Dark cloud over Zimbabwe polls

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

THE PORTENTS for free and fair elec­tions in Zimbabwe at the end of this month do not look very good. A “dry run” of spe­cial early vot­ing for per­son­nel such as se­curi- ty forces who will be on duty on elec­tion day on July 31 was by most ac­counts sham­bolic, with thou­sands re­port­edly not able to make their mark this past week as polling sta­tions opened late and many lacked the ba­sic necessities such as vot­ers’ rolls and bal­lot pa­pers.

South Africa’s chief en­voy on the Zimbabwe me- di­a­tion process Lindiwe Zulu said: “The process has got chal­lenges, we can’t deny that be­cause we’ve seen what info has been com­ing out dur­ing the spe- cial vote.”

Prob­lems are mount­ing at an alarm­ing rate. With the vote due in less than two weeks, the coun­try is still try­ing to raise the $132 mil­lion bud­get re- quired to fund it.

“We are do­ing ev­ery­thing we can to make sure that we have suf­fi­cient re­sources to fund the elec- tions,” Fi­nance Min­is­ter Tendai Biti ad­mit­ted.

The South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC), which will play a key ob­server role dur­ing the elec­tions, is set to hold an ex­tra­or­di­nary sum- mit in Pre­to­ria to­day to dis­cuss Zimbabwe’s readi­ness for the pres­i­den­tial and leg­isla­tive elec­tions.

But with Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe set to bull- doze ahead with the elec­tions, ques­tions need to be asked about how cred­i­ble the polls are likely to be.

The African Union, af­ter its Peace and Se­cu­rity Coun­cil meet­ing yes­ter­day, said that it was pos­si­ble to have free and fair elec­tions in Zimbabwe in two weeks’ time. “But we can­not guar­an­tee that it will be the most per­fect or op­ti­mum of sit­u­a­tions,” AU com­mis­sioner for po­lit­i­cal af­fairs on Zimbabwe Aisha Ab­dul­lahi said rather limply.

The SADC must play hard­ball to­day to en­sure ev­ery­thing is done to en­sure a sem­blance of nor-

mal­ity when Zim­bab­weans cast their vote.

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