Top Lawyer: US, UN must demand public assurances from army that they won’t steal polls

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By Sechaba Lunkunku

THE US and the UN should demand public assurances from the military and other security agencies that they will not interfere in the election, a leading Zimbabwean international lawyer has said.

Writing in the Foreign Policy magazine, Sipho Malunga, who has worked for the UN in countries such as the East Timor, said the “military continues to cast a dark shadow over the election”.

He said this was so because of “worrying reports that the military is beginning to interfere in the election by sending more than 2,000 soldiers to rural areas”.

Malunga also narrated how the military has previously saved Zanu PF from defeat and committed atrocities on behalf of the ruling party.

As such, Malunga wrote, “the military can and should publicly signal that those days are done. Zimbabwe has a long road ahead of it, and credible elections are just one step on the path to meaningful reform.”

He added, “This is a moment when the international community has enormous leverage and must push for as much reform as possible immediately.”

Malunga said while President Emmerson Mnangagwa had promised free and fair elections, it was now “time to demand true reform”.

“To help Mnangagwa turn rhetoric into reality, the international community, including the United States, must apply consistent diplomatic and political pressure,” wrote Malunga.

He added, “The international community can use its leverage to ensure the government takes steps to maintain the integrity of this election.

This means ensuring access to the voter rolls so that civil society organizations can conduct an audit, maintaining the independence of Zimbabwe’s election commission, and securing paper ballots to eliminate the possibility of fraud.

The international community can use its leverage to ensure the government takes steps to maintain the integrity of this election.”

He went on, “If Mnangagwa is serious about reform, he must also repeal laws giving the government power to toss political opponents in jail and crack down on public protests as well as Mugabe-era legislation designed to roll back civil liberties, quash independent journalism, thwart the rule of law, and criminalize speech critical of the president. As long as those statutes are on the books, the government can use them to silence critics and opponents.”