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SA commended for inviting foreign observers

Southern African electoral network has commended South Africa for inviting foreign observers to monitor the local government elections.

However, the network warns that the violence and killings that have preceded the polls could negatively impact South Africa’s regional standing as a democracy.

Rindai Chipfunde Vava has just returned from a two week stint in KwaZulu-Natal, training observers at the invitation of the South Africa’s Council of Churches. The regional network of observers are monitoring South Africa’s municipal elections for the first time- and expectations are high.

“We expect credible elections in South Africa, South Africa to set a role model because it has been a regional economic power, so we expect it to set the lead in terms of how elections are run,” says Vava.

Electoral organisations are concerned about the effect of pre-election violence beyond the borders. South Africa has always been an example of democracy but a hotly contested election has left at least 14 councillors dead.

“We have seen it on the increase, even in Zambia we had incidences of violence. In the past, we used to have Zimbabwe in the lead when it comes to electoral related violence in South African Development Community (SADC). So now we are concerned that it is spreading all over. And this is an issue of concern. It sees that we are eroding the gains we had made in terms of the consolidation.”

Beyond the elections, the electoral support network says each of the region’s countries needs to routinely re-evaluate their electoral systems.

“Apparently there is no one best electoral system. I remember we used to hail Lesotho as the best because it takes both advantages from proportional representation and some from first part the post. But what we have seen, it has been marred by problems and it has been manipulated,” says Vava.

South Africa is being urged to address issues of intra-party democracy and the imposition of candidates that has sparked the violence. The message from South Africa’s neighbours is clear- the region is watching.

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