In 2013, elections are expected to be held in two Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) countries. These are Zimbabwe and Swaziland. It is in anticipation of these elections that SADC Lawyers Association organised a 2-day BRIDGE workshop on election observation for its members from the region who will be deployed to observe elections in these countries. The SADC-LA considers elections to be the bedrock of democracy and good governance. To this end, the SADC-LA supports and advocates for the holding of elections that are not only free and fair but also reflect the wishes of the local electorate.
The training workshop was held in Johannesburg, South African from 25-26 March 2013. The workshop covered the basics and theory of election observation and monitoring. This included defining and drawing the distinction between observation and monitoring: what is observed in all the three phases of the electoral cycle: and the importance of election observation among other issues. Further the training covered the practical aspects of election observation including deployment for observation; filling in of various observation forms; security and safety tips; coordination and working with other observer missions. An in depth discussion was held on code of conduct for election observers.
In order to acquaint the participants with information on the two countries to be observed, the training workshop also covered contextual analysis of Zimbabwe and Swaziland’s electoral systems, legal framework and electoral practices. This combined with the practical hands-on training on election observation equipped the SADC LA election observers with skills and tools needed for observation when they are eventually deployed.
There was enthusiastic participation from all participants and for many of them, this was the first time they had experienced BRIDGE and training using participatory methodologies and they appreciated it.
Some comments from the participants include:
• What worked were the lively discussions, group work and the participants notes and other materials which were prepared before hand
• The hands on participation during the training assisted in instilling the knowledge
• The practical aspect of the training worked well
• Learnt completely new things and information on observation from legal framework, differences between observation and monitoring, code of conduct and practical issues involved in election observation
The training workshop was facilitated by Revai Makanje Aalbaek and Patience Zonge.