma said they were going to meet ZEC and political players in the country.
“We are here just to talk to a number of people around the elections, electoral commission, candidates just to see how things are before the actual election day,” said Dlamini-Zuma.
“Otherwise we have had a long-term observer team. We have two types of observers, long and short term. The long term observers have been here. They have been across the country, they have been sending us reports so we are fairly informed but we felt it’s important to come and just see and talk to people ourselves just before the elections.”
The visit is Dlamini-Zuma’s first visit to Zimbabwe in her new assumed capacity as AU Commission chief.