South Africa will send an observer mission with 54 members drawn from government, the parliament, the political opposition and civil society to Zimbabwe to watch elections on March 29, a spokesman for the South Africa Department of Foreign Affairs said.
South Africa previously observed elections in Zimbabwe independently, but Foreign Affairs Department spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said the group, scheduled to leave for Zimbabwe on March 20, would operate under the auspices of the Southern African Development Community rather than as a stand-alone bilateral delegation.
SADC says its observer mission of about 80 officials form the region is due in Harare on Sunday. The regional grouping expects to have around 150 observer delegates in place before the country's presidential, house, senate and local elections.
Political analyst Farai Maguwu told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that by observing the elections under the SADC banner, South Africa appears to be aiming to avoid a repeat of the controversy generated when it endorsed the outcome of the 2005 general elections, particularly following President Thabo Mbeki’s failure - according to most observers - to mediate a crisis solution.