Mbeki does it again on Zimbabwe, says Leon

In his State of the Nation address on Friday, President Thabo Mbeki repeated an all too familiar pattern of legitimising Zimbabwean elections before they have even taken place, said the DA's spokesperson for foreign affairs, Tony Leon, on Sunday.

In a statement, Leon said: "On no fewer than three previous occasions, the president has gone out of his way to ensure that elections in Zimbabwe, which were an affront to even the most basic of democratic norms and standards, were declared free and fair.

"Thus, far from practising quiet diplomacy, he has been actively complicit in the imposition of a tyranny and a willing accomplice in the destruction of democracy in our northern neighbour."

Leon said that in his address, Mbeki claimed success with the Zimbabwean talks.

"This is simply pure fiction and helps build the myth that Mbeki has propagated in the past that all parties can compete for votes on an equal footing," said Leon.

Mbeki was ignoring the fact that President Robert Mugabe had refused to implement any new constitutional amendments before the March 29 poll, thereby rendering any agreement reached on these issues irrelevant.

Leon said a free and fair election in Zimbabwe was impossible because the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission was staffed by senior military personnel who were unwilling to carry out vigorous voter education programmes and were likely to invite only "friendly" observer missions to rubber-stamp the elections.

Furthermore, said Leon the registrar's office, responsible for compiling the voters roll, was staffed by Zanu-PF loyalists, who undermined efforts to register opposition voters and who resisted attempts to verify the veracity of the voters roll.

Leon added the state enjoyed monopoly in media and civil service, allowing it to manipulate the electoral process. - Sapa

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