Zimbabwe At Crossroads - Former UN Secretary General

Former U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan with President Emmerson Mnangagwa at the State House in Harare while fellow members of “The Elders” group Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, and Lakhdar Brahimi, an Algerian career diplomat look on.

Harare — The Elders on Saturday wrapped up their three-day visit to Zimbabwe ahead of the July 30 visit and urged mature political campaigning devoid of hate speech as the poll nears.

While rallying Zimbabweans to vote in numbers in the polls, the Elders urged Zimbabweans to put the national interest first, reject all forms of violence and work together to ensure free, fair and transparent elections.

Head of the three-member delegation, former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan told a media conference the upcoming poll was crucial for Zimbabwe.

"This is a crucial election for the country, perhaps as crucial as the first election following independence (in 1980)," he said.

"You are at crossroads and the direction you will decide to move in is going to be extremely important and every Zimbabwean should vote, express their views and not sit back at home and complain after the elections," Annan said.

The Elders is a grouping of eminent global leaders working to promote world peace and human rights. Annan was accompanied by former Ireland President Mary Robinson and former Algerian Foreign Minister Lakhdar Brahimi.

During their visit, the leaders met President Emmerson Mnangagwa, opposition leaders, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) officials, diplomats and civil society groups, among other stakeholders.

Annan hailed the improvement in fundamental freedoms obtaining in the country since end of 2017 and President Mnangagwa's repeated emphasis on free and fair polls.

Annan underscored the need for political leaders to desist from hate speech and focus more on articulating their policies to woo voters.

This comes as hate speech, particularly on social media against Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) women officials and women candidates has been increasing in recent weeks.

"In our discussions with political leaders and civil society we did urge them to watch the language they use. We all know that language can inflame, it can excite but it can also harm. We can discuss without insulting each other.

"We should also try in the last 10 days to encourage the political leaders to talk about their programs. Let's move away from personalities," Annan said.

He said in their speeches, political candidates must discuss more about polices on job creation, economic development and improvement of health services.

"These are the issues of concern to every Zimbabwean. Discourage them from telling you about personalities."

Mary Robinson concurred and decried the vilification of women election officials on social media as well as the low number of women candidates in the polls.

"You have a good constitution as far as gender equality is concerned but I am a little disappointed that although something like 2 million women have registered to vote, the number of women candidates has gone down and there has been a kind of attack of women candidates on social media and elsewhere," she said.

Annan encouraged ZEC to continue improving the electoral field by addressing some of the concerns that have been raised by the opposition on alleged lack of transparency on voters roll and the ballot paper.

"In the last few days some positive progress has been made. There is ongoing discussion and hopefully there is going to be give and take to try and resolve some of the issues before the elections.

"It is important that ZEC is transparent, independent and open to all the political parties," he said.


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