By Moses Chibaya
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has come under fire for plans to block local non-governmental organisations funded from outside to observe next year as he dismissed them as fronts for the hostile West.
The Zimbabwean leader is seeking another term as the country’s ruler in Zimbabwean elections next year.
He has been irked by the bold stance taken by Western observers to pronounce Zimbabwean elections under his government as skewed in his favour.
President Mugabe has, since 2002, barred Western observers from the country’s often disputed polls.
He reiterated his position during an interview with the Chinese media in Harare last week, insisting Western funded NGOs were biased against incumbents as was the case with Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta.
But Mugabe’s utterances would not escape without strong rebuke from Election Resource Centre (ERC) executive director Tawanda Chimhini who said the comments were misplaced.
“President Mugabe’s statements are not only misplaced but perilous as they further raise a lot questions as far as the freeness, fairness and credibility of elections is concerned,” Tawanda Chimhini, the Election Resource Centre (ERC) executive director said.
The think tank and advocacy institution on elections and democracy, said the President cannot be a referee and a player.
“It is not within President Mugabe’s jurisdiction but the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC)’s mandate to decide who should monitor and observe Zimbabwe’s elections.
“If President Mugabe wants to be a referee in 2018 he must not be a candidate for the 2018 election. President Mugabe can’t be a player, referee and the linesman at the same time. Mugabe must be reminded that he is only a player during the 2018 elections,” Chimhini said.
He insisted that if President Mugabe has nothing to hide “why would he block the accreditation of foreign observers?”
Chimhini said the move was unbecoming of a country which is signatory to a number of international treaties among them the United Nations that seeks to promote international best practice on elections.
“What boggles the mind is that Zimbabwe is a signatory to regional and international bodies that have clear guidelines and principles that encourage member states to hold elections adhering to international best practice,” Chimhini said.
Chimhini urged the election management body which must be independent to champion the interests of Zimbabweans by allowing international observers to observe.
“Honest democratic elections must be an expression of sovereignty, which belongs to the people of Zimbabwe, not the President or the executive,” Chimhini said.
The ERC said “it is naïve, archaic and out of touch with reality in the global village” for a country to bar international observers at a time when they have widely been accepted around the world.
International observers assess election processes in accordance with international principles for genuine democratic elections and domestic law.