By Blessings Mashaya
The opposition political parties that have been feuding with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) are pinning their hopes on the visiting Elders group to help them make headway on a number of demands they want met before elections are held at the end of the month.
Zimbabwe holds watershed national harmonised elections on July 30 but the election run-up has been marred by serious feuding between Zec and the opposition over a raft of issues which include the availability of the voters’ roll and ballot printing.
The Elders are a group of prominent people who use their collective experience and influence to try and achieve peace and justice around the world.
They are in the country on a three-day fact-finding mission which ends on Saturday.
While in the country, they will meet with the leaders of political parties, Zec and civil society, ahead of the July 30 poll which has attracted the attention of the international community.
The respected former secretary-general of the United Nations (UN), Kofi Annan — who chairs the group — is leading the delegation.
“We hope the elders will be able to visit rural areas so that they will see how people are being intimidated by Zanu PF.
We hope they are going to solve the disputes we are having with Zec ahead of the elections,” National People’s Party (NPP) spokesperson Jefryson Chitando told the Daily News yesterday.
“We are dealing with a junta. During (former president Robert) Mugabe’s time, they used physical violence but the current government uses psychological violence … the elections will not be free and fair,’ he added.
The Welshman Ncube-led MDC said they were pinning their hopes on The Elders to help them find common ground with the national elections management body Zec, which has come under serious criticism in the run-up to the July 30 polls.
“The Elders are welcome to Zimbabwe. Our problem in Zimbabwe is lack of political will to unite Zimbabweans. It is our hope and prayer that The Elders will help break the impasse that is threatening the credibility of the much-awaited 2018 Zimbabwe elections.
“There is a known political crisis in Zimbabwe that needs regional leaders and friends of Zimbabwe to intervene. We are failing to agree with the (president Emmerson) Mnangagwa government and the electoral body on simple issues that require simple ears and a normal person to understand,” said the party’s spokesperson, Kurauone Chihwayi.
The July 30 polls will see President Emmerson Mnangagwa facing a presidential field consisting of 22 rivals who include four women — a record in the history of the country.
The Elders’ visit is seen as breaking with the past as former leader Robert Mugabe’s government refused to allow intermediaries and international groups from visiting the country at the height of the political crisis.
In November 2008, Mugabe — who was hostile to The Elders and international observers — banned former United States president Jimmy Carter, Annan and the revered late Nelson Mandela’s widow, Graça Machel from visiting Zimbabwe, to assess the impact of a humanitarian crisis which was ravaging the country then.
The Elders’ trio had sought to convince the international community to send relief aid to millions of Zimbabweans who were facing mass starvation.
Their intended visit also coincided with a deadly cholera outbreak which killed more than 4 000 people countrywide.
Mugabe resigned from power on November 21 last year after Parliament had put in motion plans to impeach him, ending his 37 years of iron-fisted rule in Zimbabwe.
Apart from having Annan, The Elders fact-finding team includes former president of Ireland, also a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, as well as Lakhdar Brahimi, the former foreign minister of Algeria.
The Elders’ group was founded by Mandela, in 2007.
Its current members include Martti Ahtisaari, Annan, another former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, Brahimi, Gro Harlem Brundtland (deputy chair), Hina Jilani, Ricardo Lagos, Mandela’s widow Graça Machel, Robinson and Ernesto Zedillo. Ela Bhatt, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu are Elders Emeritus. DailyNews