WASHINGTON — A mini-summit of the Southern African Development Community Saturday night in Pretoria, South Africa, said the regional bloc will do all it can to ensure a credible poll in Zimbabwe. It noted problems that affected the July 14 and 15 special, or early, vote for members of the uniformed forces, but a communiqué released Sunday morning following the SADC troika on defense, politics and security meeting expressed no doubts about the main election on July 31.
But speaking with journalists following the summit, President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania said SADC would have been happier had Harare heeded its advice to delay the polls, as the fast approaching deadline would make organizing a proper election extremely difficult.
"We would have wished that our advice would have been heeded," said Mr. Kikwete, describing the effort of organizing an election within a month as “very stessful…to have everything organised, you know, it is quite a mammoth task.”
The SADC communiqué also said it was pleased that all political parties were committed to a peaceful environment during the elections.
The “summit encouraged the government, all political parties and leaders to continue with these commendable efforts which will help realise credible elections,” the communiqué stated.
The troika commended the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) for “taking these up as challenges to be overcome on the 31st of July, and called upon all political parties to co-operate as fully as possible with ZEC in order to ensure that it is able to meet these challenges.”
Thousands of officers from the uniformed forces failed to cast their ballots in the special vote as polling stations opened late and many lacked indelible ink, stamps, voter rolls or ballot papers and boxes. This raised concerns that polling stations may also not be prepared for the July 31 election, when millions are expected to cast their ballots.
SADC had asked that the July 31 presidential and parliamentary elections be postponed, ostensibly to allow Harare time to implement democratic reforms in the media and state security sectors.
But the constitutional court insisted the polls be held on July 31.
President Jacob Zuma hosted the four-nation summit, which was attended by Kikwete and Mozambique’s President Armando Guebuza. Namibia’s Foreign Minister Netumbo Ndaitwa stood in for President Hifikepunye Pohamba.