In a move out of step with tradition, a group of African leaders have urged Zimbabwe and neighboring nations to do more to create an atmosphere for free and fair elections in the country.
A statement released late Sunday by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) following two days of talks in Johannesburg called for Zimbabwe leaders to hasten election reform and urged neighboring nations—South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique—to appoint members to the committee designated to prepare for elections in the nation. The committee is currently made up of members of longtime—and only—President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party Zanu-PF, and opposition parties the Movement for Democratic Change and another party connected to the MDC. Not too long after the SADC statement, ZANU-PF announced that they would fight the inclusion of other nations on the committee.
The announcement, an apparent rebuke of Mugabe’s past alleged voter fraud and election violence, is out of the ordinary for the SADC as, in the past, many member nations have usually stayed away from publically criticizing the controversial leader. His past policies, such as seizing land from white farmers, have been blamed for the nation’s vast economic struggles.
“SADC has moved," a spokesman from a Zimbabwe rights group told the Associated Press. "There is a pattern that has been established, that SADC is committed to having free and fair elections in Zimbabwe. There is definitely a shift that ZANU must contend with."
Mugabe’s party stands accused of being behind widespread violence during 2008’s presidential elections and of consistently using violence and intimidation to keep him in power. The disputed vote in 2008 forced the leader to be part of the current coalition government with opposition leader and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
(Photo: STR New/Reuters)