The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) notes with concern the remarks made by the head of mission of the SADC Observer Team, Mr Jose Marcos Barrica, at a press conference held on 30 March 2008. Mr Barrica described the polls as “an expression of the will of the people of Zimbabwe”. This view the Forum submits cannot be substantiated at this juncture.
The Forum, its members and civil society in general raised numerous concerns about the electoral process, prior to the holding of polls. These concerns are clearly chronicled in its report titled, “Can the elections in Zimbabwe be free and fair in the current environment”? The report raised concerns regarding vote buying, biased media coverage, hate speech, allegiance statements by the service chiefs and the management of the process in general. These misgivings were not addressed by the relevant authorities. Where the concerns raised by civil society may have been addressed, these were not done timeously to allow for them to take full effect and thus restore the electorate’s confidence in the electoral process.
Further, the Forum holds that such a conclusive statement by the SADC Observer Team was made prematurely. An election is a process, not an event, which is only concluded when the results have been communicated to and accepted by the electorate. The electorate remains uninformed about the bulk of the results long after polls were closed and votes counted. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has failed to give a satisfactory explanation for the unacceptable delay.
In conclusion the Forum acknowledges that the elections were held in an environment largely free of violence but contends that it does not follow that the will of the people will prevail. Furthermore the Forum urges the Observer Missions to remain objective and to continue to monitor the situation in light of the delays in the pronouncement of results.