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Tsvangirai: Unity Govt Undecided on International Referendum Observers

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai says unity government principals have not yet made a concrete decision on inviting international observers to monitor Zimbabwe’s fresh elections expected sometime this year, contrary to remarks by the minister of foreign affairs that American and European Union observers will be left out of the national event.

Addressing a news conference Tuesday at his Munhumutapa Offices in Harare following a cabinet meeting and another one with President Robert Mugabe, the prime minister said principals are yet to reach a consensus on the invitation of international observers to monitor the polls.

“Contrary to recent public statements by some government officials, there is no agreed government policy on the banning of international observers from accreditation to observe the referendum and elections in Zimbabwe.

"While they can express their own opinions, no single party is entitled to make public pronouncements of government policy without the agreement of the other parties in the Inclusive government,” said Mr. Tsvangirai.

He further said: “One party’s policies on the issue of international observers do not represent government policy.”

This statement by Mr. Tsvangirai, who is the spokesperson of the unity government principals, differs sharply with the views of Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi.

Mr. Mumbengegwi is on record as saying Zimbabwe will bar EU and American observers from monitoring the country’s elections unless they lifted sanctions imposed on Mr. Mugabe and some senior Zanu-PF officials.

Although the election date is yet to be announced, Mr. Tsvangirai said government still has to mobilize resources from the international donor community to finance the polls.

He said that after the March 16 constitutional referendum, there is still need to synchronize the new constitution and electoral laws as well as implementing key democratic reforms as outlined in the global political agreement of power-sharing.

To this end, Mr. Tsvangirai said there might be need to seek parliamentary approval to extend the life of the unity government.

Turning to the controversial issue of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) barring some local non-governmental organizations from observing the Saturday referendum, Mr. Tsvangirai said the commission should not stop anyone or civil society organizations from observing the polls.

ZEC had refused to accredit to some NGOs that are being investigated by the police for various alleged offenses such as the possession of shortwave radio receivers.

His remarks follow written complaints sent to the prime minister, Mr. Mugabe and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara by some civil society organizations threatening to pull out of the referendum if some of them are barred from observing the referendum.

Meanwhile, Mr. Tsvangirai announced that Supreme Court judge Rita Makarau has been confirmed as the substantive chairperson of the electoral body.

Makarau takes over from retired judge Simpson Mutambanengwe, who resigned last month citing ill-health.