Sadc must stand firm on Zimbabwe

WASHINGTON - On July 31, 2013, Zimbabweans took their hopes and aspirations to more than 9 000 polling stations across the country to cast their ballots in a much- anticipated election.

While many analysts in Zimbabwe and throughout the world predicted a close contest between longtime President Robert Mugabe and his chief rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, the results proved to be nothing of the sort.

Indeed, several days later on August 3, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) announced a historic landslide, with Mugabe winning more than 60 percent of the popular vote and his party securing an overwhelming two-thirds majority in Parliament.

While the proceedings on Election Day were largely peaceful and rightly commended by both domestic and international observers, the myriad legal violations leading up to the vote combined with reports of irregularities and allegations of voter fraud on election day itself, have provided the international community ample reason to doubt the integrity of the outcome.

The amount of credible and mounting concerns that have so far come to light should prompt an immediate and thorough investigation by the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) before election results are certified.

In March 2013, I led an international human rights delegation to Zimbabwe that documented the concerns of ordinary citizens, including human rights violations against individuals and civil society organisations participating in the electoral process.

During our visit, I heard countless tales of intimidation, harassment, violence, and arbitrary detention of activists, as well as infringements on freedom of expression and access to information.

I even received a small taste of that repression firsthand, as our hotel rooms were visited by shady State agents and our delegation stopped, searched, and questioned repeatedly by the police.

By all accounts, violations of basic political rights and civil liberties continued unabated throughout the electoral process and were not adequately remedied by responsible State authorities.

Most troubling is the fact that many credible reports suggest the electoral register was manipulated to provide the Mugabe regime the necessary latitude to unequivocally tilt the election in its favour, with reports that upwards of one million deceased voters and more than 100 000 citizens over the age of 100 remained on the roll.

The fact that an electronic form of the register was not made available to the political opposition or to civil society organisations prior to Election Day is unacceptable, and a clear violation of domestic law and international electoral standards.

On election day itself, it is estimated that between 700 000– 1 000 000 voters, mainly in areas sympathetic to the opposition, were disenfranchised by being turned away at polling stations across the country.

In a statement on August 2, Sadc was quick to label the election as “free and peaceful,” though it stopped short of calling the results credible, and for good reason. 

One civic group has documented nearly 2 000 total breaches of the Sadc Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, a vast majority of which were committed by Zanu PF officials or affiliated State authorities.

Although Sadc acknowledged a number of electoral irregularities in its preliminary assessment, the regional body has yet to take a definitive stand on the Zimbabwe issue.

Instead of applying its own standards to reach a conclusive and evenhanded judgment, Sadc has undermined the prospects for democracy not only in Zimbabwe, but for the region writ large. 

With important upcoming elections in South Africa, ?Malawi, Namibia, and most worryingly Mozambique —which is currently experiencing serious political strife —this is no time for Sadc to stand idly by or to blindly disregard its own guiding principles. 

The forthcoming Sadc Summit in Malawi provides a timely opportunity for regional leaders to hear the concerns of all parties involved in Zimbabwe’s electoral dispute, including domestic civil society and country observation teams.

A mere lack of physical violence, while certainly a marked improvement for Zimbabwe, does not itself constitute a credible election.

Comments (6)

Thanks for this report but please make it clear which Observer Mission Kerry Kennedy was with - this should be done as a footnote on the bottom of the piece.

Wiz Bishop - 14 August 2013

This will be a test for AFRICA as a whole. Do they want to show that they are able to uphold the standards that they themselves set ?? Or are they going to be cowards and give in and just go along with blatant fraud just to get rid of the headache called Zimbabwe ? Let's see who has the balls to do what is right for Africa.

Mabel dhlamini - 14 August 2013

It is already too late. Any interference by SADC at this moment will result in Mugabe pulling Zimbabwe out of the organization.

Vherukai Vherukai - 15 August 2013

@Vherukai I can and could not agree with you more on this one and who would think SADC would go against Mugabe when he has already indicated or rather threatened them with withdrawal because it is a voluntary organisation. Remember what Zanu does not agree with (it does not matter how bad it is & I give thumbs up to them for being steadfast in their opinion irregardless of it being good or bad) they shall stick to it and even pull out; SADC had to abolish the SADC Tribunal Court where Zimbabwe had seconded a judge because its judgements where aginst Zanu. I will not talk about Commonwealth for it was labelled a racist tea club already yet we no the reason was because the could not go with Zanu. Ndihwo hunonzi humbimbindoga uhwu.

Qawe laMaqawe - 15 August 2013

anyone not happy with the choices of the majority of the people of zimbabwe can go hang. All this speculative nonsense about rigging, intimidation without proof is pure hogwash. Zimbabweans voted fro polices that they felt benefited them and theose policies are embodied in Zanu PF. Aya mamwe makore mashanu ekutongwa kuzerere nekushungurudzika kwevachena.

Tongogara - 15 August 2013

what about Matebeleleland people who are not seen as human by Mugabe

bee - 21 August 2013

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