Thabiso Scotch Mufambi
Harare – The Southern African Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF) has called for the urgent domestication of the SADC model law on elections to strengthen the region’s electoral systems and processes.
This is contained in a concept note delivered at a virtual interface between the SADC PF Standing Committee on Democratisation, Governance and Human Rights (DGHR), and electoral stakeholders in Zambia. The engagement was held ahead of Zambia’s general election on August 12, 2021.
The SADC PF said strong legal frameworks were crucial to electoral accountability and integrity.
“The Model Law, which was developed under the auspices of the DGHR Standing Committee jointly with partners such as the SADC Electoral Advisory Council, Electoral Commissions Forum of SADC and SADC Lawyers Association, serves to assist member states in aligning their legal frameworks on elections with regional and international principles and obligations on democratic elections, in particular the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections,” it said in the concept note for the engagements that run from March 22 to 31.
“Whereas the development of various election instruments within SADC was a positive step, the majority of them are, however, not legally binding and therefore, non-enforceable. This is coupled with the fact that there has generally been a slow pace in the domestication of SADC protocols by member states, including those on elections.
“Accordingly, while regular elections are now largely a common practice across the SADC region, it is important to note that they vary across member states in terms of texture and quality as different countries grapple with various challenges that have potential to impede the credibility and integrity of elections.”
The SADC PF added: “In view of the above, the domestication of the SADC Model Law on Elections at national level, throughout the election cycle, is, therefore, vital to strengthen the electoral legal frameworks, systems, and practices in member states and contribute towards electoral accountability and electoral integrity in the SADC region.”
The Model Law on Elections was adopted at the SADC PF’s 44th Plenary Assembly in December 2018 and was hailed as a milestone in promoting democracy in Southern Africa.
The pre-election consultative meeting with Zambian electoral stakeholders will see the SADC PF unpack the SADC Model Law on Elections and gauging progress made on its domestication. It also serves as a preparatory meeting for deployment of the SADC PF election observer mission to the 2021 General Elections.
The DGHR standing committee chairperson Jeronima Agostinho told the Speaker of Zambia’s National Assembly, Patrick Matibini, that the organisation would deploy its sixth election observer mission to Zambia this year, having observed polling in the country in the 2001, 2006, 2011, 2015, and the 2016 general elections and referendum.
“Our mission shall ensure that the good name of SADC PF is maintained by undertaking our work in a professional manner. We will table our report to the Plenary Assembly. We have no doubt that the pre-election mission will lay a good foundation for the deployment of the main election observation mission,” he said.
SADC PF is a regional inter-parliamentary body bringing together the region’s legislators, with the aim of providing a platform to support and improve regional integration and promote best practices.
It was established by SADC Heads of State and Government at their Summit in 1997.