Give ZEC a chance-EU Ambassador

Chris Mahove

The recently appointed European Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Jobst Von Kirchmann says the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission should be given a chance to reform before it can be judged as not ready to deliver a free and fair election next year.

Zimbabweans go to the polls in July next year with all eyes on the electoral body which has previously been accused of manipulating elections in favour of the ruling ZANU PF in previous elections.

Opposition parties and other stakeholders have been calling for electoral reforms before the watershed elections in which President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is seeking a second term, is expected to enter in a two horse race pitting him against main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) leader, Nelson Chamisa.

The two faced off in the hotly contested election in 2017, in which President Mnangagwa had to wait for a Constitutional Court judgment to claim victory  after his victory was challenged by his nemesis Chamisa.

The European Union last week offered the government of Zimbabwe 4,5 million euros to support electoral reforms ahead of the 2023 plebiscite.

And Ambassador Von Kirchmann, questioned on whether he was confident ZEC would implement the reforms, said the electoral body should be given a few months to undertake the necessary reforms for a free and fair election.

“I am here effectively working for three weeks and I am very happy that this morning we signed an agreement for two programmes with the government for support; one on health and on the other hand the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. We have now to unfold how we are going to support them and this I think for the next couple of months we have to see what activities we can do together, at least we haven’t started.

“But what we signed this morning is the financial agreement saying we will make 4,5 million euros available to support the ZEC so I think that is the starting point and I am very happy to take the question later maybe in a couple of months,” he told Review & Mail in an interview on the sidelines of the launch of the African- EU campaign at the EU residence in Harare.

On the issues of sanctions, Ambassador Von Kirchmann, just like his predecessor, maintained that the European Union currently did not have any sanctions against Zimbabwe.

“That is why we are able to engage on all levels and the EU as it stated in the UN Report which was recently published, if you look it up, has not imposed any sanctions which will affect the population, the economy education or whatsoever, so I think that is the starting point also for working together and allowing us and also allowing Zimbabwe to say now we concentrate on trade, we have a free trade agreement which allows Zimbabwe to Export to the EU without limits without duties and same for the EU to import,” he said.

Ambassador Von Kirchmann noted that the European Union was currently Zimbabwe’s fourth trading partner, with 700 million euros per year.

“So I think these are all things we can even increase and there is no limit,” he said.

However, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa, who was guest of honor at the launch ceremony, said while the Zimbabwe government acknowledged the scaling down of sanctions by the EU, it wanted the complete removal of the illegal measures.

“Government acknowledges the progressive scaling down of sanctions against our country Zimbabwe and still calls for their total removal,” she said.

She also acknowledged that there had been substantial improvement of trade between Zimbabwe and the EU over the period 2017 to 2021 with Zimbabwe exports hitting USD 500 million, adding that the total removal of sanctions would see Zimbabwe reach its full potential.

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