President of the Forum and Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission of the Republic of South Africa – Advocate Pansy Tlakula;
Chairperson of the Forum’s Executive Committee and Chairperson of the National Electoral Commission of the Republic of Tanzania – Justice Damian Lubuva;
Chairperson of the Seychelles Electoral Commission;
Chairpersons of Member Commissions here present;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you all to Seychelles on behalf of President James Michel and the Government of the Republic of Seychelles on the occasion of the 15th annual conference of the Electoral Commissions Forum of SADC countries.
As SADC’s smallest member state- we are proud to host this event- as we believe that effective electoral commissions provide the building blocks for just and free societies.
I thank the Electoral Commission of Seychelles for making all the necessary arrangements for hosting this conference.
This meeting comes about while Seychelles is also undertaking electoral reforms led by the Electoral Commission. Our electoral reform forum has been made up by representatives of all political parties, and has included wide consultations to try and ensure that as wide a range of views as possible is sought.
Seychelles prides itself on organizing peaceful and credible elections systematically.
And we also believe that it is important that the electoral landscape evolves to suit the realities of modern times- where news is instant, where everyone has a say on social media, where every election is also an international event, and where the boundaries of what is expected of electoral commissions may seem to forever be widening.
Consultations among commissions of the region allow us to better adopt best practices and prepare our respective societies to manage these processes in a transparent and fair manner.
I have no doubt that the spirit of innovation and practicality will inspire your deliberations.
I am also confident that this conference will help to consolidate cooperation among members for the development of a democratic culture and a dynamic electoral process in the SADC Region.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The nature of democracy is competitive.
It is human nature that competition also breeds contention.
Our electoral commissions need to have as many tools at their disposal to be able to manage the contentious situations that elections may throw up.
Even the best prepared elections, may be faced with challenges that may not have been obvious at the outset.
We are looking to forums such as this one to translate good intentions into tangible programs and projects that can reinforce the development of a democratic culture that is characterized by professionally conducted elections whose outcomes are credible.
We also know, that even the most credible and transparent elections may also be challenged- as this is also a feature of democracy.
The work of our commissions is thus also related to the need to ensure that our judicial systems are prepared and able to manage these challenges, and reinforce the credibility of all appeals mechanisms.
We also note that a Commission can only implement the laws that are legislated in the first place- and thus the importance of also working with parliaments to promote a sound framework for electoral management.
I have noted with appreciation the following important fundamentals in the objectives of the Forum;
The objectives call for the establishment of programs and projects that seek to bring the Forum and its members closer to their various stakeholders by provision of information on electoral processes through civic and voter education.
Programmes must above all seek to educate the electorate on the importance of their participation in the strengthening of democracy and the cultivation of a democratic culture that should become their way of life.
Capacity building in favour of our commissions is a key component that we must all seek to reinforce. The Forum continues to build collaborative networks with a number of organizations. Amongst the capacity building programmes - the training of new Commissioners and CEOs, a series of workshops on Media and Election reporting and management, stakeholder dialogue workshops, training of electoral staff members on electoral democracy, training on gender and elections, election observation and many others which are on-going.
In our SADC region- we can be proud that the forum has developed guidelines that facilitate the implementation of best practices by commissions in our region.
Through such guidelines, we set standards that set the bar in terms of Independence of action, Impartiality, Integrity, Transparency, Financial probity, Accountability, Professionalism and Sustainability.
Ladies and gentlemen,
SADC nations are bound together by a common history based on a shared struggle for independence, freedom and equality.
The ideals of our independence movements are safeguarded by the will of our people that are expressed through regular democratic elections.
It is through credible elections that we secure the legacy of independence, and the futures of our children.
I take this opportunity to congratulate the SADC mission to the elections in Zimbabwe that have just been completed. We fully endorse the report of the mission and we urge that the various issues flagged in the preliminary report receive full attention.
We also congratulate the government and people of Zimbabwe on organizing peaceful elections.
At this forum- allow me to also take a moment to state that we must also remain committed to establishing the right framework for credible elections to be held in Madagascar.
It is elections that will provide a definitive end to a crisis which is further plunging the Malagasy people into the abyss of poverty and despair.
We insist on the implementation of the 7 point plan recently presented by the AU and SADC. We thank all those present for bringing support to the elections process in any way possible.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In conclusion, my appreciation and thanks goes to the Electoral Commissions Forum of SADC countries which continues to recognize the responsibility placed on Electoral Management Bodies to ensure that a favourable environment exists for credible elections to take place.
By working together in this forum- you are strengthening our ability as a region to act cohesively to strengthen democratic processes.
It is a great pleasure to welcome you to Seychelles on this occasion, and to open the annual general conference.
I thank you.