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Zimbabwe Urged to Take Action on Electoral Reforms Ahead of Forthcoming General Polls

Jennifer Savage
Jennifer Savage

The United States says President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government needs to take action on its promises to conduct free, fair and credible general elections this year.

This comes at a time when some Americans are already in the country preparing for monitoring the forthcoming general elections to be contested by more than 120 political parties.

President Mnangagwa has promised that the southern African nation will conduct free, fair and credible elections this year following the removal of former president Robert Mugabe from power last November in what Mugabe has described as a military coup.

This will be the first time in 38 years that Zimbabwe will be conducting the elections without Mugabe, who participated in the 1970s liberation struggle against the colonial Ian Douglas Smith regime. Mugabe had ruled the country for more than 37 years and had fallen out of favor with some war veterans, who claimed that he wanted his wife, Grace, to succeed him.

America has already expressed its willingness to make some amendments to the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act if Mnangagwa’s government conducts free, fair and credible elections.

Against this background, Jennifer L. Savage, Charge d' Affairs at the United States Embassy in Harare, on Tuesday met with Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda in the capital, to assess the promised electoral reforms.

“We had a great conversation mainly about the progress on the state of electoral law and electoral reforms and we are proud to hear that the law is progressing and we look forward to the outcomes there. All of it was part of a conversation about both of our shared hopes for extending our bilateral relationship and ensuring that our bilateral engagement is enhanced and deepened and expended and with that we look forward to the progress made on not just the electoral reforms but we look forward to hearing more on having further conversations with the honorable speaker about economic reforms, about reforms on the human rights front, on the governance front …”

Asked to comment on preparations for Zimbabwe’s forthcoming general elections, Savage said President Mnangagwa’s government has not yet implemented its promises that would enable the country to conduct free and credible polls.

“We are looking forward to more progress. I think we have seen some progress to date. We have been very pleased with a lot of the words we have been hearing, a lot of the promises and pledges we have been hearing and we are just looking forward with the implementation of those. We do talk about that but we are looking forward not just about elections … elections are an important step but we are looking forward to elections on a number of pillars, the economic reforms, the human rights reforms and good governance reforms as well as those free, fair and transparent elections. So, I think we are seeing, hearing all the right things. We need to see some action following up on all those things.”

Some opposition parties are not happy with the electoral law, saying it is skewed in favor of the ruling Zanu PF party. On the amendment of Zimbabwe’s electoral law, Savage would not be drawn to comment any further.

“It’s still under consideration. I think we will reserve judgement until it’s finalized.”

Indications are that the United States is eager to see a transparent election this year as the country is in the process of deploying its observers. Savage noted that some Americans are already in Zimbabwe preparing for the forthcoming general elections, expected to be held between July and August this year.

“There are already folks on the ground getting set up, setting up offices and we are hoping that our long-term observers will be coming in the next few weeks and then following that we will have some observers on the ground, particularly even more observers on the ground, right up to election day. So, they are already here.”

Savage also said the United States is helping Zimbabwe in many sectors, including programs focusing on tackling HIV/AIDS.

“We just for example signed an agreement for another $150 million in PEPFAR programming. There will be additional sum for cervical cancer screening. So, health exchange continues. We provide assistance again through implementing partners on demining activities, educational exchange and economic, governance issues, we have a program through the southern African parliamentary support trust. We look forward to continuing on that and hopefully expanding on that.”

America and other nations imposed targeted sanctions on Mugabe and his inner circle following claims of alleged vote rigging and human rights violations.