Commonwealth names Zimbabwe election observer team; but Harare still awaits re-admission 5 years after applying
By Staff Reporter
THE Commonwealth has named its observer team for Zimbabwe’s August 23 elections as Harare’s application for readmission to the grouping remains pending five years after it was submitted.
The commonwealth secretariat this week revealed a 15-member team would head to Harare at the invitation of Zimbabwe’s foreign affairs ministry.
The team will be headed by former Kenya cabinet minister and diplomat Ambassador Amina Chawahir Mohamed.
Commenting on the development Commonwealth secretary general Baroness Patricia Scotland said; “The Commonwealth’s commitment to fostering peaceful democratic governance is unwavering.
“Our engagement in Zimbabwe’s electoral process signifies our dedication to transparent, inclusive, and credible elections.
“By adhering to the principles of the Commonwealth Charter, we aim to promote transparency, reinforce democracy and the rule of law, and safeguard the right of the Zimbabwean people to participate in their nation’s democratic journey.”
The team, which will be in Zimbabwe from 16th-26th August, comprises “eminent individuals from various backgrounds, including politicians, diplomats and experts in law, human rights, gender equality and election administration”.
“The mandate of the Group, which is independent and impartial, is to observe the preparations for the election, the polling, counting and the results process, and the overall electoral environment,” the Commonwealth secretariat said in a statement.
“The observers will assess the conduct of the process as a whole and, where appropriate, make recommendations for the strengthening of the electoral system in Zimbabwe.
“Prior to deployment across Zimbabwe, the Group will have briefings with the electoral authorities, political parties, law enforcement agencies, the diplomatic community, media and civil society groups representing women, youth and people with disabilities.”
Zimbabwe angrily quit the group in 2003 after then authoritarian ruler Robert Mugabe bitterly fell out with former colonial power Britain and its western allies over this violent land reform programme as well as charges of political repression and human rights abuses.
Successor Emmerson Mnangagwa sought re-admission in 2018 as part of his so-called ‘engagement and re-engagement policy’ with the West.
However, there is little indication Harare will be re-admitted five years later.
Commenting on the process in its statement this week, the Commonwealth said; Zimbabwe is currently undergoing a membership assessment process to re-join the Commonwealth and this election marks a significant step in Zimbabwe’s democratic governance. This will be the second successive COG to observe the country’s harmonised elections since Zimbabwe left the Commonwealth in December 2003.
The Commonwealth Observer Group members, in alphabetical order by country name, are:
- Amb. Amina Chawahir Mohamed, Chairperson, Former Cabinet Secretary for Education and Foreign Affairs, Kenya
- Hon. Philip McMurdo, Former Judge of the Supreme Court of Queensland, Australia
- Hon. Pelonomi Venson, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Botswana, and Journalist, Botswana
- Lomcebo Dlamini, Human Rights Expert, Eswatini
- HE Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Former UN Special Representative of the SG for West Africa and the Sahel, Ghana
- Prof. Prajapati Trivedi, Commonwealth Special Envoy for SDG Implementation and Professor at Management Development Institute (MDI), India
- Dr Nasim Zaidi, Former Chief Election Commissioner of India
- Amb. Aloun N’Dombet-Assamba, Former Jamaica High Commissioner to the UK and Former Politician, Jamaica
- Wyvolyn Patterson, Mass Communications Expert, Former Editor in Chief of the Gleaner, Jamaica
- Samuel Oe-Amseb, President of Association for Local Authorities in Namibia (ALAN) and Former Mayor of Outjo, Namibia
- Nighat Dad, Lawyer and Digital Rights Expert, Pakistan
- Amb. Julius Peter Moto, Former Uganda High Commissioner to the UK, Uganda
- Baroness Denise Patricia Kingsmill, Member of the House of Lords (Labour Peer), United Kingdom
- Brian Hunter Speers, President, Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA), United Kingdom
- Kryticous Patrick Nshindano, Former Chief Elections Officer at the Electoral Commission of Zambia