Election watchdogs urge SADC states to copy South Africa


Brenna Matendere

Harare—Southern African Development Community (SADC) members must adopt new technologies for results collation and transmission for more transparency and accuracy, election watchdogs have urged.

The Electoral Support Network of Southern Africa (ESN-SA) and the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) have since published a joint report based on the South African elections held in late May, highlighting major takeaways for countries like Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe holds the record of conducting the most disputed elections in the SADC region since the turn of the millennium amid reports of rigging, intimidation, violence and voter manipulation.

According to the joint report, South Africa effectively used new technology in the management of ballots.

“The use of technology in results collation and transmission supported enhanced transparency and verifiability of results (in South Africa’s May elections). Political parties and other stakeholders were able to closely follow the results collation process in real-time at the various national and provincial results operation centres.

“The use of the voter management devices served as an effective integrated system that supported voter registration, voter participation on election day, and tracking of ballots and other logistics,” reads the report.

The election watchdogs also hailed South Africa’s Independent Electoral C omission (IEC) for its high mobility that made it possible for it to visit voting zones fluidly, urging other countries to copy the system so as to improve on credibility.

For the first time since independence in 1994, the African National Congress (ANC) lost its  majority, thereby forcing a coalition government with the opposition.

Diaspora voting

The joint observer team also saluted South Africa’s readiness to incorporate the diaspora vote.

“South Africans living abroad could register and vote in South Africa’s national elections at South Africa’s foreign missions, where they were registered to vote. The management of the diaspora vote was without hiccups,” noted the observer mission.

It noted that the IEC aided electoral democracy at the May elections by adopting an inclusive strategy that gave all political parties a chance to be heard.

“The IEC excelled in this regard, as stakeholders who were met by the mission expressed satisfaction with the IEC’s response to issues raised. The effective use of the Party Liaison Committees (PLC) allowed for the resolution of low-level disputes,” notes the report.

Online Voting

The observers urged SADC member states to adopt online voter registration to encourage first-time voters and the youth.

“Well-managed elections hugely contribute to the promotion of democratic governance, peace, and development. Despite the operational and technological challenges, South Africa’s 2024 national and provincial elections provided significant takeaways for consideration by stakeholders in the SADC region and beyond.

“The participation of women and youth as voters and as electoral officials was commendable. The generally peaceful conduct of voters and political parties indicated a high level of political tolerance.

“The IEC facilitated transparency in the conduct of the elections and invited parties to audit the results management system, thus entrenching mechanisms to verify the credibility of the election results,” concludes the report.

Observers insist that Zimbabwe must learn from how South Africa and other African democracies conduct their elections.

Last year’s elections in Zimbabwe were marred by voter suppression, intimidation, vote buying, persecution of critics, undemocratic laws, bad management of voting materials and alleged gerrymandering.

Zanu PF and its leader, Emmerson Mnangagwa, won but the main opposition, Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), disputed the results in elections that were acutely condemned by the SADC and AU as well key western observer teams.

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