South Africa admits 'challenges' in Zimbabwe vote

19th July 2013, Comments 0 comments

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.

Yet the African Union said free and fair elections in Zimbabwe, due at the end of the month, are possible.

Thousands of Zimbabwean security forces could not 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 on 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.

But the African Union after its Peace and Security Council meeting on Friday said it was possible to have fair elections.

"According to our observers on the ground we believe that it is possible to have free and fair elections in Zimbabwe," said Aisha Abdullahi, AU commissioner for political affairs on Zimbabwe.

"But we cannot guarantee that it will be the most perfect or optimum of situations," he said after an AU peace and security council meeting.

"The environment in Zimbabwe so far reassures us that the conditions are good for the election to be held on July 31," he said.

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 was not up to the task.

With the vote due in less than two weeks, the country is still trying to raise the $132 million budget required to fund it.

"We are doing everything we can to make sure that we have the sufficient resources to fund the elections," Finance Minister Tendai Biti told journalists.

"I am very positive that we will get the money," admitting that "we do not have the resources at the present moment".

Biti, who is a member of Tsvangirai's party, had previously declared that the country had no money to fund the crucial elections, and launching an international appeal for finance.

In April, the cash-strapped country withdrew its funding appeal to the United Nations.

Early this year the government had to borrow money from local firms to pay for the referendum on a new constitution.

"We are getting no joy from diamond monies. Over $400 million have been sold of diamonds just in the first quarter of the year, (but) nothing has come to treasury," said Biti.

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

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.

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© 2013 AFP

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