We want free, fair polls: President

From Happiness Zengeni in Davos, Switzerland
PRESIDENT Mnangagwa has pledged to hold free, fair and non-violent elections this year, and to respect the outcome even if Zanu-PF loses. International observers, principally from the European Union (EU), will be invited to monitor the elections as the country seeks to entrench its democracy, he said. President Mnangagwa said this during the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, yesterday.

“I have said that this time around, Zimbabwe is open and transparent,” he said. “We want to have free, fair, credible elections. Free of violence. If you have that criteria, why would you want to deny international observers coming into our country? Obviously, like in the past, SADC, whether it is political parties in SADC, whether it’s the government or Parliament, its automatic they come. This is the understanding that we have between them and ourselves. The same with the continental body, that is the AU, they can observe. But this time, I have gone further and said the EU, if they want to observe our elections, I will welcome them. Other nations outside the EU, who want to observe our elections, let them apply.”

President Mnangagwa said the observers would have unfettered access to every place.

Western nations have previously discredited the outcome of Zimbabwe’s elections, claiming they were not free and fair, even when they had not monitored them.

But President Mnangagwa said every regional bloc and/or nation wanting to observe the 2018 harmonised elections was welcome, as there was nothing to hide.

He said Zimbabwe would hold harmonised elections any time before July. The last harmonised elections — which were resoundingly won by the revolutionary party Zanu-PF — were held on July 31, 2013.

President Mnangagwa said: “In my own view, we want to consolidate and deepen constitutionalism in Zimbabwe, and in terms of our current Constitution, every five years, we are required to submit ourselves, to seek a new mandate.

“So, the five year term ends in July. The Constitution allows us to have elections even six months before the last date in July. So, I believe that elections would not be in July, they would be earlier than July.”

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is conducting a voter registration mop-up exercise. The exercise is expected to end on February 12, and immediately after that, President Mnangagwa said, he would proclaim the election date.

President Mnangagwa said in the event that Zanu-PF lost the elections, it would accept the results and allow the elected party to form the next government.

“Remember, we had a constitutional referendum (in the year 2000) where Zanu-PF lost and immediately after the results were out, we said we abide by the results. We are very clear,” he said.

“The purpose of elections is to have the electorate to select a team of persons who think they address their challenges and their needs. If we lose elections, that’s it. Whichever party that wins the election will proceed to take the reins of power because they would have appealed to the electorate, perhaps with better policies and so on.”

President Mnangagwa said his Government would work on embracing the international community and would also expect the international community to do the same to Zimbabwe.

He said Zimbabwe had no problems with other countries, including the United States, saying these countries were welcome to invest in the country.

“I believe that the people of Zimbabwe have no case against the people of America, nor the people of America have no case against the people of Zimbabwe,” said President Mnangagwa.

He spoke on rejoining the Commonwealth, saying now that the land reform programme was behind, there is no impediment between Zimbabwe and the requirements of rejoining the grouping.

“Going into the future, we would want to embrace the international community, we also want the international community to embrace us and to do so we must look at what is necessary to be done in order for the international community to accept us in order for the international community to say today Zimbabwe is suitable for investment, is ready for investment,” he said.

“So, we must look at the constraints, which investors were saying these are the things that determine their bringing capital into any destination. As you are aware that capital can go only where it feels comfortable. Why was it not feeling comfortable before in Zimbabwe? We must address those issues.”

On land, President Mnangagwa said his Government would not discriminate on racial lines.

“We as the new administration we don’t want to think on racial lines that there are white and black farmers, that should be the philosophy of the past,” he said.

“Farmers are farmers, we have a lot of white former commercial farmers who have happily integrated into our system by accepting their farms to be reduced, downsized in terms of ecological regions.”

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