BY EABW REPORTER
HARARE, ZIMBABWE- COMESA has concluded a six days pre-election assessment mission to Zimbabwe, whose objective was to evaluate the state of preparedness for the general elections expected within the next two months.
The nine-member team was led by two members of the COMESA Committee of Elders; Ambassador Ashraf Rashed of Egypt and Hope Kivengere from Uganda. The team conducted 15 consultations and meetings with diverse stakeholders including the electoral body, political parties, security agencies, relevant government ministries, civil society, the judiciary, the academia and the media.
Prior to departure, the team presented a preliminary report to the Chair of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) Justice Priscilla Chigumba and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Sibusiso Moyo.
The report contained a raft of findings as well as recommendations for improving electoral governance including issues relating to voter registration, the management of ballot paper and voters roll, security prior and during elections, media coverage.
The assessment was based on the legal framework governing elections in Zimbabwe and the regional, continental and international standards on the conduct of democratic elections
COMESA mission appreciated the existence of an atmosphere of free expression in Zimbabwe which has allowed citizens to freely express themselves on their political choices, their hopes and concerns. The Mission also noted the strides made in other areas such as the adoption and successful use of the Biometric Voter Registration kits for voter registration, the voter verification exercise including the use of SMS to inform voters on the location of their polling stations, efforts by ZEC to decongest the polling stations during voting day among other things.
“We have noted the freedom with which the stakeholders and the citizens are expressing themselves and this is a major step forward towards deepening democracy in this country,” Ambassador Rashed noted.
COMESA noted the efforts made by the electoral commission and the government to communicate their efforts to the masses and urged them to continue to enhance the communications addressing the concerns raised by different stakeholders. This would further increase public confidence in the electoral process and outcome of the elections.
The electoral body as well as the government pledged to do what it takes to ensure free, fair and credible elections.
Besides assisting Zimbabwe to improve its electoral governance, the pre-election assessment report will form part of the brief for the COMESA election observer mission expected to be deployed during the elections proper.
COMESA’s election-based missions aim at helping its member States strengthen democratic practices, especially in the conduct of elections. This is in line with the COMESA Treaty that calls for the promotion and sustenance of a democratic system of governance in each Member State.