Picture: 123RF/ERLLRE
Picture: 123RF/ERLLRE

Harare — Zimbabwe will invite Western powers to monitor its national elections for the first time in more than 15 years, official papers showed on Tuesday, ending a ban imposed by veteran former leader Robert Mugabe.

The vote, scheduled for July, is seen is a major test for President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s democratic credentials since he came to power in November after a de facto army coup ousted Mugabe.

Zimbabwe will invite the US, the EU’s commission and parliament, Australia and the Commonwealth as part of a list of 46 countries and 15 organisations, a document released by the foreign affairs ministry showed.

The countries and groups on the list were all banned from watching elections in 2002 after Mugabe accused them of favouring his opponents. The West slapped sanctions on Mugabe and members of his inner circle, accusing them of rigging a series of votes — charges they denied.

Joey Bimha, permanent secretary at the country’s foreign ministry, said the invitations would be sent out soon but declined to give more details.

The election will pit Mnangagwa against a clutch of opponents including Nelson Chamisa from the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). It will be the first time Mugabe has not been on the ballot since independence from Britain in 1980.