The South African government has called on Zimbabwe to fully implement revisions of repressive security and media laws passed by parliament and signed by President Robert Mugabe under the auspices of South African-mediated crisis talks.
South African Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dhlamini Zuma said the elections in Zimbabwe can be free and fair if amended security and press laws are fully applied
The appeal from Pretoria comes amid reports of political violence and intimidation in the approach to presidential, general and local elections set for March 29.
"If the Zimbabweans implement everything that have agreed upon during their negotiations on matters that had kept them apart -- if they implement the laws passed by parliament around security, information, media and all those laws ... the prospects for free and fair elections should be good," Dlsmini Zuma said.
"The important thing is all those things should be implemented now in the run-up to elections and during the elections," she said in a joint news conference with her New Zealand counterpart, Winston Peters, on a visit to South Africa.
Amendments to the Public Order and Security Act and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act - both widely regarded as repressive - should have relaxed conditions for holding public meetings and rallies and resulted in more even-handed coverage of opposition political activities by state media. But police in many parts of the country routinely bar rallies and state media trumpet government positions.
Elsewhere, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace says it sees clear evidence in the current political environment that the elections will not be free and fair.
The commission said that with six weeks to go until the elections, preparations have been inadequate and voter education has fallen short. It called for postponement of the elections and the dissolution of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.
Meanwhile, police in Masvingo Province were said to have banned rallies for a month on grounds that the political climate is too volatile. There have been reports of political violence in Masvingo between political parties and within parties as well.
Masvingo has more candidates than any other province who have defied their party to run for office despite having failed to secure the candidacy in primary balloting.
House candidate Tongai Matutu of the Movement for Democratic Change formation led by Morgan Tsvangirai told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that although the campaign is getting into full swing it is difficult to organize rallies.