|Rigging fears heighten as number of observers slashed
By Lance Guma
20 June 2008
The independent Zimbabwe Election Support Network says out of 8,800 local monitors accredited to cover the March 29 poll, only 500 have been approved to monitor the June 27 presidential run-off. The deliberate cutback in numbers has heightened fears that Mugabe’s regime is planning to rig the upcoming election. ZESN submitted the names of 23 000 monitors to the Ministry of Justice but were told the presence of observers, ‘disrupts the smooth flow of voting.’ In an interview with the UK Financial Times, Noel Kututwa, ZESN board chairperson said, ‘the idea is to make it impossible to do what we did (in the first round). It will be very difficult but not impossible.’
After the first round vote ZESN director Rindai Chipfunde was arrested by police as she arrived at Harare International Airport from abroad. Police claimed they wanted to question her about the elections results collated by her group. Since then several ZESN observers have been brutally murdered, attacked and tortured. Various countries, including Tanzania, Swaziland and Angola have come out to declare that the elections will never be free and fair. Tanzanian Foreign Minister Bernard Membe, representing the 3 countries, said some of the observers in the country had seen two people shot dead in front of them. ‘We have told the Government of Zimbabwe to stop the violence,’ he said.
Meanwhile ANC President Jacob Zuma on Thursday told a Financial Times dinner that the ANC will be sending observers as part of the 400-strong SADC observer mission. ‘Our contribution to this mission includes 14 Members of Parliament and 15 other members,’ Zuma said. He has already expressed doubts the election will be free and fair.