Zimbabwean civil Society efforts to court the region into persuading the Government of Zimbabwe to institute reforms that allow for free and fair elections continued Last week, from the 26th to the 29th of November 2012, as the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) embarked on a lobby mission to Malawi. The ZESN, Zimbabwe's principal NGO on Elections met civic society, media, churches and political parties in Malawi, in a week that saw two other CSO lobby missions, facilitated by the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, taking place in Mozambique and Tanzania.

The ZESN mission to the country that currently chairs the African Union was hinged on 3 pillars.

·                 providing a brief on the current political environment regarding the holding of democratic elections,

·                 sharing recommendations regarding the role of regional players in promoting human rights, democracy and good governance in Zimbabwe

·                 and establishing and sustaining a platform between ZESN and civil society organisations in Malawi through which elections-related information and expertise is shared for the purpose of promoting sound electoral practices in Zimbabwe.

The mission to Malawi saw ZESN conducting a Consultative workshop on Progress on Electoral Reforms in Zimbabwe where civil society organisations in Malawi pledged to assist Zimbabwe, recognizing that the two countries face similar challenges. Malawian CSOs also discussed the possibility of deploying observers three months before and after elections, as a means of assessing the pre and post-election environment in Zimbabwe.

CSOs in Malawi, through the Malawi Election Support Network (MESN) promised to engage the Malawi government on the situation in Zimbabwe, with hope that the government would engage the Zimbabwean government and the SADC.

The ZESN delegates also met with four political parties including, People's Party, Malawi Congress Party (MCP),  Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the  United Democratic Movement. In a post mission note released by ZESN, they said;

"The political parties highlighted that they are watching closely developments in Zimbabwe and identified with challenges the country is facing, while stressing on the need for political parties in Zimbabwe to embrace tolerance and democratic values. €

ZESN also noted that The People's Party (PP) pledged their support to take the issues in their next executive meeting and thereafter discuss them in parliament, with the possibility of taking the issues to SADC. MCP is reported to have stressed, "What is needed in Zimbabwe is a win-win situation for progress. € DPP whilst noting that it is very difficult to interfere in the domestic affairs of fellow SADC members, also pledged that it would engage SADC to ensure that political parties work towards toning down political tensions and that hate speech be minimized.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network has pledged to continue its work on the ground in Zimbabwe with different role players, and is using the regional crusades to augment and support the local work. The regional courtship of key wielders of influence is set to continue in the second week of December, where the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and Zimbabwe Election Support Network are likely to facilitate an engagement mission to Namibia.

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