Since 13th October, 2020, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has undertaken a series of virtual engagements with key electoral stakeholders in preparation for the Presidential and National Assembly Elections scheduled for 22-24 October, 2020 in the Republic of Seychelles and General Elections in the United Republic of Tanzania to be held on 28October, 2020.
The virtual engagements with key electoral stakeholders in the two Member States follows the decision taken during the Extraordinary Meeting of the Ministerial Committee of the Organ (MCO) on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, held on 15 September 2020, not to deploy a physical SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) to the Republic of Seychelles and United Republic of Tanzania due to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In line with the provisions of the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections (2015), H.E. Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, President of the Republic of Botswana, and the Chairperson of the SADC Organ, appointed Hon. Dr. Lemogang Kwape, Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation of the Republic of Botswana, and Chairperson of the MCO, to head the SADC virtual engagements with electoral stakeholders to assess the preparedness of the two countries for the elections and the extent to which they have complied with the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections in the absence of a physical deloyment of election observers.
In his statement marking the launch of the SADC Virtual Engagement to the elections in the two SADC Member States, Hon. Dr. Kwape urged all electoral stakeholders to ensure that the elections are conducted in a peaceful, free, fair, transparent and credible manner, and in line with democratic values and principles envisioned in the SADC Treaty, the SADC Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation; and the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.
Hon. Dr. Kwape is being supported by the Alternate Head of Mission, Hon. Dumezweni Meshack Mthimkhulu who is the Assistant Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration of the Republic of Botswana, the SADC Executive Secretary, Her Excellency Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, members of the SADC Electoral Advisory Council (SEAC) and Organ Troika; and the SADC Secretariat.
SADC has met virtually with Government Officials, security agents, leaders of political parties, representatives of the media, faith groups, youth, women groups, civil society organisations and the SADC Diplomatic Missions accredited to the Republic of Seychelles and the United Republic of Tanzania.
An estimated 70, 000 registered voters are expected to participate in the Presidential and National Assembly elections in the Republic of Seychelles, while 29,188,347 registered voters are expected to vote in the General Elections in the United Republic of Tanzania.
As part of SADC’s commitment to strengthening democratic institutions in the midst of pandemics and emergencies, SADC has put in place measures designed to safeguard the health security of citizens during general elections in Member States. These include; the development of Guidelines for Election Observation Under Public Health Emergencies, which are scheduled for adoption by the MCO in June 2021, and the Standard Operating Procedures for Conducting Virtual Consultations with Electoral Stakeholders during Public Health Emergencies, which were formalized by the MCO in September of 2020 and are guiding the ongoing stakeholders’ virtual consultations.
As the two countries approach polling day, SADC exhorts all stakeholders and the citizenry to uphold the fundamental laws governing elections and the conduct of the elections in a peaceful manner.