By Sebastian Mhofu
The African Union will provide financial and technical assistance to Zimbabwe to help ensure credible elections later this year, the chairperson of the African Union Commission told reporters Tuesday in Harare.
Briefing reporters at the end of a three-day visit to Zimbabwe, the chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, said he met separately with former President Robert Mugabe and current President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
He said he discussed his meeting with Mugabe during a courtesy visit.
“And since President Mugabe forms part of the liberation heroes that have fought for the continent, it’s a common heritage for us,” he said, “and this is also recognized by the authorities of the country. We exchanged views. I found him to be very lucid, and explained why he had to resign — this is for peace and development of the country — and we discussed very much at ease.”
The Chadian diplomat said Mnangagwa’s government asked for the African Union to push Western countries, including the United States, to lift sanctions imposed on officials beginning in 2002 following allegations of vote rigging and human rights abuses.
The country is headed to elections in mid-2018, though no date has been set.
Mahamat said the African Union Commission would send technical experts to work with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission at least a month before the vote to organize and conduct the elections.
“We, at the same time, mobilize partners that can help in financing the process and also give technical assistance, or both at the same time: financial assistance, as well as technical assistance,” he added. “This will be our role, the role of the African Union. To make the organ in charge of organizing the elections benefit from the expertise of the African Union, the organization and preparations of the elections.”
The AU’s offer of support is not surprising, said analyst Alexander Rusero from Harare Polytechnic College School of Journalism because “from 2000 upfront, Zimbabwe has been in the headlines [and] on the agenda of AU in as much as [the] conducting of its elections was concerned.”
“The conduct of elections in Zimbabwe left a lot to be desired,” he said. “So given the historical downfall of Mugabe, there must be some semblance of order, some semblance of pursuing democratic ethos. And this can only be done if the election is going to be free and fair.”
The opposition says Zimbabwe has not held free and fair elections in nearly two decades. Mugabe was forced to resign in November amid pressure from the military.
Since taking the reins, Mugabe’s former deputy, current president Emmerson Mnangagwa, has promised the 2018 elections will be free, fair and credible. He has even said Western governments and organizations will be allowed to send election observers, something that was unheard of during Mugabe’s 37 years in power.