via SADC recommends closure of external Zim radio stations | SW Radio Africa By Tichaona Sibanda
The SADC election observer mission has recommended that external radio stations broadcasting into Zimbabwe should immediately end their operations.
In its final report on the conduct of the July 31st elections, SADC said the poll was ‘free, peaceful and generally credible.’ Once again choosing not to say it was fair.
The four page report was presented by Tanzania’s foreign minister Bernard Membe.
Membe made a point of continually referring to the external radio stations as pirate broadcasters and said SADC was certainly going to shut down those operating in SADC countries and would take on the challenge of having the others closed down.
This is despite the fact that Membe admitted it was difficult for parties other than ZANU PF to get access to the state broadcaster.
SADC’s final verdict, especially on the recommendation to ban external radio stations, leaves many to wonder if the regional bloc is now the enforcer of the country’s media laws.
While the regional body applauded Zimbabwe for holding peaceful elections it ignored rigging accusations made by the MDC-T and civil society organizations.
Membe said the mission did note several shortcomings. Problems included the late publication of details of polling stations and media taking sides. The SADC statement noted that the voters roll was not made available on time and said: “The provision of the voters roll in time goes to the very heart of fairness in the election process. If the voters roll is not made available on time, the fairness of the election is brought into question.”
But SADC and Membe seem to have disregarded this important point and said despite some negative things being said about the conduct of the elections, there were many other elements that, when put together, elevated the election to a credible status.
‘The free election environment, the peaceful environment in which the election took place, free expression and campaigns, transparency and free voting constitutes the credibility under the prevailing circumstances particularly when compared to 2008 elections. Therefore, this election was generally credible,’ Membe said.
On polling day at least 300,000 voters were turned away while 206,000 received ‘help’ from officials to vote. Many voters who were turned away had their names missing from the voters’ roll, or they were registered in another ward.
Mcdonald Lewanika, a director at Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said SADC’s final verdict on Zimbabwe was not surprising, given the trajectory the body seems to have been taking in the last month.
‘They had already adjudged that the elections were free and peaceful. This unfortunate position seems to have been carried through in the final report.
‘The only surprising thing in the report released today (Monday) is that it reads more like something written by an interested party in Zimbabwe’s politics more than an objective regional body,’ Lewanika said.