Southern African News Features                                           SANF 12 No 24 , June 2012

Advisory council to encourage adherence to SADC election principles and guidelines


The SADC Electoral Advisory Council (SEAC) has been tasked with encouraging adherence to principles and guidelines governing the conduct of elections.

The 15-member SEAC, which was inaugurated in April 2011, is mandated to advise SADC on electoral matters and issues pertaining to enhancement of democracy and governance.

Adopted in August 2004 at the Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government in Mauritius, the principles and guidelines contain procedures to be followed by SADC observer teams and minimum standards that a Member State should follow if its election is to be declared free and fair.

The electoral guidelines aim to enhance the transparency and credibility of elections and democratic governance as well as ensuring the acceptance of election results by all contesting parties.

They are, however, not legally binding and are subservient to national law provisions. It is not mandatory for a Member State holding elections to invite a SADC Electoral Observer Mission (SEOM) to observe its elections.

Section 3.1 of the principles and guidelines states that a SEOM will have a role only “in the event a Member State deems it necessary to invite SADC to observe its elections.”

In addition to ensuring adherence to the SADC electoral principles and guidelines, the SEAC is expected to encourage the development, improvement and review of electoral laws and regulations in SADC Member States, and develop strategies on handling electoral disputes in the region.

First conceived in 2005, the SEAC is a statutory body created under the SADC Inter-State Politics and Diplomacy Committee (ISPDC) to advise Member States on electoral matters.

The ISPDC reports to the Ministerial Committee of the Organ (MCO) on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, made up of the ministers responsible for foreign affairs, defence, public security and state security from the SADC Member States.

The MCO reports to the Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government. The SEAC is guided by various SADC documents, including the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, and, as an official SADC body, is able to engage with countries at all levels, both governmental and non-governmental.

SEAC is composed of one representative from each Member State, selected and appointed by the MCO from a list nominated by governments.

To avoid conflict of interest, SEAC members cannot be serving Members of Parliament or cabinet ministers; they cannot be active in party politics or sit on any election management body.

They must be individuals of the highest reputation with experience in democracy and governance issues and must be over 40 years of age.

Retired Tanzanian judge John Tendwa is the inaugural chairperson of the SEAC. Hon. Tendwa leads 14 other former judges, ambassadors, professors and civil society officials from the SADC region appointed to the SEAC.

Other members are Angolan diplomat Virgilio Marques de Faria; Professor Appollinaire Malumalu of the Democratic Republic of Congo; Abel Leshele Thoahlane of Lesotho; Malawian judge, Justice Maxon Mbendera; Orlanda Rafael of Mozambique; Prof. Gerard Totemeyer of Namibia; Seychelles Supreme Court judge, Justice Bernadin Renaud; Zambian lawyer, Gertrude Imbwae; and Zimbabwean ambassador, Prof. Hasu Patel.

Botswana government’s first choice candidate, Gloria Somolekae relinquished the post after being appointed a Specially Elected Member of Parliament and Assistant Minister of Finance and Development Planning.

Botswana is still to submit a replacement. The South African government redeployed its first nomination, Ambassador Ajay Bramdeo and, is therefore, still to submit the name of a replacement.

Mauritius and Swaziland are still to submit their nominees while Madagascar is under suspension from active participation

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