AU Optimistic Ahead of Zimbabwe Poll

THE African Union is happy with progress made by Zimbabwe so far in preparation for the July 31 harmonised elections, AU Commission chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has said. Although a full media briefing on observer reports is due this morning, Dr Dlamini-Zuma, who spoke in IsiZulu on arrival at the Harare International Airport yesterday, gave the clearest hint that the observers are satisfied with the prevailing conditions.

"Siyayithola imbiko kulaba akade bafika. Okwamanje kukahle imbiko esiyitholayo ayikasenzi ukuthi sibenovalo kodwa sifuna ukuzobona nje nathi ukuthi kuqhubekani. (Those who came earlier said all was well and as of now everything is proceeding well. Nothing gives us any cause for alarm)," she said.

Dr Dlamini-Zuma said that AU Mission chairperson and former Nigerian president Mr Olusegun Obasanjo's visit to the country as part of the AU observer team is not guaranteed, saying it depends on whether Government will allow him.

"I think he will come. If he is allowed he will come. They allowed me to come, that is all I'm saying."

Her visit follows that of AU commissioner for political affairs Dr Aïsha Abdullahi who arrived on Tuesday afternoon leading a 60-member team of observers to complement the 10 that have been in the country for the past two weeks.

The AU mission would be part of 20 000 local and foreign observers who have been accredited so far.

Several foreign teams have been in the country for some days, including an advance team of the AU, Sadc observers and South African President Jacob Zuma's backroom facilitation team to the Global Political Agreement.

Dr Dlamini-Zuma said the AU was being briefed about the situation in the country by a 10-member long-term observer team that has been in the country since July 15.

"We are here as the African Union observer mission, but, as you know, our team has been here for quite some time . . . they have been sending us reports, so we are fairly informed, but we felt that it was important to come and see for ourselves before the elections."

Dr Dlamini-Zuma said she was keen to meet political stakeholders to get first-hand information on what was transpiring regarding the electoral process.

"We are still to talk to a number of people around the election, (the Zimbabwe) Electoral Commission, candidates, just to see how things are, before the actual election."

On her arrival, Dr Abudullahi said AU was satisfied with an explanation on the electoral process given to it by Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa during its Peace and Security Council held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last week.

She was responding to a question on why their communique was silent on claims from some quarters that there was "securitisation of the State" in Zimbabwe with regards to the elections.

Dr Abudullahi said the subject was no longer an issue following Minister Chinamasa's comprehensive explanation during the Addis Ababa meeting.