By Timo Shihepo
Windhoek - SADC has budgeted R27 million to observe elections in seven SADC member states for the 2019/20 financial year.
This year, elections in the SADC region are in full swing as four more countries are heading to polls. Three countries, the Comoros, South Africa and Malawi have already conducted their respective national elections. Four more countries which are heading to the polls are Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, and Mauritius.
In order to have first-hand information and ensure free and fair elections, the regional body has budgeted R27 million for these elections. The money will be administered under the SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM).
According to a SADC Secretariat document seen by The Southern Times newspaper, R5.2 million will come from member states, while R15.5 million is funded by the European Union (EU) programme for Support to Peace and Security in the SADC region.
Despite the R15.5 million from the EU being already secured, there is still a funding gap of R7 million.
“Given that support to activities under electoral observation are sensitive in nature, member states sustained funding is required in order to avoid potential interference from external partners.
In this regard, funding of the gap be done within approved 2019/20 budget ceiling,” part of the document states.
As a result, the Council of Ministers meeting held in Namibia in March recommended that in order to avoid outside interference in SADC elections, the SEOM budget gap of R7 million should be funded within the approved 2019/20 budget ceiling.
This process is being done in accordance with the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections of 2015. These principles and guidelines mandate SADC to support electoral processes in all member states through electoral observation and assistance.
The SEOM is regarded as strategic in fostering democratic principles in the SADC region.
SADC countries have been experiencing troubles with elections in recent years, hence the introduction of SEOM.
Due to events of the past, the regional body had to revisit the way it has observed elections it is busy operationalising those issues. SADC Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena Tax, said they had been receiving criticism regarding SADC’s value of election observation.
“It has a lot of benefits and with this new approach, which we have devised, you start with the pre-elections.
When you go for pre-elections, you scan the environment in terms of the legal environment, political environment and peace and security environment.
It is like an early warning mechanism that this is what we are seeing and this is what we hear from the stakeholders. So, it has been very useful,” Dr Tax told The Southern Times during a recent interview.
Apart from the troubled elections in Comoros, the SADC leaders are probably happy with how elections in other member states, South Africa and Malawi, have gone this year and they are hoping for more or the same when the rest of the countries, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, and Mauritius, go for polls later in the year.