The Southern African Development Community elections observer mission has endorsed the July 31 elections that gave veteran politician President Robert Mugabe a fresh five-year mandate with more than 60 percent of the vote, saying the polls were free and generally credible.
But the regional bloc’s observer mission noted that some irregularities cast doubt on fairness of the polls.
Presenting SADC’s final report on the disputed elections in Harare Monday, Tanzanian Foreign Minister and head of election observer mission, Bernard Membe, said the voters’ choice was sufficiently expressed in the disputed poll.
He said the election was not as violent as the last disputed polls in 2008 and that campaigning was carried out freely, adding his group was happy about how the Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) handled the polls.
"The elections in Zimbabwe were generally credible. On behalf of the entire SADC, congratulates ZEC and the people of Zimbabwe for holding a free, peaceful and generally credible harmonized elections of July 2013 in which the will of the people was sufficiently expressed," said Membe.
He said the elections were free and peaceful but added the delay by ZEC to release the voters’ roll made it difficult to rule on the fairness of the polls. The voters’ role was only made available to political parties a day before polling began.
Membe cited both the state and independent media for what he called biased coverage of the election. As a result it was difficult to say the elections were fair, he said.
The Tanzanian foreign minister said while political parties like the MDCT found it difficult to be covered by the state media, his mission was informed that opposition groups were getting ample coverage on the so-called pirate radio stations which he said were beaming illegally into Zimbabwe.
He said the ‘pirate stations’ must stop their operations forthwith, adding the region is making efforts to end the broadcasts.
Studio 7 of the Voice of America, SW Radio Africa and Voice of the People are some of the radio stations that broadcast into Zimbabwe on a daily basis. Radio Voice of the People has tried twice to secure a license to broadcast in Zimbabwe but to no avail.
Membe urged leaders in Zanu PF, MDCT and other political parties to fight for the removal of sanctions imposed on Harare by the West following disputed elections in 2002. He said Zanu PF will rule for the next 100 years if the sanctions are not removed.
SADC, said Member, will soon approach the European and the United States to have the sanctions removed.
Official results of the July election gave President Mugabe a 61 percent victory but his main rival Morgan Tsvangirai, who got 33 percent of the vote, says the polls were rigged in favour of the veteran leader and his party. The United States, the European Union and Australia have said the elections were not fair and credible.