By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
28 January 2014
Leaders in the Southern African region have been urged to follow the lead of Botswana’s President Ian Khama in condemning Zimbabwe’s 2013 elections as neither fair nor credible.
In an interview aired on Botswana’s national television station, BTV, Khama said the Zim elections were neither free nor fair. He also announced that Botswana will no longer participate in any SADC election observer missions, because the leadership bloc appears to have let Zimbabwe “off the hook”. The Botswana President insisted that the elections were never fair, and that the rules that govern democratic elections in Southern African were not followed in Zimbabwe’s case.
“SADC has set itself guidelines for the conduct of free and fair elections…And in Zim, we sent 80 plus or so observers and almost every one of them said there were irregularities in that election, and there were. I am convinced of it,” Khama said.
He added: “So, the point was just to say that we must fix the problem because if the guidelines were violated and you create that precedent in Zimbabwe, then it means the next election, because Zimbabwe is going to have elections again, they are likely to repeat the same irregularities. So, do we say Zimbabwe is an exception to the SADC guidelines?”
Khama’s comments fly in the face of SADC’s endorsement of Zimbabwe’s elections, which have also been disputed by the opposition MDCs in Zimbabwe, civil society groups and regional observer teams present during the polls.
One of the observers, Masizole Mnqasela, the South African Shadow Minister for Home affairs from the Democratic Alliance (DA), refused to sign off on a SADC report that endorsed the polls. He defended his position this week and said other SADC leaders should learn from Khama’s statement.
“The election process could not be regarded as a process that was free, or proper. It was a process that lacked credibility and was unconstitutional. So one could not help but declare them unconstitutional and they could not be condoned,” Mnqasela told SW Radio Africa’s Diaspora Diaries series.
He explained that the principles that govern SADC’s commitment to democracy and development need to be upheld, for the good of the entire region.
“If we as a region are able to stand up together, it would be good not just for Zimbabwe’s future, but other countries too. So any country and any leader will know that if you do what happened in Zimbabwe, we will not support you. If you break the rules, you won’t be supported, as Khama has rightly said,” Mnqasela added.
Piers Pigou, the Southern Africa Project director at the International Crisis Group, meanwhile questioned what has prompted Khama to voice his concerns, so long after Zimbabwe’s July polls.
“Botswana is often singled out and accused of not following the regional line, and we knew that they were unhappy about Zimbabwe’s polls before and even wanted an audit,” Pigou said.
He added: “So we are left speculating about what has prompted this. What is outstanding from the observation process is the publication of a final report on the elections by SADC itself, and it may have something to do with that.”
That report is understood to be in the hands of Namibia’s President Hifikepunye Pohamba, the current chair of the SADC Troika. Pigou said the “cynical argument” about the delay could be that this is a deliberate attempt to put as much time as possible between the polls and report.
“So Khama’s comments could reflect a level of desperation and exasperation with SADC and the failure to address the issues in Zimbabwe’s elections,” Pigou said.
Meanwhile Zimbabwe’s Minister of Information, Jonathan Moyo, gave a scathing reaction to Khama’s comments, saying the Botswana President was only seeking the attention of the European Union (EU), ahead of an EU meeting on Zimbabwe’s targeted restrictive measures.
“We are of course aware that the EU’s annual review of its illegal sanctions is scheduled for around February 19. Nobody should be surprised that the usual voices that have traditionally supported the self-indulgent and evil Anglo-Saxon sanctions about this time of the year since 2003 are at it again ahead of the February 19 EU meetings in Brussels,” Moyo said.