By Timo Shihepo
Windhoek - Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) taxpayers have since 2014 paid R111.2 million for election observers to observe elections in four member states.
The money contributed by member states under the SADC Electoral Observation Missions (SEOM) was used to observe elections in Namibia, Botswana, and Mozambique and in the Kingdom of Lesotho.
The first budget of R9.5 million towards the SEOM was first approved by the Council of Ministers’ meeting held in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe in 2014, however, only R9 million was paid to SEOM as a balance of R505,000 was still outstanding from Malawi.
In March 2015, in a meeting held in Harare, Zimbabwe, an additional budget of R108.4 million was approved but only R102.2 million was paid by member states by end of September 2017. Out of the total R111.2 million approved since 2014, a total of R102.2 million was used to observe elections in the Kingdom of Lesotho alone.
Part of the R102.2 million was also used for the fact-finding mission when the kingdom’s political crisis reached boiling point last year.
More money is set to go towards to SEOM as there are 10 SADC member states whose elections are slated between 2018 and 2019.
The SEOM usually consists, in total, of about 34 observers from SADC member states. As well as two or more experts on electoral processes from SADC Electoral Advisory Council (SEAC) and 10 staff from the SADC Secretariat.
The SEOM seeks to see full participation of the citizens in the political process; freedom of association; political tolerance; equal opportunity for all candidates and political parties to access the state media; equal opportunity to exercise the right to vote and be voted for.
It further seeks the independence of the judiciary and impartiality of the electoral institutions; civic and voter education; acceptance and respect of the election results by all electoral stakeholders as proclaimed to have been free and fair by the competent electoral commission in accordance with the law of the land.
Zambia takes over as new head of SAPMIL
Meanwhile, Zambia has taken over as the new head of SADC Preventive Mission in the Kingdom of Lesotho (SAPMIL) in a handing over ceremony held in Maseru, the Kingdom of Lesotho on September 20.
The new head of mission is now, Brigadier General (Retired) Timothy Kazembe from Zambia who took over from Ambassador Matias Matondo of Angola
The exchange was in line with Zambia taking over the SADC Chair on organ, politics and defence chairpersonship from Angola. SAPMIL has played a significant role to restore peace and stability in the Kingdom of Lesotho since its deployment in November 2017.
Chama said peace and security within SADC Region are essential components to create an enabling environment for inter-state cooperation.
He commended the government of Lesotho for the support it rendered to SAPMIL and further encouraged the government to maintain the momentum towards the implementation of reforms to ensure the maintenance of stability in the country.
In his remarks, the Director of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation at the SADC Secretariat, Jorge Cardoso, on behalf of SADC executive secretary, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, commended Matondo and the other SAPMIL personnel, for the commitment shown since the launch and deployment of the Mission in November 2017.
He also commended the people, and the Lesotho government, for their cooperation and support to the SADC Mission, citing it as a contributing factor to the restoration of security in the country.
Cardoso reminded the audience that the mission was deployed in response to the request from the Lesotho government, after the tragic incident of September 2017, in which the former Lesotho Defence Force Commander was assassinated.
The mission was deployed to complement the efforts of the SADC Oversight Committee to strengthen peace and security in the country and to assist in the implementation of the sector-wide reforms, especially the Security Sector Reforms.
Furthermore, Cardoso said added that SAPMIL and the Oversight Committee have assisted the Lesotho government and its security agencies to make progress on the reforms.
“This contributed to the maintenance of peace, law and order in the country. However, despite the achievements made thus far, more work needs to be done to consolidate the progress that has been achieved.”