March 2, 2005

SADC forum outraged at exclusion from poll

Confrontation is looming between Zimbabwe and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Parliamentary Forum over Zimbabwe's general. The forum, which includes permanent representatives from most countries in the region, wrote to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe expressing outrage at its omission from the list of invited observers. Secretary-general Kasuka Mutukwa reportedly asked why his group had been excluded when it had always monitored elections in SADC countries. The SADC forum declared Zimbabwe's hotly disputed 2002 presidential election not free and fair. It was widely attacked by Mugabe's government for its decision - which was similar to that of other observers such as Commonwealth, invited European Union countries, Japan and some African countries including Ghana and Senegal. South Africa and other SADC countries, China as well as Russia gave the election a clean bill of health. It is understood Mugabe has not yet replied to the letter.
The dispute between Mugabe's government and the SADC forum came as Zimbabwe started accrediting local and foreign observers after weeks of uncertainty over the issue. Zimbabwe has invited 23 African countries, five from Asia, three from the Americas and only Russia from Europe to observe its election. President Thabo Mbeki, who chairs the SADC organ on politics, defence and security, is currently trying to form the regional grouping's observer mission. South Africa, trying to help to ensure a free and fair election in Zimbabwe, will also send a parliamentary and a ruling African National Congress team to the country to observe the election. After Zimbabwe's March 2002 election, 17 of 28 observer missions declared that the elections were not free and fair - with the Southern African Development Community parliamentary forum highly vocal in its criticism. (Business Day, Johannesburg)

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