SW Radio Africa (London)

Zimbabwe: SADC to Observe Referendum

The regional SADC bloc will send observers to monitor the country's referendum on the new constitution, expected to be held in March this year, a senior MDC-T official has said.

Tendai Biti, the MDC-T lead negotiator, announced in Harare on Tuesday that his party was glad that the regional bloc was sending observers for the forthcoming referendum.

It is believed the issue of observers was discussed during a meeting between party negotiators and President Jacob Zuma's facilitation team, who were in Harare this week.

Last month a row over the role of international poll observers threatened to scuttle the electoral process as ZANU PF maintains that Zimbabwe has the capacity to hold free and fair elections without observers' prying eyes.

Leader of the smaller MDC, Welshman Ncube, told journalists recently that international observers should be a pre-condition. ZANU PF is the only party in the inclusive government that is not comfortable having observers from countries that imposed targeted sanctions against Mugabe and his cronies.

Ncube confirmed to the Daily News newspaper last month that having SADC and the Non-Aligned Movement as observers is not contested, but ZANU PF will not allow the European Union. He queried why, if they had nothing to hide, they were afraid of having observers to monitor the elections.

The disputed 2008 harmonized elections sparked off massive electoral violence that saw over 500 MDC-T supporters killed, thousands more maimed and around half a million others fleeing their homes.

Analysts warn there is a high risk of a repeat of this violence around the country during the elections. A long and chaotic constitutional making process and regular outbreaks of intimidation from ZANU PF supporters have done little to instill confidence that peace will prevail during the electioneering period

Mutsa Murenje, a South African based political analyst, told SW Radio Africa that the inclusive government should invite international observers for the referendum, and not leave it to SADC alone.

'The reason why international observers must be invited, apart from regional and local observer, is to help ward off potential problems and legitimize the process if it is deemed free and fair,' Murenje said.

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