14th June 2024

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SADC Electoral Observation Mission launched for South African elections

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…SADC Electoral Observation Mission prepares for South African elections

Tulani Ngwenya

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – The Southern African Development Community (SADC) officially launched its Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) on Wednesday, 22 May 2024, at the Birchwood Hotel in Johannesburg. This mission aims to oversee and ensure the integrity of South Africa’s upcoming national and provincial elections, scheduled for 29 May 2024.

In his opening address, Mr. Enock Kavindele, head of the SEOM, expressed gratitude on behalf of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence, and Security Cooperation, chaired by Dr. Hakainde Hichilema, President of Zambia. Kavindele thanked the South African government for inviting SADC to observe the elections, highlighting the mission’s role in upholding democratic processes in the region.

Kavindele noted the extensive electoral calendar within SADC, mentioning that the region would have conducted elections in seven member states by the end of the year, encompassing nearly 130 million citizens. He acknowledged the commitment of SADC Member States to provide resources and observers for these missions, acknowledging the hard work of the Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs) involved.

The SEOM’s mandate is to observe elections based on the Revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections (2021). These guidelines, affirmed by all SADC Member States, aim to enhance democratic practices and address electoral shortcomings by providing an objective and scientific methodology for election observation. Important documents from the African Union (AU), including the 2007 African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance, and pertinent United Nations (UN) conventions, also provide guidance for the guidelines.

The SADC Electoral Advisory Council (SEAC) carried out a Pre-Election Assessment Goodwill Mission earlier this year, which is the predecessor to the mission in South Africa. This assessment aimed to ensure that recommendations from previous elections, specifically the 2019 South African elections, were implemented to consolidate democracy further.

Kavindele highlighted that the SEOM has been in South Africa since May 13, 2024, to observe the elections, which are governed by the South African Constitution and a comprehensive set of laws. The mission will evaluate the elections based on principles such as citizen participation, human rights, freedom of association, and electoral justice.

The SEOM will assess various aspects of the electoral process, including the legal and constitutional framework, the structure and independence of EMBs, the delimitation of electoral boundaries, the nomination procedures for political parties and candidates, and the role of the media in the electoral process. The mission will also observe the conduct of voting, counting, and the announcement of results, ensuring transparency and accuracy.

Kavindele acknowledged the historical significance of independent candidates contesting at the national level for the first time, following recent electoral reforms mandated by South Africa’s Constitutional Court. He praised the judiciary’s role in upholding democratic principles and urged for the expedited resolution of electoral disputes to maintain public trust.

The SEOM consists of 81 personnel from 11 SADC Member States, reflecting strong gender balance and a non-partisan composition. Observers will be deployed across all nine provinces of South Africa to monitor the pre-election, election, and post-election periods comprehensively.

Kavindele also commended the efforts of the Electoral Commission in facilitating voting for South Africans in the diaspora and enhancing inclusivity in the electoral process. He expressed confidence that South Africa would maintain its culture of peaceful elections.

The SADC urged all registered voters to participate in the elections on May 29, 2024, emphasising the importance of peaceful, free, fair, transparent, and credible elections. The SEOM’s preliminary statement on the elections will be released on May 31, 2024, at the Birchwood Hotel. In conclusion, Kavindele officially launched the SEOM for the 2024 national and provincial elections in South Africa, reaffirming SADC’s commitment to supporting democratic processes in the region.

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