PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa appears to have swallowed his pride on his threats to bar foreign observers from observing the August 23 harmonised elections.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), which has largely acted on Mnangagwa’s cue, has flighted a notice inviting international observers to register for the upcoming elections, two months after the Zanu PF leader threatened to bar them.
In a notice, Zec said the deadline for submitting applications is August 18, four days before the country goes to the polls.
“Applications are hereby invited from all persons or international organisations wishing to observe the electoral processes, the conduct on polling day and the counting and collation of ballots,” Zec said.
“Applications shall be considered for accreditation from the following persons: (a) individuals representing foreign countries or international organisations and foreign eminent persons who have applied to be accepted as observers; and
“(b) individuals representing local organisations and eminent persons from within Zimbabwe who have applied to be accepted as observers; and
“(c) individuals representing bodies that exercise functions similar to those of the commission and that have been invited by the commission to observe an election; and
“(d) individuals representing foreign countries or international organisations and foreign eminent persons who have been invited by the minister responsible for Foreign Affairs to observe an election; and
“(e) individuals representing local organisations and eminent persons from within Zimbabwe who have been invited by the minister responsible for Justice and Legal Affairs to observe an election.”
In April, Mnangagwa hinted at barring international observers from “hostile countries” from monitoring the country’s polls.
Writing in his weekly column in a State-controlled newspaper early this week, Mnangagwa said government would only consider countries which have invited Zimbabwe to observe their own elections.
“Going forward as a country and nation which is proudly African and sovereign, we shall be insisting on the principle of reciprocity when it comes to the practice of international election observation,” Mnangagwa wrote.
“The time will soon come when we will not accept that condescending and even racist view of a pecking order when it comes to measuring electoral democracy unfolding in our sovereign countries, and which, in any event, is meant for our people.”
His threats were in stark contrast to his 2018 stance when he invited several observers from Western nations previously banned by his predecessor, the late Robert Mugabe.
Analyst Rejoice Ngwenya said: “Zec is very genuine. ED is sabre-rattling. He needs international observation to legitimise his crooked electoral practices.”
In 2020, Mnangagwa also hinted that Zimbabwe in future may not invite foreign observers for elections, saying the Malawi presidential elections had proven that they were not necessary.
Recently, the European Union said it was ready to send its election observer mission to Zimbabwe to ensure the country holds free and fair elections.
In its notice, Zec pegged the accreditation fee for local observers at US$10, while observers from within the continent will pay US$100.
Observers from foreign embassies in Zimbabwe will pay US$300, while observers from countries outside Africa will pay US$400.
Zimbabwean media practitioners working for foreign media houses will pay an accreditation fee of US$100.
Media practitioners from the continent will pay US$100, while local journalists will pay US$10.
Some observers, however, believe that because Zec is mandated by the Electoral Act in Part IXB sections 40G-40J to accredit or deny accreditation to applicants, foreign observers can still be denied observer status.
“Basically the election period is defined in the Electoral Act as the period between the calling of the election and the declaration of the result of the presidential election or the last result of other elections such as constituency elections,” Zec says on its website.
“Subject to such conditions as may be prescribed, accredited observers may do any of the following things during the election period: Observe the election process; observe the conduct of the polling; be present at the counting or collating of votes cast and the verification of polling station returns by presiding officers; and bring any irregularity or apparent irregularity in the conduct of the poll or the counting or collating of the votes to the attention of the commission.”