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South Africa admits 'challenges' in Zimbabwe vote

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    Supporters of Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF party attend an election campaign rally in Chinhoyi on July 18, 2013. South Africa's chief envoy on Zimbabwe's political crisis has conceded there are challenges in the run-up to key polls, a day before regional mediators meet to discuss the vote.AFP

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    A SADC (Southern Africa Development Community) election observer looks on as Zimbabwe security forces queue to vote during early polling in Harare on July 14, 2013. South Africa's chief envoy on Zimbabwe's political crisis has conceded there are challenges in the run-up to key polls, a day before regional mediators meet to discuss the vote.AFP/File

South Africa's chief envoy on Zimbabwe's political crisis conceded Friday there were challenges in the run-up to key polls, a day before regional mediators meet to discuss the vote.

Thousands of Zimbabwean security forces couldn't draw their mark in chaotic early voting three weeks before the July 31 elections to end a four-year unity government.

"The process has got challenges, we can't deny that because we've seen what info has been coming out during the special vote," said Lindiwe Zulu, who heads the mediation process after deadly polls in 2008.

During early voting last Sunday and Monday polling stations opened late and many lacked indelible ink, stamps, voter rolls and ballot papers and boxes.

"If things didn't go right in the special vote, those things need to be looked into by the time of elections on July 31," Zulu told AFP.

President Robert Mugabe called early polls, hoping to prolong his 33 years in power, despite demands for reform by his archrival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

But Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said this week's "disorganised" early vote showed the country's election commission wasn't up to the task.

Leaders of regional mediator the Southern African Development Community (SADC) will meet in South Africa on Saturday to discuss the upcoming elections, said Zulu.

Presidents of South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania and Namibia would hold talks after the SADC observer mission deployed in Zimbabwe this week.

"They'll just be talking about Zimbabwe, really," said Zulu.

The 15-member block brokered the power-sharing deal between Mugabe and Tsvangirai in 2009, a year after around 200 opposition members were killed in election-related violence.

But there is no love lost between Mugabe and the SADC at the moment.

He threatened to leave the bloc if it meddled in Zimbabwean affairs and scolded South Africa's top diplomat "stupid and idiotic" in an election rally earlier July.