Mandaza urges ban on ‘biased’ AU, Sadc observers

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TOP academic and publisher Ibbo Mandaza has called for the banning of African missions from observing elections on the continent insisting they were a “disaster” as shown through alleged partisanship towards incumbents.

Mandaza was speaking during a Sapes Trust policy dialogue forum on Tuesday.

The event, one of a series often convened by the NGO, was patronised by the Japanese ambassador to Zimbabwe Toshiyuki Iwado, his staff and civil society activists, among some.

In his comments, Mandaza, often solicited for views on politics by both local and international media, said the involvement of biased observer missions from the continent raised confidence issues around elections in different countries.

“Until the confidence factor is resolved, I think we have serious problems,” Mandaza said.

“Observers now are coming into question. Take the Kenyan example, Thabo Mbeki and others are blessing the elections.”

He was referring to the former South African President who led the AU mission which later gave Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election August last year a clean bill of health.

The poll outcome was later overturned by Kenyan judges amid allegations of poll fraud by the opposition.

Zimbabwe is currently hosting a group of SADC observers who came into the country to assess the electoral environment ahead of national elections in the next few months.

The poll observer group congratulated Foreign Affairs Minister Sibusiso Moyo following his elevation to the influential portfolio last year.

Moyo, a virtually unknown top soldier at the time, became a celebrity overnight when he made the popular television announcement on behalf of the military, indicating they had seized control of government from then President Robert Mugabe in November last year.

“There is a bunch of SADC observers who are here making very profound statements on arrival,” Mandaza said Tuesday.

“Should we trust observers, or should we ban observers? What use are they, really? The SADC and AU observer missions have been a disaster and if it were not for the Common Wealth Observer Mission in 2002 and EU, it might be a different narrative in this country.”

Mandaza’s comments followed lawyer and rights activist Tony Reeler’s presentation in which he said while referring to a recent research that ordinary African citizens did not believe elections on their different lands were a credible source of achieving democracy.

He added: “Should we have observers only who are credible and therefore objective than partisan ones which are likely to be the case with the AU and SADC. They are partisan. We had a coup in this country but neither AU nor SADC have said so in the face of a blatant coup.

“Should we trust AU and SADC observers? I think not. They should be disqualified from observing. Until they can be proven that they are objective which they are not, I don’t think we should rely on them at all.”

Since the 2002 elections which the EU observers dismissed as skewed in favour of then incumbent President Mugabe, the Zanu PF led regime has refused to open its doors to western observers citing inherent bias against it.

However, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has pledged to invite western observers for Zimbabwe’s harmonised elections slated for later this year.