Southern Africa: Tsvangirai Envoy Briefs SADC Leaders

MINISTER of State in Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's office Jameson Timba says MDC-T wants Sadc to set special conditions for Zimbabwe's next polls in addition to the regional bloc's principles and guidelines governing democratic elections.

Timba, who is also the party's secretary for international relations, last week made whirlwind trips to Malawi, Tanzania and Botswana before visiting Mozambique on Wednesday and Angola yesterday to lobby regional leaders for an extraordinary summit on Zimbabwe before the next polls.

The MDC-T believes the recent crackdown on civil society and the death of 12-year old Headlands boy Christpowers Maisiri, which the party blames on a Zanu PF arson attack, is an indication of how the country is likely to plunge into violence if special emphasis is not placed on Zimbabwe by Sadc.

"There are already tell-tell signs that we are heading for an electoral environment which is intolerable; an electoral environment which does not augur well for peaceful elections and we have several examples - the killing of Christpowers, the banning of radios and a crackdown on civil society organisations," said Timba.

While we appreciate that Sadc has come up with principles and guidelines for the conduct of elections in the region, in Zimbabwe these are not enough. There is need for these guidelines to be adjusted to suit the special circumstances prevailing in Zimbabwe.

"We will need-term observation for elections. The guidelines state that observers must come two weeks before elections but in our case we will require a longer term.We also need them to stay longer after the elections and we believe five to six weeks will be ideal."

The Sadc observer team is expected to arrive in the country tomorrow for next Saturday's referendum, and indications are that some members of the team may remain in Zimbabwe until general elections are held.

Timba said the MDC-T is pushing for a code of conduct to govern how political parties behave during the election period, and it also wants key institutions, "particularly the security sector", to stop political interference.

He said his party believes Zimbabwe's security forces remain partisan.

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