Election observers from the Southern African Development Community are scheduled to arrive in Harare on Sunday, a senior SADC official said on Tuesday.
A pre-election assessment team has been in Harare working with the government and the Zimbabwe Electoral commission for two weeks, SADC and other sources said.
Tanki Mothae, director of SADC’s organ on politics, defense and security, said the regional group’s observer mission will arrive in Harare on Sunday.
Mothae, who will lead a separate delegation from the organization's secretariat, said SADC expects to field over 100 observers from various member states. Mothae holds the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Lesotho Defense Forces.
Critics including civil society organizations have complained that SADC should already have deployed observers to assess pre-election conditions, including the registration of voters and public inspection of voter rolls, as well as the general environment.
Mothae told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that SADC is clearly operating within its guidelines which say that an election observer mission should be in place in a country at least two weeks before election day.
Commenting on the deployment, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition National Coordinator Xholani Zitha told Ntungamili Nkomo that the SADC pre-election assessment team should meet with all stakeholders so as to prepare a comprehensive report.
Elsewhere, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has declined to say how soon after the election the results will announced, generating further skepticism as to whether it can properly run a demanding set of elections March 29. Presidential, house, senate and local council elections will be held the same day with separate ballots.
A commission official who declined to be named said ZEC will not commit itself to a date. News website ZimOnline quoted the Zimbabwe Election Support Network as saying results could take up to week to come out as ZEC is not ready logistically.
But National Constitutional Assembly Chairman Lovemore Madhuku told reporter Patience Rusere that results are likely to be announced within two days because Zimbabwe has ample capacity to process all of the ballots quickly.
Meanwhile, some voters in Tsholotsho, Matabeleland North, say they don’t know who to vote for on March 29, blaming insufficient campaigning by candidates as well as the opposition split and Simba Makoni’s late entry into the presidential race.
Correspondent Netsai Mlilo reported from Tsholotsho.