Credible election unlikely – warns global rights watchdog

By Staff Reporter & Agencies

THE credibility of Zimbabwe’s July 30 elections, the first since Robert Mugabe stepped down as president, is at risk due to the government’s failure to implement the reforms necessary to ensure a free and fair vote, according to Human Rights Watch.

The security forces are involved in the electoral process, abusive laws remain in effect and President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu PF party is engaging in violence and intimidation, the New York-based human rights group said Thursday, citing its own interviews and research.

“The ability of voters to freely choose their leaders is in serious doubt. President Mnangagwa needs to go beyond mere rhetoric and take genuine steps to level the playing field for all candidates and their parties,” Dewa Mavhinga, the group’s southern Africa director, told reporters at a press conference in Harare.

“President Mnangagwa’s administration should level the electoral playing field by preventing the military from engaging in partisan politics or interfering in electoral processes and taking strong action to deter violence and intimidation by the military during the campaign period and elections.

“The military leadership should publicly demonstrate its commitment to a fair election process and not interfere with the outcome of the vote.”

The rights watchdog pointed expressed concern over the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), saying it has not demonstrated either independence or impartiality.

“At least 15 percent of ZEC’s secretariat is serving or former military officials. The military should help make the commission more independent and professional by removing serving military officers from the body,” Mavhinga added.

Speaking at the same press conference, Institute of Public Affairs in Zimbabwe (IPAZ) executive secretary Tamuka Chirimambowa said President Mnangagwa should walk his talk of holding free and fair elections.

“Despite Mnangagwa talking beautifully about the election, there has been nothing fundamentally going on. The arena of manipulation strategy has shifted tremendously.

“It has shifted from primitive rigging to the technical administration of the election or subtle means of manipulation.

“There is no voters’ roll seven days before a nomination court sits. You do not need laws to change situations; there should be political will to implement some of these reforms,” Chirimambowa highlighted.