Zimbabwe election controversy takes bizarre turn: Zambian President Hichilema breaks SADC protocols

File Pic: His Excellency President ED Mnangagwa with his Zambian counterpart President Hakainde Hichilema

ZAMBIAN President Hakainde Hichilema breached Southern Africa Development Community protocols when he appointed Dr Nevers Mumba, a man with a criminal record, to head the bloc’s Electoral Observer Mission to Zimbabwe.

The country held its harmonised elections on 23 August with President Mnangagwa of Zanu-PF emerging victorious with 52,6 percent of the vote against his closest challenger, Mr Nelson Chamisa, of CCC who garnered 44 percent of the vote.

While most of the observer missions gave the polls a thumbs up, describing the elections as peaceful, credible, free and fair, the SEOM and European Union Observer mission presented adverse reports which largely strayed outside the purviews of their mandates.

The conduct of Dr Mumba also came under the spotlight as he hobnobbed with Mr Chamisa and displayed open bias towards the opposition.

It has since come to light that his appointment by President Hichilema broke Sadc protocols.

Sources also said President Hichilema’s sister-in-law, Ms Natasha Chilunjika, the Zambian Deputy Ambassador to Zimbabwe, is allegedly being used as the conduit through which the opposition CCC party communicates with the Zambian leader.

According to laid out procedures on appointment of head of missions in the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, no convict should be appointed to such a role.

On the category EOM observer profile, the guidelines state that: “Observers should have no criminal record”.

Records show that Dr Mumba was convicted in 2015 for abuse of office for offences he committed when he served as Zambia’s High Commissioner to Canada.

He was charged with two counts of abuse of authority after he failed to follow procedure in the disbursement of US$93 400 (122 000 Canadian dollars) from Barrick Gold, funds meant for a cultural exchange programme which was being conducted in Canada.

Dr Mumba also abused his authority by awarding a contract for electrical works at the Zambian High Commission residence in Canada to a company called Restcon Construction at a cost of CAD$9 000 without following laid down procedures.

The controversy surrounding the appointment of Dr Mumba comes as he is also in the eye of a storm amid allegations of breaking observer guidelines as he went against his expected duties.

Dr Mumba, an appointee of President Hichilema, the current chair of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, exposed himself when he became a mouthpiece of the opposition CCC as he presented an elections report with contents outside his mandate as provided for by the law.

He was at pains to accuse the judiciary of sidelining presidential aspirant Mr Saviour Kasukuwere while deliberately turning a blind eye to the fact that the same judiciary is the one that reinstated 12 CCC Bulawayo National Assembly candidates on the ballot.

Dr Mumba, who touched down at Robert Mugabe International Airport on August 17, instead of addressing issues observed from that time up to the conduction of polls, deliberately decided to tackle delimitation issues concluded last year.

Part of the SADC guidelines on observers are to maintain strict impartiality in the conduct of their duties, and at no time should they express any bias or preference in relation to national authorities, parties and candidates in contention in the Election process.

Furthermore, they will not display or wear any partisan symbols, colours or banners.

Also they shall neither accept nor attempt to procure any gifts, favours or inducements from a candidate, their agent, the parties or any other organisation or person involved in the electoral process.

The other obligations are that the observer missions shall immediately disclose to the relevant SADC structures any relationship that could lead to a conflict of interest with their duties or with the process of the observation and assessment of the elections.

— Herald

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