Observe polls with an open mind, like a vehicle stay in your lane
Blessings Chidakwa, Zimpapers Elections Desk
Zimbabwe has nothing to hide as witnessed by the record number of observer missions in the country which were granted access to witness the country’s poll process.
However, it boggles the mind that some sponsored observers are interfering with the country’s sovereignty.
A plot to tarnish and discredit the outcome of the harmonised elections by the European Union Observation Mission and the United States-based Carter Centre has already been exposed.
Even before the elections, it was crystal clear that they had a mission, of course a biased one, as they were closely working with the opposition outfit Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC).
One would have easily mistaken them for being CCC’s mouthpiece.
Impeccable sources unmasked the EU’s attempt of desperately trying to incite and convince other observer missions to synchronise their reports, which would paint a gloomy picture about Zimbabwe.
President Mnangagwa even warned the rogue foreign election observer missions during his last campaign rally, saying they should be open-minded and must not come with predetermined conclusions to discredit the polls.
“We have invited observer groups from SADC, from the continent and from beyond,” he said. “As I have said to all the observer missions, please do not come to observe us with foregone conclusions from your homes or your countries. Come with an open mind. We are a peaceful people,” he said.
Observers, President Mnangagwa said, should stick to their mandate and not abuse their privileges.
“We have nothing to hide. We have invited 45 countries, 17 continental regional bodies, as well as all embassies and consulates,” he said.
“In particular, we have invited every single member of our SADC body; they are our sisters and brothers; whatever we do, we share.
“We have a similar history. We were all colonised and we fought for our independence and democracy. We welcome these election observer missions to our great country.
“They must enjoy our hospitality; our people are very kind. I call upon the observer missions to keep to their terms of reference in the code of conduct of their work, because Zimbabwe remains a sovereign country.”
Despite such a warning, there has been clear evidence of general bias by the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU-EOM) and the Carter Centre, in favour of the CCC.
Observer missions from the West have clearly been focusing their engagements on CCC aligned civil society organisations (CSOS), inter-alia, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Zimbabwe Election Support Network, Zimbabwe Council of Churches, Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations and Zimbabwe Peace Project.
This, and the fact that their preliminary reports parroted the CCC narrative of an uneven electoral field and alleged Zanu PF perpetrated political violence, points to a preconceived opinion on the electoral process and outcome.
According to unfolding events, several key observations testify to the nefarious activities and collusion by the observer missions.
“It has been observed that despite the nation having 16 political parties contesting in the elections, the observer missions are curiously tracking the CCC and like-minded entities, side-lining other political actors’ voices,” said a source.
“There was a push from the European Union and its local Ambassadors for SADC and the African Union to synchronise and come up with similar reports as the one to be produced by the European Union Electoral Observer Mission.”
According to the well-placed source, the CSOs were misrepresenting public opinion by claiming that the generality of citizens want a new Government, while the observers hostile to government are taking those assertions for fact to serve their preconceived opinions.
“Observers by mandate, are supposed to openly engage citizens and institutions across the political divide, as well as present their objective independent opinions in separate reports,” said the source.
“The clear bias and attempts by the EU-EOM and the Carter Centre to coerce other observers, including the AU, SADC and COMESA missions to synchronise their reportage, violates international best practices on electoral observation.”
Some of the people interviewed by the EU-EOM include CCC sympathiser Dr Ibbo Mandaza, the convenor of the Sapes Trust whose comments, as expected from him, are deliberately going to paint a bad picture of Zimbabwe’s elections.
All things being equal, the missions should have interviewed people from all political parties to get an even picture of Zimbabwe.
To further buttress that the issues that the EU and Carter Centre addressed were inclined towards CCC interests, their structured questions appeared to be guided by the party’s allegations.
These include those asked when the mission visited Chief Seke in Seke Constituency.
These observers are creating a circus of its kind. During the visit on 20 August 2023 at Chief Seke’s homestead, the EU Observer Mission was made up of chief observer Fabii Massimo Castaldo, press officer Eberhard Laue, political analyst Stefan Szwed, long term observers Carlos Guimaro and Norah Kankascian.
Mr Guimaro indicated that the purpose of the visit was to introduce the chief observer to Chief Seke. However, along the conservation they asked political questions knowing fully well that traditional leaders are apolitical.
Some of the questions asked by Mr Castaldo to Chief Seke include: “Are you a politician? Which political party are you going to vote for? Has the Government given all political parties equal space to campaign? What are the roles of traditional leaders in this election?
Other questions asked included: Are you aware that the EU press observers were denied access to ZEC? In Seke, there is a record of harassment of CCC members and what is your comment?
Was it even ethical to ask such leading questions?
Of importance is that the meeting seems to have been rehearsed since Chief Seke knew the mission was going to interview him.
The way the European Union Observation Mission and the United States-based Carter Centre track CCC leader Advocate Nelson Chamisa, one might think they wait for him at the doorstep while bathing.
No other political party or presidential candidate gets such attention — he who pays the piper surely dictates the tune.
The peace prevailing in Zimbabwe has been sending shivers among some of the Western observers who in the past rode on painting the country black.
It is the Second Republic that does things by the book.
That is why there is so much expectation that observer missions should do their work by the book.
Unfortunately, it appears some have decided to digress, but it still remains to be seen what they will say about the elections in their final reports.