DEPUTY Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki has urged the electoral management bodies in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to be impartial and conduct their duties in an independent, transparent, accountable and professional manner.
Mr Moleleki made the call while officially opening the 20th annual Electoral Commissions Forum of SADC (ECF-SADC) at the ‘Manthabiseng Convention Centre in Maseru on Tuesday. The forum ends tomorrow.
The ECF-SADC was formed in 1998 and its secretariat is based in Gaborone, Botswana. It comprises of electoral management bodies of SADC members states.
These are Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Seychelles, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Its mandate is to strengthen co-operation among the electoral commissions and promote free, fair, credible and transparent elections in the SADC region.
This year’s forum is running under the theme, ‘Advancing credibility and integrity in elections’.
Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Moleleki said that the SADC region had been able to hold free, transparent, credible and peaceful elections because of the competency of the electoral commissions. He said it was therefore important to maintain the high standards.
“My understanding is that through this theme you want to build trust among all the stakeholders and to ensure that the electoral commissions deliver credible elections,” Mr Moleleki said, adding, “I share similar sentiments and commitment”.
“While we as politicians may not always agree with the outcomes of elections, it is vital that we participate in and respect the processes conducted by the electoral commissions. We must abide by the rules because after all, it is through our legislatures that such laws are developed and implemented.
“As electoral commissions, you must continue to deliver on your mandate without fear, favour or prejudice. Your work ensures that we establish legitimate governments that are tasked with delivering services to the people. It is too important a mandate for you to allow your work to be clouded with partisanship and lack of transparency and lack of integrity.
“For our region’s elections to be more credible and robust, electoral commissions must be free from undue influence and remain impartial in the exercise of their duties. Practising your stated values will ensure that you continue to earn respect and grow into trusted and widely celebrated institutions that contribute to enhancing and consolidating our democracies.
Mr Moleleki said that most political problems in Africa exist because of leaders who manipulated their countries’ constitutions to extend their terms in office.
“Election-related conflicts and violence in many parts of Africa are self-inflicted. These are often caused by the attempts to manipulate constitutions to extend otherwise expired terms of office, alterations to the electoral calendars or at worst the widespread suspicions of undue influence on elections outcomes,” Mr Moleleki said.
Lesotho held snap elections on 3 June 2017 while Zimbabwe held its highly controversial polls in July this year. Zanu PF candidate Emmerson Mnangagwa was declared the winner of the hotly disputed poll by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission which announced that he had secured 50, 8 percent of the vote, ahead of Nelson Chamisa of the opposition MDC party on 44, 3 percent.
Mr Mnangagwa’s victory was subsequently confirmed by a constitutional court judgement but there are still widespread perceptions that the polls were rigged in his favour. Six people died when soldiers opened fire to quell protests that ensured in Harare in the aftermath of the elections.
The DRC is still to conduct its elections this year after many years in which the incumbent, Joseph Kabila has postponed the polls to cling on to power. Mr Kabila is not eligible to contest.