MOST Southern African Development Community (Sadc) member states believe Zimbabwe’s 23 August general elections were flawed and agree with the preliminary report of the regional bloc’s electoral observer mission which concluded that the elections fell short of requirements of the Zimbabwean constitution, Electoral Act and the Sadc Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.
The joint African Union-Comesa electoral observer mission also condemned aspects of the elections.
In its preliminary report, the Sadc election observer mission led by former Zambian vice-president Dr Nevers Mumba said while the polls were largely peaceful, they did not meet constitutional requirements and its principles and guidelines governing the conduct of democratic elections in the region.
Only three heads of state — South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, his Mozambican counterpart Filipe Nyusi and Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi — attended President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s inauguration ceremony on Monday, as the majority of leaders snubbed the occasion.
Conspicuous by their absence were African Union chair Azali Assoumani, President of the Union of Comoros, Sadc and Zambian president Hakainde Hichilema, the chairperson of the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation.
Sadc is a regional economic community comprising 16 Member States; Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, United Republic Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
A diplomatic source told The NewsHawks this week most countries in the region believe the election was a sham, largely because of briefings they had received from their diplomats and the Sadc observer mission, hence the reluctance to endorse Mnangagwa.
“The Sadc observer mission’s preliminary report angered Zanu PF and the Zimbabwean government, but behind the scenes, it has the support of the majority of Sadc member states, despite some leaders congratulating Mnangagwa or attending the swearing-in ceremony,” said a diplomat.
“This includes South Africa, which has been pushing for dialogue between Mnangagwa and Chamisa although Ramaphosa has publicly congratulated the President.”
The Zimbabwe polls were marked by massive voter suppression in the opposition party’s strongholds with voting being conducted at night in several constituencies in Harare and Bulawayo.
There was also voter intimidation countrywide with the Central Intelligence Organisation-run Forever Associates Zimbabwe (Faz) collecting voter information outside polling stations before and after voting, under the guise of conducting exit polls.
Faz was on the ground for more than a year and was involved in collecting voter information, for intimidation purposes, at various stages of the electoral cycle, including during the voter registration and inspection exercises.
Electoral processes were also done in a non-transparent and sometimes unconstitutional manner to aid Mnangagwa and Zanu PF. This includes the delimitation exercise where gerrymandering was at play to ensure Zanu PF victory.
Crucially, the opposition was denied an auditable voters’ roll while Zec printed and distributed ballot paper without the knowledge of opposition parties.
There has also been concern over changes to electoral law during the election period and the manner in which postal voting was conducted. Many police and prison officers were forced to vote under the supervision of senior officers.
In its preliminary report, the Sadc election observer mission said some aspects of the polls violated the constitution.
“The mission observed that the pre-election and voting phases, on 23-24 August 2023 harmonised elections were peaceful, and calm. However, the mission noted that some aspects of the harmonised elections fell short of the requirements of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the Electoral Act, and the Sadc Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections (2021),” the report reads.
The mission also highlighted gerrymandering during the delimitation exercise. In representative democracies, gerrymandering is the political manipulation of electoral district boundaries with the intent to create undue advantage for a party, group, or socioeconomic class within the constituency.
“The mission was informed that the delimitation exercise that was conducted in 2022 was marred with controversy. In one way or another, concerned stakeholders claimed that the report that Zec submitted failed to observe the constitutional requirements for such an exercise, and that there were divisions amongst serving commissioners of the Zec regarding the veracity of the report,” read the preliminary report.
The Sadc observer mission report attracted criticism from senior Zanu PF and government officials who claimed it was influenced by Mumba. Mumba was singled out for attack amid propaganda, with officials claiming that he accompanied Mnangagwa’s main challenger Nelson Chamisa when he went to vote, an allegation he dismissed.
Mumba pointing out that that he had held meetings with Mnangagwa and Zanu PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu as part of the Sadc efforts to meet all stakeholders.
The Sadc secretariat then released a statement on 26 August in support of Mumba, while revealing that the preliminary report had input from stakeholders from all member nations.
“The secretariat of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has noted with deep concern, statements made about the SEOM and the personal attacks directed at the Head of the Sadc Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM), Dr Nevers Mumba, the former vice-president of the Republic of Zambia, since the SEOM released its Preliminary Statement on 25 August 2023,” the report reads.
“Some of these statements and attacks which have been aired on television, social media and newspapers are crude, scurrilous and misleading. The Sadc Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) is currently in the Republic of Zimbabwe to observe the electoral process of the 23-24 August Harmonised Elections in line with Article 3 of the Revised SADC Principles and Guideline Governing Democratic Elections (2021).
“The Chairperson of the Sadc Organ on Politics Defence and Security Cooperation, His Excellency Mr. Hakainde Hichilema, President of the Republic of Zambia, appointed Dr. Nevers Mumba to lead the SEOM in Zimbabwe. The SEOM is mandated to observe elections in terms of the Sadc Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, and all Sadc Member States, including the Republic of Zimbabwe, are signatory to these principles, which have been operational since 2004.
“All member states send individuals to serve as observers under the SEOM. For the August 2023 Harmonised Elections in Zimbabwe, observers were seconded from the Republic of Angola, the Republic of Botswana, the Kingdom of Eswatini, the Republic of Malawi, the Republic of Mozambique, the Republic of Namibia, the Republic of South Africa, the United Republic of Tanzania, and the Republic of Zambia.”
However, a day later, Namibian President Hage Geingob congratulated Mnangagwa through his X social media handle.
“On behalf of the people and Government of the Republic of Namibia, I extend warmest congratulations to @edmnangagwa on his re-election as President of Zimbabwe. I also extend felicitations to @ZANUPF_Official our sister party on the victory in the peaceful elections of 23-08-23,” he said.
On August 28, Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan followed suite.
“On behalf of the Government and the people of the Republic of Tanzania, I extend my heartfelt congratulations to His Excellency, President @edmnangagwa, on being re-elected as the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe. I am looking forward to continuing working together in fostering the historic, economic and diplomatic relations between Tanzania and Zimbabwe,” she said.
On the same day, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa extended congratulations to Mnangagwa through a statement in which he said the elections took place under a difficult economic environment, “due to the burdening sanctions which the people of Zimbabwe continue to unjustly endure”.
“Furthermore, South Africa has taken note of the preliminary pronouncements by the invited international observer missions including the African Union (AU) and the South African Development Community (SEOM) Observer Missions,” the statement added.
He then took to X to write: “I congratulate President Emmerson Mnangagwa on his re-election. I wish him and the people of Zimbabwe well for the upcoming term.”
Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi also extended his congratulations on Friday, saying “your resounding victory is a clear demonstration of the trust and confidence that the people of Zimbabwe have in your visionary leadership.”
He said his government would continue working closely with the Zimbabwean government.