THE European Union (EU) says it is ready to send an observer mission to help Zimbabwe hold free, fair and inclusive elections this year, which will guarantee the bloc’s increased economic development support to the country.
Zimbabwe is expected to hold general elections in August this year although President Emmerson Mnangagwa is yet to proclaim the election dates.
Speaking to NewsDay after the second structured dialogue platform meeting on debt arrears clearance in Harare, EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Jobst von Kirchmann said if the country holds credible elections, there would be increased appetite for the bloc to assist it to clear its debt currently standing at US$17,6 billion.
Kirchmann said the EU would help Zimbabwe by providing its election observation mission.
“We as EU also stand ready to support this process (elections) as much as we can through an elections observation mission, or through support to Zec (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission),” Kirchmann said.
“It is important for Zimbabwe because the elections will be a catalyst for all proceeds. If you have an arrears process, it will not finish in five months. It will be a process which will take time. The short-term objective l think is that we should all work towards having a free and fair inclusive election because if that happens, it will be an accelerator in this process. It will increase appetite on all sides to get even faster to an arrears clearance. This is why it is so important."
Last Thursday, African Development Bank president Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina and former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano said free and fair polls this year would be pivotal for Zimbabwe’s debt clearance strategy.
Since 1980, Zimbabwe has had a history of contested elections. In a statement yesterday, the EU said: “The EU follows closely the process leading up to the elections, which are of great importance to the trajectory of the country. The EU encourages all electoral stakeholders, State and non-State alike, to play their role in ensuring the organisation of a credible and peaceful electoral process. The EU Election Observation Mission of 2018 provided a set of recommendations and encourages actors to continue improving the electoral framework to allow for credible, inclusive and transparent elections.”
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The bloc welcomed Zimbabwe’s engagement on the Universal Periodic Review process, alignment of legislation with the 2013 Constitution, enactment of the Independent Complaints Commission Act, the new Marriages Act and the high-level political compact on gender-based violence.
However, the EU expressed concern over oppressive pieces of legislation like the Data Protection Act and such Bills as the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill and the envisaged “patriotic provisions” in the Criminal Law Amendment Bill.
“The EU also maintains its concerns that the recommendations of the Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry have not been followed substantially and the perpetrators of violations which occurred in August 2018 and January 2019 are to date still enjoying impunity from prosecution.
“In view of all the above, in its 2023 revision of the restrictive measures, the EU has decided to extend by one year the two measures in place (i.e, the arms embargo and targeted assets freeze against one company, Zimbabwe Defence Industries). Since February 2022 there are no listed individuals. The EU will continue to closely follow developments, with a particular attention to the human rights situation and recalls its readiness to adapt the whole range of its policies accordingly,” the EU added.