Africa's eyes on Zimbabwe election
Successful elections in Zimbabwe are crucial both for that country's own socio-economic development and for improved security in the southern African region, says South African Deputy International Relations Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim. Speaking to journalists in Pretoria on Thursday, Ebrahim said the South African government welcomed the fact that the overall atmosphere in Zimbabwe remained calm ahead of next week's elections, with no major instances of violence or intimidation having been reported so far. Ebrahim added that South Africa hoped there wouldn't be a repeat of Zimbabwe's previous election in 2008, when the announcement of the results had been delayed, stoking concerns about poll rigging. Over six-million Zimbabweans who have registered to vote will go to the polls next Wednesday to choose a president, more than 200 National Assembly members, and nearly 2 000 local councillors. A presidential candidate must garner 51 percent of all valid votes cast to be declared the winner. If not, a run-off will be held in September, according to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC). The country's veteran president, Robert Mugabe, and his rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, are among five presidential hopefuls in the polls. Election observers. Regarding reports suggesting that Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party plan to rig the polls, Ebrahim said they would await the reports from the observer missions on the ground before commenting. Close to 6 000 Zimbabwean observers will monitor polls. International observers will include representatives from the African Union (AU), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma is already in Zimbabwe to assess the country's preparations for the polls, accompanied by the AU's commissioner for political affairs and deputy head of the AU observer mission, Aisha Abdullah.
African Union team on the ground
Dlamini Zuma and Abdullah are expected to meet with a number of stakeholders, including the ZEC and political candidates.
"We are here as a team," Dlamini Zuma told journalists on her arrival at Harare International Airport on Wednesday. The team, she said, was made up of short-term observers as well as long-term observers who had been on the ground across the country for a while already.
"We are fairly well informed, but we thought it important to come to talk to people ourselves," Dlamini Zuma said.