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NGOs Press SADC for More Reforms in Zimbabwe

Members of the Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) group, march on the streets of Harare. (AP)
About 50 Zimbabwean non-governmental organizations have petitioned the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to remain true to its commitment for peaceful, free and fair elections in Zimbabwe.

In a civic society joint petition issued during a press conference Friday in Maputo, Mozambique, ahead of the SADC heads of state special summit on Zimbabwe, the coalition said the regional leaders should press for the required minimum conditions before Zimbabwe holds general elections.

The coalition seeks SADC to ensure Harare implements a transparent voter registration process, people and parties have equal access to all media during the election period, there is impartiality by constitutional bodies, deployment of local and international observers and freedom of voter preferences, among others.

The groups said they specifically petitioned SADC on the issue of funding for the elections, adding that any financial support for the election be expressly conditioned on compliance with previous SADC communiqués, principals and guidelines governing democratic elections.

The representatives said SADC should “insist on the transparent and non-partisan handling of funds and their distribution in the various stages and elements of the electoral process.”

Other key issues sought by the organizations include the alignment of the existing laws with the new constitution, an agreed framework on violence and significant security sector and media reforms.

Focusing on security sector reforms, which have been a top issue, the NGOs said SADC must institute a mechanism or code for monitoring the adherence of security sector personnel to their constitutional and professional mandates.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition spokesman Thabani Nyoni, said SADC leaders should press for reforms in Zimbabwe before the country holds elections.

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The NGOs which petitioned SADC included the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, ZimRights, Election Resource Center Zimbabwe, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, among several others who were already in Maputo for the regional bloc summit which was deferred indefinitely due to lack of a quorum.