HARARE – The Elders ended their three-day visit to Zimbabwe yesterday with a clarion call to all players in the country’s body politic to end their bickering and pull in one direction.
After engaging all the key political actors in Zimbabwe, including officials from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), the Elders still felt that the country has capacity to hold a free and fair election.
Speaking at a press conference in Harare yesterday, Kofi Annan — leader of the delegation — urged stakeholders to work together for the country to have a credible election.
“What is important is that we all play by the rules and make reasonable demands. I would urge everyone to be reasonable, operate within the laws, and question where there is need for questions. If you feel aggrieved, use legal mechanism to get redress,” said the respected former secretary-general of the United Nations.
“They (opposition parties) should be careful on what they say and what they demand because the purpose is not to incite the people, however, reasonable demands must be addressed.
“The election commission cannot do it alone they need you, they need the cooperation from all stakeholders. Given the limited time available if you all work together you are likely to have a credible result.”
He said the July 30 election was important because it will give Zimbabwe an opportunity to mend relationships with other foreign nations.
“The upcoming elections are the most significant for Zimbabwe since independence. The country faces serious challenges which will persist whoever wins; it is critical that everyone acts responsibly before, during and after the elections to ensure a Zimbabwe free from violence, where human rights are respected and prosperity restored.”
Annan said there were genuine discussions between Zec and opposition parties in a bid to resolve their differences.
Former president of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, said the security services must continue to allow free expression.
“Zimbabwe is blessed with talented, eloquent and passionate people. We have been deeply impressed by the commitment of civil society groups here to build a better future for their country. The authorities and security services must continue to allow free expression whatever the election outcome, and not revert to past tactics of violence and intimidation,” she said.
Former Algerian Foreign minister and liberation struggle veteran Lakhdar Brahimi said candidates must not see themselves as enemies.
“Elections are just one step on the path to national renewal. Candidates must see themselves as rivals, not enemies. The people of Zimbabwe cannot afford more years of infighting, division and corruption; we stand with them in their call for a brighter future,” said Brahimi.
This comes as there are serious disagreements between Zec and the opposition over a raft of issues which include the availability of the voters’ roll, the printing of ballot papers, their storage and distribution.
The Elders are a group of prominent people who use their collective experience and influence to try and achieve peace and justice around the world.
The group was founded by the revered late South African president, Nelson Mandela, in 2007.
Zimbabwe holds its eagerly-anticipated national elections on July 30, which will see Mnangagwa facing a presidential field consisting of 22 rivals who include four women — a record in the history of the country.