By Paul Shalala
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has deployed its observers ahead of Zambia's presidential election on January 20, 2015.
Head of the SADC Electoral Observation Mission to Zambia Maite Nkoana-Mashabane says 65 election observers have been deployed in all of Zambia's 10 provinces.
Mashabane, who is also South Africa's Minister for International Relation and Cooperation, has told the media that the mission is in Zambia to monitor and ensure the polls are held in a peaceful and transparent manner.
Below is the full statement issued by Mashabane:
On behalf of the Chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, H.E Jacob G Zuma, the President of the Republic of South Africa, I wish to take this opportunity to welcome you all to the launch of the SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) to the 2015 Zambia Presidential elections.
Ladies and gentlemen;
It is with great humility and respect that I take this opportunity to convey, once more, the Region’s condolences to the Government and the people of Zambia on the sad passing of H.E President Sata. We in particular extend our profound condolences to his dear wife and family. May his soul rest in eternal peace!
Ladies and gentlemen;
Following the proclamation of 20 January 2015 as the date to hold the Presidential Election; the Government of the Republic of Zambia, as per our region’s tradition and in accordance with the provisions of SADC Protocols, invited SADC to observe the Elections.
It was in honour of that invitation that the Chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, His Excellency Jacob Zuma, President of the Republic of South Africa, constituted the SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) to observe the Presidential Elections in Zambia; and appointed me as Head of Mission.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We note with great pride that election observation has become a norm in our Region, and is very much in keeping with the democratic values which underpin and define SADC. As a Region, we long recognised that in a democracy, elections are part of a process rather than being an end in themselves. They are avenues through which the countries of the region regularly seek mandates from their people.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As the SADC Electoral Observation Mission, we have a responsibility as representatives of this Region to observe whether elections have been held in a manner that is peaceful, transparent, credible and free and fair. We hope that this election will continue to attest to our Region’s track record of upholding credible democratic elections.
While this SEOM is guided by the Constitution and the Electoral Laws of Zambia, it is most importantly underpinned by the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.
As part of its Terms of Reference, the SEOM’s assessment will be informed by the following guidelines which SADC has deemed conducive to an environment for free, fair and peaceful elections.
We will observe the adherence to:
(i) Constitutional and legal guarantees of freedom and rights of citizens;
(ii) Non-discrimination in voter registration;
(iv) Existence of an updated and accessible voters’ roll;
(v) Timeous announcement of the election date;
(vi) The funding of political parties, which should be transparent and based on the agreed threshold in accordance with the laws of the land, where applicable;
(vii) Neutral location of polling stations;
(viii) Counting of votes at polling stations; and
(ix) Establishment of the mechanism for assisting the planning and deployment of electoral observation missions.
These guidelines are our regional benchmark, and embody the aspirations, norms and values of our Member States.
In this election, we will deploy 65 observers, representing member states from our region. They will be deployed in all the Provinces. Their task will be to observe and consider the general conduct of the elections against the following principles:
• Full participation of citizens in the political process;
• Freedom of association;
• Political tolerance;
• Equal opportunity for all political parties to access the state media;
• Equal opportunity to exercise the right to vote and be voted for;
• Independence of the Judiciary and impartiality of the electoral institutions;
• Voter education.
The Mission will continue to observe post- election reactions in order to determine the:
· Acceptance and respect of the election results by political parties as proclaimed by the competent National Electoral Authorities in accordance with the laws of the land.
· Any challenge of the election results to be conducted as provided for in the laws of the land.
Following today’s launch, members of the Organ Troika led by South Africa’s Deputy Minister Molekane supported by the representatives of Namibia (as the outgoing Chair of the Organ) and Lesotho (as the incoming Chair of the Organ), will engage with the leadership of Zambia, political parties, civil society organisations, the media as well as the ECZ to be appraised of preparations ahead of the election.
The Troika will meet with other election observer Missions to share notes on our observations.
Ladies and gentlemen,
SADC observers will be visible on voting day to affirm SADC’s commitment and support for democracy to the people of Zambia. As we head to Election Day, the challenge and responsibility of peaceful, free and fair elections will lie in the hands of the Zambian people.
It is our expectation and hope that all political parties will, as usual, conduct themselves in a manner that contributes to a peaceful and democratic elections. This country has over the years conducted peaceful elections and has thus become a beacon of hope in democratic practice and culture.
SADC electoral observation missions have made a meaningful contribution to the consolidation of democracy in the region, through sharing lessons learnt and best practices. In the same vein, it is our expectation that these elections will continue to contribute to the enhancement of democracy in the region.
We further take this opportunity to extend our warm wishes to the people of Zambia as they exercise their right to vote, through their constitutional provisions of universal suffrage.
May this election be an indication of true citizenry participation in the political process; as the people of Zambia decide the party of their choice.
In conclusion, we wish to inform you the SADC preliminary statement on the electoral process will be released on 22 January 2015.
Let me take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment and support to the people of Zambia as they prepare for these elections, and to wish them a successful election.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Chair of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, H.E Jacob G. Zuma, I declare the SADC Electoral Observation Mission to the Republic Zambia officially launched.
Thank you for your attention.