The Southern African Development Community (SADC) launched its electoral observation mission to the 2018 Harmonised Elections in the Republic of Zimbabwe on 21 July, 2018. The launch was led by Honourable Tete António, Secretary of State of the Ministry of External Relations of the Republic of Angola, Head of SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) and representative of the SADC Chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation launched the SEOM on behalf of the Chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation Ministerial Committee of the Organ (MCO).
In his remarks, Hon. Antonio said the mission to the Republic of Zimbabwe was at the invitation of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), a practice in conformity with the SADC Treaty; the SADC Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation and the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections of 2015, which are informed, primarily, by the region's experience of elections in the past three decades.
He further said following the invitation from ZEC, His Excellency João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, President of the Republic of Angola, and Chairperson of the Organ constituted the SEOM to the Republic of Zimbabwe.
The Head of the Mission emphasized that given the political and economic challenges Zimbabwe has faced in the past two decades, SADC attached great significance to the potential of the 2018 General Elections to enable sustainable political and economic prosperity, adding that SADC is ready to extend the necessary assistance that the people of Zimbabwe may require beyond these elections, within the available means.
He further said democratic elections, if professionally managed; and when anchored upon consensus-based rules and international human rights principles, contribute significantly to peace and stability. Conversely, poorly managed electoral processes serve as triggers of conflict.
Representing the SADC Executive Secretary, the Director of Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Affairs at the SADC Secretariat, Mr Jorge Cardoso said elections are an important part of a long established democratic tradition in the SADC Region and are consonant with one of the objectives of the Organ as set out in Article 2 of the Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security which is "to Promote the development of democratic institutions and practices within the territories of state parties". In this regard, he said the 2018 elections in the Republic of Zimbabwe are a continuation of this election observation culture.
Mr Cardoso said that the elections will further contribute to the enhancement of democracy in the Republic of Zimbabwe and in the region. Therefore, all electoral stakeholders in Zimbabwe were called upon and encouraged to embrace inclusiveness and above all, hold peaceful elections.
SADC will deploy a total of 63 Short and Long Term Observers to all the ten Provinces of Zimbabwe. The observers are from 11 SADC Member States, namely Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Namibia, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia.
Upon their arrival on 18 July 2018, the election observers underwent specialised training facilitated by the Electoral Institute for a Sustainable Democracy in Southern Africa (EISA) on various technical aspects of election observation and reporting using Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs).
Furthermore, the training enabled observers to understand the local context; the design and workings of strategic institutions of elections, through interactions with stakeholders such as the Electoral Commission; Political Parties; Police; Civil Society Organizations, faith based organisations and the Media.
The launch was attended by the Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, leaders and representatives of political parties, heads of International Electoral Observation Missions, heads and representatives of the Diplomatic Missions represented in the Republic of Zimbabwe, Members of the SADC Electoral Advisory Council, representatives of local election observers, religious leaders, members of civil society and of the media.
SEOM will issue its preliminary observation statement on 01st August 2018, at the mission headquarters at the Rainbow Towers Hotel, in Harare.