The ministerial troika responsible for peace and security issues in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) met to discuss guidelines on election observation during emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking during the virtual Extraordinary Meeting of the Ministerial Committee of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security (MCO) on Wednesday, 16 September 2020, Botswana’s International Affairs and Cooperation Minister, Lemogang Kwape said the gathering had been convened to consider and adopt the Draft SADC Guidelines for Election Observation under Public Health Emergencies.
Kwape said the meeting was aimed at “bridging the gap that is created by the unforeseen situations, such as COVID-19.”
“I think we should accept that COVID-19 is a test not only for our healthcare systems and mechanisms for responding to infectious diseases, but also our ability to work together as SADC in our continued implementation of our agreed commitments, including election observation,” Kwape said.
Numerous countries in the region have suspended electoral activities during the past six months, as part of measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.
The proposed guidelines, therefore, come against the backdrop of realisation by the SADC region that the COVID-19 pandemic is unlikely to end soon. Despite this, electoral processes have to continue in line with constitutional provisions in the various countries.
The discussion on the guidelines comes as Tanzania is expected to hold general elections in October.
“It is important that we all find meaning and balance to the ‘new normal’ occasioned by the unprecedented threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, not only to the region, but also to humanity as a whole,” Kwape said.
He added, “Our lives and all the processes that give meaning thereto have to continue. Democracy is one such process, of which the holding of regular elections is an important element.”