South African poll observers criticise 'legitimate' finding

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The Independent Online

Some members of South Africa's observer mission in Zimbabwe broke ranks yes-terday to criticise the dele-gation's decision that the re-election of Robert Mugabe was "legitimate".

Bobby Godsell, who was a member of the 50-strong South African team, said: "I am both confused and uncomfortable about the use of the word 'legitimate' to describe the Zimbabwean poll."

Another observer, who preferred not to be identified, said he and two other South African observers had been taken aback by the "hardline police harassment of government opponents" in the election, both in urban and rural areas.

When the observer mission leader, Sam Motsuenyane, a South African businessman, announced their findings in Harare on Wednesday he was reportedly jeered by journalists and diplomats.

South Africa's Deputy President, Jacob Zuma, who held talks in Harare with President Mugabe yesterday, said the government in Zimbabwe was "happy" with the observers' report that concluded the election "should be considered legitimate" but not "free and fair." But Mr Godsell said that he was confused by the conflicting terminology used.

He said: "I don't understand the difference between legitimate and free and fair. I don't understand how an election can not be free and fair but can also be legitimate."

Mr Godsell was an observer in Harare where there had been some "distinct problems".

"I understand that the mission is to release a final report and I am assuming that there will be an opportunity to debate and discuss the findings that have been made," he said.

"So I am hoping that there will be a chance to clarify the irregularities but I concede that the damage has been done already by now."