MDC wants SADC monitors deployed six months before 2011 polls

Harare – Zimbabwe’s former opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said Tuesday that regional and international observers must be deployed at least six months before elections scheduled for 2011 in the southern African country to ensure the political playing field is level ahead of the polls.

The main MDC faction headed by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said the Southern African Development Community (SADC) should deploy its monitors six months before Zimbabwe’s planned elections.

The monitors should remain in the country for another six months after the polls to ensure there is no post-election violence similar to what happened after the last general elections held in March 2008.

“Next is the issue of political violence where a number of things must be resolved like the work of the Organ of National Healing … (and) the role of SADC and the presence of election monitors in Zimbabwe six months before and six months after the elections,” MDC secretary general Tendai Biti said on Tuesday.

The Organ on National Healing is an inter-party group comprising representatives from President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF and the rival MDC factions headed by Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara.

It has, however, been criticized for failing to foster the spirit of reconciliation among Zimbabweans following political skirmishes that left at least 500 people dead ahead of and during the ill-fated June 2008 presidential run-off between Mugabe and Tsvangirai.

The MDC said there was need for far-reaching reforms to the electoral law, addressing key issues such as the shambolic voters’ roll and ensuring the full independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).

Newly appointed ZEC chairperson – and Namibian High Court judge – Simpson Mtambanengwe has cast doubt on ZEC’s ability to conduct elections in 2011, citing financial constraints and the fact that the voters roll is in "disarray".

Critics say the voters’ roll is outdated, with thousands of dead people still appearing on the voter’s register.

Mugabe announced this month that a coalition government formed by himself, Tsvangirai and Mutambara in February 2009 would come to an end in February 2011, after which Zimbabwe would hold elections by mid next year.