Paul Nyathi|Sadc Election Observer Mission headed by Zimbabwean Defence and War Veterans Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri is so far the only observer group to have certified the Mozambican elections as free, fair and peaceful.
The group claims the elections were consistent with the regional body’s principles governing democratic elections.
In its preliminary statement issued by Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri in Maputo on Thursday, the regional bloc comprising 61 observers said the political and security situation of presidential, legislative and provincial elections were peaceful with campaign rallies in areas observed proceeding unhindered, a situation that went on until voting day.
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who chairs the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, appointed Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri to head the Sadc Election Observer Mission.
“The Mission observed that the 15 October, 2019 elections in Mozambique were held in line with the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections (2015),” she said.
“The Mission also observed that CNE (National Electoral Commission) generally discharged its mandate in terms of the Constitution and Electoral Law of Mozambique including conducting training of polling officers, police, judges and journalists.”
However, the Election Observation Mission of EISA (Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa), which observed the Mozambican general elections held on Tuesday, has called for the depoliticisation of the Mozambican election apparatus altogether.
In its preliminary statement on the elections, issued on Thursday, EISA argues that the political parties should be moved out of the election administration bodies.
“While the political party model of election administration may be considered inclusive”, says EISA, “the representation of political parties within the technical structures of the election management body compromises the technical competence, independence and professionalism required of the institution at technical level”.
The politicisation of election bodies dates back to the 1992 peace agreement between the government and the Renamo rebels, when Renamo demanded the right to appoint a third of the future National Elections Commission (CNE). Since then, political parties have played a dominant role inside each and every CNE.
Much worse, the politicisation has extended into the CNE’s executive body, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE). All three parties represented in parliament – Frelimo, Renamo and the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) – appoint members at every level of STAE, national, provincial, city and district. Thus there are hundreds of political party appointees looking over each other’s shoulders inside the electoral bodies.
EISA says that, after working for 15 years in Mozambique, it believes “that the partisan model of election management needs to be reconsidered for a more independent model”.
Yet whenever suggestions are made to take the political parties out of the electoral bodies (in 2008 and 2012, for example), there is a howl of rage from Renamo. However, the politicisation has not worked in Renamo’s favour. Because Frelimo is the largest party in parliament, it has an effective majority of the political appointees on the political commissions and in the various branches of STAE.
EISA also notes the dispute over the voter registration in the southern province of Gaza, where the number of registered voters is starkly at odds with the 2017 census. There are 330,000 more people on the Gaza electoral register than there are adults of voting age in the projection for 2019 from the census – clearly an impossible figure.
EISA noted that “a credible voter register is the foundation of a credible electoral process”, and regrets that the dispute over Gaza was not solved before the elections.
It suggests that the ten yearly census should be used as the basis for allocating parliamentary seats. It believed that the allocation of seats “on the basis of voter registration figures rather than the population census figures entrenches the practice of politicising voter registration statistics”.
EISA also criticises Mozambique’s lax rules on election finance. The law only mentions the public funding of election campaigns, and has nothing to say about private funding. “There are no ceilings on private donations to campaigns”, EISA noted. “This gap leaves the electoral process open to the undue influence of private donor and illicit funds”.
Muchinguri Kashiri’s mission expressed concern on sporadic armed insurgencies in the northern parts of the country, as well as attacks on civilian vehicles in Manica, Sofala and Cabo Delgado provinces.
It also took note of the isolated incidents of violence and attacks reported in some districts such as Gondola, Gorongosa, Manhiça and Xai-Xai.
“In addition, despite the natural calamities caused by cyclones Idai and Kenneth that largely affected the provinces of Sofala and Cabo Delgado, the Technical Secretariat for the Administration of Elections (STAE) managed to provide tents, which were used as polling stations in areas where infrastructure was destroyed,” said Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri.
“The Mission is of the view that these developments did not compromise the overall conduct of the elections in the country.”
Some challenges were also observed which included the disputes surrounding the registration of voters in Gaza province, the outcome of which is yet to be advised by the Attorney-General, inadequate arrangements in some polling stations to enable the people with physical disabilities and special needs to vote, the tying up of the validity of voter registration to each electoral cycle in terms of the law which the mission felt it might pose financial and administrative challenges.
On access to the media, the mission said despite allegations of bias against the public media by some stakeholders, the mission observed that advertisement of campaign messages was generally extended to political parties in the elections.