Harare (New Ziana) – The Southern African Development Community (Sadc) has drafted guidelines for election observation in the region during public health emergencies, such as the current global Coronavirus outbreak.
SADC member states, Tanzania and Seychelles are expected to hold Presidential elections in October this year.
Given the health risks posed by large gatherings during election periods, in light of the Coronavirus pandemic, SADC has seen it fit to craft guidelines that were considered by the Ministerial Committee of the Organ during an extraordinary virtual meeting held on September 15.
“The SADC guidelines for election observation under public health emergencies will address the potential risk of spreading the Covid-19 virus and other such diseases during elections, by providing elaborate mitigation measures and steps on how to manage and observe elections amidst pandemics with relative safety,” Sadc said.
“The Guidelines would mainly be a blue-print for the region to observe elections under new public health protocols to govern all of SADC’s Electoral Observation Missions.”
During the meeting, SADC executive secretary, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax said the pandemic had brought out the need to introduce innovative ways to sustain the region’s overall objective of fostering peace and security, and the consolidation of democracy.
She said it was important for the SADC region to consider various risks associated with every stage of the electoral cycle in coming up with measures to safeguard the health security of citizens during elections.
“The Guidelines are expected to strengthen the interventions by the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation in respect of disaster preparedness, disaster risk reduction and management, and strategic responses to pandemics in line with the relevant provisions of the Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation of 2001.
“Noting the progress in the formulation of the guidelines for observation of elections in the region under public health emergencies, the Extraordinary MCO approved virtual engagements with stakeholders and virtual follow up for the upcoming elections in the Republic of Seychelles and the United Republic of Tanzania,” it said.