By Southern Times Writer
SADC and the African Union have the capacity to assess and observe elections in the region and on the continent without outside interference, SADC Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Tax has said.
In a wide-ranging interview with Zimpapers Television, Dr Tax said SADC had guidelines on conducting and observing democratic elections in member states and it was not up to western powers to meddle in elections in the region or on the continent.
Dr Tax’s comments on elections come in the wake of elections held in SADC member states Angola and Lesotho this year which were described as credible, free and fair by SADC and the AU electoral observer missions.
Next year, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, and Zimbabwe will go to the polls and these will be held in accordance with the SADC guidelines governing democratic elections.
Asked to comment on the elections held in several African countries, Dr Tax said:
“If I go to analysing the electoral system, it will be premature and I wouldn’t like to present my assessment on assumption. And I am saying this because according to our structure and guidelines on democratic elections, before a country goes to elections, we get a notification from member states that we are going to conduct elections, and we invite you to come and observe those elections.
“Before we send the election observations mission, what we do first is send what we call an assessment mission. So the mission will go there and assess all what you are saying; electoral preparedness in terms of legislation, the security situation, among others.
“So I would be more comfortable once that assessment has been done to be able to say now that yes, indeed, we have assessed and this is what is prevailing.
Dr Tax said the last election held in Zimbabwe in 2013 was credible as pronounced by SADC “and since then, the government has been in power, and has governed. We have not, as an organisation, received any complaints”.
“You cannot gauge one election to the other because you are talking of a period of four years, but we have no reason to doubt that things have changed that dramatically to expect that there are going to be massive challenges during these elections in terms of the law, in terms of the environment. We don’t expect that. Asked to respond to some Western countries that have attacked the credibility of elections in Zimbabwe, she said:
“If you go by that then all the elections on the continent won’t be credible. Elections in the region are observed by the African Union. Elections are observed by SADC and other partners.
“For us, as SADC, we are part of the African Union, and if it is very clear that our conclusions and African Union conclusions are the same, then we believe that we did our job. Would it happen that we have differences in terms of conclusion between African Union and SADC, then it will be an issue of concern. “We don’t know what their (Western powers) measures are. We don’t know what their criteria are. We don’t know how they do it, so I c
an not align myself with something which I am not party to. “
Dr Tax also said Africans needed to trust their electoral systems and trust institutions on the continent.
Western partners were only invited to observe and should not be involved in the internal processes of running and conducting the polls, she said.
“When you go to elections, you have to explain how you want to do it because elections are not about interfering with the internal processes. It’s not about that.
There are instances, I am not going to mention a country (it’s within SADC), where one of our external partners wanted to be part of the counting process. And they wanted to even count before the Electoral Commission Board. They wanted to go a step further to put their own instrument.
“Now, are you observing or you want to be part of the internal processes? We don’t go and interfere in internal processes, but we want to make sure that even if you are not sure about the system which is being used, ask and get an explanation,” she said. Dr Tax scoffed at insinuations that SADC was an ineffective regional bloc. She said SADC was born out of the liberation struggles in the region and member states had worked and continued to work together towards a common vision.
The region had managed to address political challenges in Madagascar and was currently involved in finding a lasting solution to political problems in Lesotho and DRC.
Dr Tax said SADC member states were also focusing on their economies and the exploitation of their resources for the benefit of their people. She also spoke about the region’s industrialization strategy and said this needed to be prioritized so that it comes to fruition. She said there was need for the private sector in the region to also embrace the industrialization strategy. *(See full interview on page 9)