ZIMBABWE’S polls continue to divide the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), with Namibia’s opposition party, the Landless People’s Movement (LPM), calling out the bloc’s leaders for giving preferential treatment to Zanu PF.
The leader of the Landless People’s Movement, Bernadus Swartbooi (pictured), said Zimbabwe’s recent elections were “corrupt, fraudulent, unfair, unfree”, although Sadc leaders have congratulated President Emmerson Mnangagwa — whom he described as a “military puppet” — for his disputed victory.
In a fierce attack on Zanu PF and Sadc leaders, Swartbooi says what Sadc leaders are currently doing on Zimbabwe is tantamount to congratulating and supporting criminal activity.
Mnangagwa and his Zanu PF political party won the 23 and 24 August elections which were condemned by observers, including the Sadc Election Observer Mission, over gross irregularities which include failure to align with key laws governing free and fair elections.
However, other leaders from the region have stood in Zanu PF’s corner.
At the 78th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said the Sadc report has not yet been finalised and it does not invalidate the elections, but merely points out flaws in the electoral process for future improvement.
His approach to Zimbabwe has drawn criticism, with many expressing outrage in his handling of the country’s electoral crisis.
On Friday, Swartbooi, Namibia’s opposition leader, slammed Sadc for giving Zanu PF preferential treatment, amid overwhelming evidence of foul play in the conduct of the country’s general elections.
“How do you send your own trusted institution, and this time you discredit yourself? You mutilate yourself for Zanu PF. What does Sadc owe Zanu PF? What do we owe them? What have they done uniquely for South Africa, for Mozambique, for Namibia, for Angola, for Botswana, for Zambia, for Tanzania?” Swartbooi said.
He said Sadc also failed to condemn the coup that brought Mnangagwa to power in 2017, despite there being overwhelming evidence of a military takeover of government institutions.
“But it was a clear coup. They even sent Kenneth Kaunda who confirmed that Mugabe was in military custody at State House in Zimbabwe, and you could all see it being broadcast. The military was present at State House having taken over every system of Zimbabwe,” he said on the stet-controlled Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC).
“No suspension from Sadc, no condemnation from AU – nothing. Again Zimbabwe got what it wanted and got away with whatever it was doing.”
Swartbooi further said Sadc is damaging its credibility over the Zimbabwe issue by sending an election observer mission and not upholding its own report.
Swartbooi said Mnangagwa was illegitimate and running a caretaker government. He says a transitional authority must be put in charge to run proper free and fair elections.
Swartbooi added that the continued failure to rein in Zimbabwe’s countless acts of impunity at home and within the region, including abuse of human rights, the breakdown in the rule of law and democratic a series of aberrations, should be condemned by Sadc leaders.
The Namibian former governor and deputy minister said Sadc has allowed Zanu PF to get away with murder on many things, including a military coup, subversion of the constitution and electoral theft, among other outrageous acts.
He said Sadc does not have a genuine or real plan to resolve the issues of Zimbabwe.
“They are not interested,” Swartbooi said. “These are political parties that are interested in keeping each other in power. Why do we allow Zimbabwe, in particular the Zimbabwe of Zanu, to dictate to this region and to destroy the good name and the good work that this region has done in terms of trying to build some degree of democracy in our society?”
Zimbabwe’s disputed polls have also seen Namibian and South African leaders come under fire for rushing to congratulate Mnangagwa, amid glaring evidence of irregularities in what has been condemned as a shambolic electoral process.
For instance, this month, Maximalliant Katjimune, a legislator from Namibia’s opposition Popular Democratic Movement, while making his submissions in the country’s Parliament on Wednesday, demanded to know why Namibian President Hage Geingob rushed to congratulate
Mnangagwa for winning a discredited election.
Geingob was among three out of 16 Sadc leaders who rushed to congratulate Mnangagwa on his disputed victory.
“Elections in Zimbabwe have over the years been tainted by irregularities, voter suppression and lack of transparency. And the elections held on the 23rnd of August to 24 were no different. That is why when President Geingob was the first President of Sadc to congratulate Mnangagwa in a disputed election, it raised concern,” Katjimune said.
“This action by President Geingob is inconsistent with Namibia’s democratic principles and human rights. Both regionally and internationally. Moreover, the Sadc observer report on the elections came to the conclusion that aspects of the elections fell short of the requirements of the constitution of Zimbabwe, their Electoral Act and the Sadc principles on free and fair elections.”
The MP said he intended to ask Namibia’s minister of Foreign Affairs about Geingob’s endorsement of Mnangagwa’s victory in a disputed election. South African President Ramaphosa also came under fire in his country’s Parliament from the main opposition Democratic Alliance leader John Steenhuisen, for attending Mnangagwa’s inauguration and hobnobbing with other dictators under the Brics bloc led by Russia, which is waging a war of aggression on Ukraine.
Steenhuisen said Ramaphosa had chosen to support Zimbabwe’s disputed elections because his governing ANC is likely to follow the same path of rigged polls in future.
“You are standing with autocrats and dictators who are sacrificing the principles in our own constitution. This is not human rights on what Brics can do to South Africa; it’s about what Brics and particularly Russia can do to ANC,” Steenhuisen said.
“It is for the same reason that you attended Emmerson Mnangagwa’s inauguration. You are willing to give false legitimacy to Zanu PF because you know full well that your own party is following in their footsteps.”
Steenhuisen directly criticised Ramaphosa, who was present in Parliament, saying he did not seem to care about the suffering of Zimbabweans who will now endure the rule of an illegitimate government.
“Mr President, do you care nothing about the suffering and deprivation experienced by women of Iran and the people of Zimbabwe that are now shackled in an illegitimate election which your own Sadc region has cast aspersions on?” he asked.
Mnangagwa’s inauguration was attended by only three leaders, with other countries represented at lower level officials.