By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
27 May 2014
The ongoing saga surrounding a Zimbabwe election report, which has been kept secret by the South African Presidency for over a decade, has taken a fresh twist after the ‘missing’ document resurfaced.
The report disappeared from the chambers of Pretoria high court judge Joseph Raulinga in February this year, but according to court registrar Louisa Mangwagape, the Presidency’s original copy has now resurfaced.
This message was passed down on Monday to lawyers representing the Mail & Guardian newspaper, which has been fighting since 2008 to have the report details made public.
No other details about the report’s reappearance have been divulged.
The report was written by judges Sisi Khampepe and Dikgang Moseneke in 2002, after they were sent by then President Thabo Mbeki to report back on the elections in Zimbabwe that year. The report was never released to the public, although Mbeki endorsed the polls as a democratic process.
The elections however were seriously marred by violence and other irregularities, and in 2008 the Mail & Guardian newspaper went to the courts to have the document released. It argued that the evidence contained in the report was of public interest.
The disappearance of the document in February coincided with plans by the Presidency, under Jacob Zuma, to appeal against an order to release the document to the newspaper. The appeal also came months after Zuma endorsed Zimbabwe’s latest flawed elections in 2013.
The court order, the most recent in a series of rulings confirming the newspaper’s rights to access the document, was made last year by Judge Raulinga. He is one of the few ‘outsiders’ who has seen the contents of the report after taking a ‘judicial peek’ at the document in 2012. Raulinga ruled that there was enough evidence in the report to show that the electoral process in Zimbabwe in 2002 was neither free nor fair.
The appeal is still pending.
Political analyst Clifford Mashiri said Tuesday that it was “suspicious” that the report went missing in the run up to South Africa’s general elections, and now resurfaces so soon after Zuma was reelected as President.
“We can only speculate, but we know that the Zuma government fought tooth and nail to suppress the election report. It did so on the understanding that they knew the contents of the report. This is a very damaging report, which would impact negatively on Zuma,” Mashiri said.