The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Parties Head for Showdown

Parties in the inclusive Government are headed for a showdown on how to handle international observers during the forthcoming referendum and general elections.

Zanu-PF insists that elections should be held under the framework of the amended electoral law, while MDC-T has made other proposals outside the agreement on electoral laws.

MDC-T wants international observers to come for the referendum and stay in Zimbabwe until and after elections.

Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa yesterday said according to the amended electoral law, international observers should come in the country a day before nominations and stay for 15 days after the last polling day.

"All the three parties agreed to the electoral amendments and the issue of international observers will be governed by what is in the electoral law and Sadc principles and guidelines on elections," he said.

"We agreed that the period of observation should be a day before nominations and 15 days after the polling day. Normally we hold our polls over two days.

"The election process begins with the nomination, then the real election time and the post election, meaning the observers should also cover the counting of votes and other things related to that."

Minister Chinamasa said foreigners should apply to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for them to observe the electoral processes in Zimbabwe.

"Those outside the country who want to observe the elections should apply to the Government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs while locals will have to apply to the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs.

"The ministries know who and how to invite the international and local observers," he said.

Minister Chinamasa said there would be another committee to accredit those who would have been invited to observe the polls.

"A committee will accredit those who would have applied and the committee would include officials from the Department of Immigration and Zimbabwe Electoral Commission."

Minister Chinamasa anything outside the electoral laws would be unacceptable.

"Those calling for more proposals are just expressing their wish."

However, MDC-T secretary general Mr Tendai Biti said they wanted international observers to stay in Zimbabwe for a longer period.

"We want, not just local observers, but those from the international community also," he said.

"Our demand as a party is that once these observers come for the referendum, they should stay in the country up until election time.

"If they want farms we will give them and if they want husbands or wives we will give them."

MDC secretary general Mrs Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga was singing a different tune.

She said the parties agreed that the issue of international observers would be discussed within the context of Jomic.

"We have already agreed on that and Jomic will come up with proposals on how and when we need these observers and that is what we will follow," she said.

Principals to the Global Political Agreement endorsed the amendments that are now part of the amended Electoral Act.

The amendments were enacted into law in September last year.

The referendum is provisionally slated for end of March followed by election sometime this year.

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