THE head of the European Union delegation in Zimbabwe, Jobst von Kirchmann (pictured), says the success of Harare’s re-engagement with the economic and political bloc and the country’s creditors is premised on the holding of credible elections this year.
The southern African nation, which is later this year expected to hold general elections, has a history marred by political violence and disputed elections.
Von Kirchmann told guests attending the belated Europe Day commemorations at his residence recently that relations between Harare and Brussels, which at the turn of the millennium had turned sour, have thawed in recent times.
Europe Day, held on 9 May every year, celebrates peace and unity on that continent. The date marks the anniversary of the historic “Schuman Declaration” that set out the then French foreign minister Robert Schuman’s idea for a new form of political cooperation in Europe, which would make war between Europe’s nations unthinkable.
“I have been here for almost eight months, a bit less, and actually during that time I have witnessed the richness of our relationship. I think we have already accomplished a lot of trade, investment and support to the private sector with my fellow ambassadors working as Team Europe and the European Investment Bank,” von Kirchmann said.
“What do we want as European Union? We want Zimbabwe to succeed in its Vision 2030. I believe that several processes that I would like to outline, one, because I have probably been involved and I think it’s a crucial process, is the recent High-Level Platform for arrears clearance and debt resolution which was pushed forward and initiated by the government. I think that’s a fantastic process. It includes everything, all the difficult topics.
“But this process is not only about dialogue; it also has to build trust and unity…The upcoming harmonised elections will be a great opportunity to accelerate this process and to trigger more positive changes. I would like to commend to all political parties, government to regularly advocate for free, fair, peaceful and inclusive elections. We as EU, we can just contribute in a humble way. We can do that through our support to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, the civil society and I am also confident with an election observation team.”
Von Kirchmann’s remarks come a few days after the EU recently dispatched an exploratory delegation to assess Zimbabwe’s preparedness to hold free and fair elections, as well as to gauge the legislative climate ahead of the 2023 polls.
Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs minister Fredrick Shava told guests attending the same event that Harare is committed to adopting comprehensive reforms.
“We applaud the European Union in this endeavour,” Shava said.
“In pursuit of these goals we have made significant strides in implementing the ongoing reform agenda guided by our National Development Strategy . . . In the coming few months, Zimbabwe — like you said, Ambassador von Kirchmann — will hold harmonised elections as testimony of our commitment to democracy and democratic processes. We have no doubt that the masses of our people will come out in their millions as in previous plebiscites and participate in electing their leadership.”
In the disputed 2018 elections, the EU observer mission presented its findings through chief observer Elmar Brok, member of the European Parliament, to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), the government, Parliament, civil society and political parties.
The report outlined shortfalls which included problems with the legal framework, the role of the electoral commission, and various abuses of human rights and political rights of the opposition.
It urged reforms accompanied by the requisite political will of all stakeholders.
The EU urged the government of Zimbabwe to prioritise the furtherance of democratic transition in the country.
The recommendations made by the bloc after the 2018 elections included the need for Zimbabwe to address four key areas: the independence of Zec, improved level playing field, the legal framework and the inclusiveness of the process.