The EU Observer Mission giving a press conference in Harare, at which only one journalists, from Openparlyzw, proved to be the only real journalist operating in Zimbabwe today.

The European Union Observer Mission to Zimbabwe for the 2018 elections held a press conference today in Harare.  That press conference should be a cause for grave concern for ZEC and for the government of President Mnangagwa.

The statement itself was full of diplomatic speak but it was the question and answer that really bust the whole thing wide open.

Zimbabwe and the government should thank the guy called Daniel from Openparlyzw, who is the only journalist in that room who asked a real and pertinent question. All the other so-called journalists in that room appeared to have been there just to eat the sandwiches and are disgrace to the profession.

Daniel asked about the process of observing the printing of the ballot paper and asked the observers to say whether they had come across similar issues in other countries and how they have been approached before.

The answer was devastating even though it was diplomatic.

The Head of Mission, Mr Brok, first pointed out that the issue around the publishing of the design of the ballot paper had failed "for reasons I have not yet understood". Then he handed over to his Deputy to answer the questions about examples of how it goes in other elections the EU has observed.

The Deputy Head of Mission for the EU Observer Mission basically said that the process of being allowed to observe the printing of the ballot paper, which the MDC Alliance of Chamisa is complaining about, "was not what we expected either" when it was done by ZEC.

He went on to say that, in their experience,  where proper observation of the printing of the ballot paper was granted, "it enhanced the credibility" of the election.

Now, this is a critical point from a critical observer mission. The EU Mission and the British Observer Mission are the two most critical Missions for this election. The Americans don't matter, because they have already made it clear that they won't declare the election free, fair and credible until and unless all land taken from white farmers is returned or paid for in full. So their issue is not with the election, their agenda is somewhere else. But it will be impossible for them to continue holding that viewpoint if the EU and the British see the election as free and fair and credible.

So, that statement from the EU Observer Mission today points to one thing: if the situation as it is now is allowed to stand, if the observing of the ballot printing, storage and transportation continue to be, in their words, "not what we expected", then as surely as the sun will rise on 31 July 2018, the Observer Mission will, at the very best, declare the election to be "flawed" if not outrightly "not free, not fair and not credible".

If President Mnangagwa and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) are serious about setting Zimbabwe on a different trajectory, they should allow observation of all these processes. Their credibility and continued acceptance by the international community depends on it.

The issue of anyone being given samples of ballot paper itself should be rejected by the Commission and by all right thinking Zimbabweans. Zimbabweans are deeply distrustful of their politicians. And there is nothing in the world that can convince us that the opposition are angels who will not use that sample to create their own versions of ballot papers in order to do underhand things. Far-fetched, yes. But so is the idea of disappearing inks and moving Xs, yet we are willing to give those raising these issues the benefit of the doubt on this and have them be given peace of mind on this concern.

The ballot paper samples should be given to whoever wants them soon after voting has ended, so that they can test the paper without fear that they will go and make duplicates. Once they have a sample taken from actual voting ballot paper hours after the election, they can test these and tell us within 24 hours or sooner whether the paper was what they thought it was.

The same principle and approach should be taken with the ink.

Even the observers and other logical persons will be able to understand this.

It really boggles the mind why ZEC is being this intransigent. Yes, The MDC Alliance is being abusive, using mocking language and basically acting like bullies, but the interests of the nation and  the future of our people dictates that ZEC and Justice Chigumba swallow their pride and bend over backwards to be seen to be transparent.

The nation itself will judge for itself, we are sure, whether the abusive, insulting and posturing language of the MDC Alliance should be rewarded with their votes. But Justice Chigumba should understand what we all, including President Mnangagwa, understand: when you get into public office, or are a public figure, you must EXPECT to be insulted, to be called the vilest of names and to be verbally abused publicly. You will be threatened, have your umentionables mentioned. But you should be able to shrug this off and soldier on in the best interests of all those who call Zimbabwe their home.


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