THE Southern African Development Community (Sadc) extraordinary summit of heads of state and government on Zimbabwe’s recent disputed elections and other critical regional issues initially scheduled for this past Wednesday will now be held on Tuesday this week, The NewsHawks can reveal.
The crucial meeting will be held on 31 October, which is tomorrow, under the auspices of its current chairperson, Angolan President João Lourenço.
A new Sadc internal memo dated 24 October written to 15 regional foreign ministers exclusively obtained by The NewsHawks from Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs ministry and confirmed with the regional bloc’s secretariat in Gaborone, Botswana, says:
“Following consultations with H.E Joao Manuel Goncalves Lourenco, President of the Republic of Angola and the chairperson of Sadc, I humbly wish to convey on behalf of His Excellency the extraordinary summit of heads of state and government which was to be convened virtually on 25 October 2023, has now been rescheduled to take place on 31 October 2023.
“On behalf of the Sadc chairperson, I regret any inconveniences that might have been cause by the postponement.”
As recently disclosed by The NewsHawks —which has a detailed brief on what has been happening on the issue of late behind the scenes — the special meeting follows intense regional consultations in the aftermath of Zimbabwe’s disputed elections held on 23 and 24 August.
The elections left the country, region and international community more polarised and deeply divided amid deepening economic deterioration gripping the country.
Details on the upcoming Sadc extraordinary meeting on Zimbabwe are contained in documents exclusively obtained by The NewsHawks from Zimbabwe’s ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, which were updated this past weekend.
A letter written on 19 October 2023 by the Sadc troika organ on politics, defence and security cooperation director Professor Kula Ishmael Theletsane to the regional body’s national contact persons in Zimbabwe and Zambia’s foreign affairs ministries, Pearson Chigiji and
Isabelle Lemba, respectively, initially said the special meeting would be held virtually on 25 October 2023 from 10am to 1pm.
Sadc is headquartered in Gaborone, Botswana’s capital. Angola is the current chair, while Zimbabwe is the incoming chair. The Democratic Republic of Congo is outgoing or ex-chair.
Zambia chairs the organ on politics, defence and security cooperation, while Tanzania is the coming chair. Namibia is outgoing or former chair.
Chigiji is also acting chief director of multilateral affairs in Zimbabwe’s ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Affairs, while Lemba is permanent secretary at the Foreign Affairs in Zambia.
“Reference is made to the above subject matter (extraordinary summit). I wish to humbly notify that following consultations with H.E Joao Manuel Goncalves Lourenco, President of the Republic of Angola and the chairperson of Sadc, a virtual extraordinary summit of the Sadc Heads of State and Government has been scheduled to take place on 25 October 2023 from 10:00 to 13:00 hours (Botswana time),” Theletsane writes in his letter, whose reference is Notification of an Extraordinary Summit of Sadc Heads of State and Government to be held virtually on 25 October 2023.
“The summit will, among others, receive and consider the report of extraordinary meetings of the Council of Ministers and Organ Troika Summit, which were held virtually on 27 September 2023, regarding the impending deployment of the Sadc Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the approved budget thereof.
“The summit will also consider the outcome of the meeting of chiefs of defence of the quadripartite convened by the African Commission on 6 October 2023 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It is advised the meeting will be 1+6.
“The draft agenda and programme for the summit are attached hereto. The annotated agenda will be held uploaded in the link to be communicated in due course. Please humbly accept, Your Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.”
The agenda of the meeting, also seen by The NewsHawks, focuses on the DRC — that is an update on the security situation there, deployment of Sadc forces and the budget, report of the meeting of the chiefs of defence of the quadripartite convened by the African Commission and an update on elections in the region.
This is where Zimbabwe will be extensively discussed. While the agenda does not talk about Zimbabwe, it is the main reason why the summit is being held in the first place.
Sadc leaders are approaching the Zimbabwean issue cautiously, but resolutely.
The programme of extraordinary summit — which remains the same despite the postponement — includes: Virtual connection of delegates to the meeting (9:40-10am); heads of state and government joining (10am); opening session with prayers, anthems — Angola, Sadc and African Union (10:10am-10:20am), welcome remarks by Sadc executive secretary Elias Magosi (10:20am-10:30am); opening remarks by the Sadc chairperson Lourenco (10:30am-10:40am); main deliberative session (10:40am-12:20pm); communique (12:20pm-12:30pm) and closing session (12:20pm-12:30pm), and anthems again (12:50pm-1pm).
Zimbabwe’s disputed elections are a subject of debate and discussion among its disgruntled population, the region and world capitals. Zimbabweans are deeply engaged on the issue daily largely due to their economic woes.
In the region, it is being discussed widely with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa engaged in secret talks with Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa on the way forward. They recently met three times in a month.
Ramaphosa is deeply concerned about the impact of Zimbabwe’s continued crisis on South Africa, especially ahead of his country’s crucial elections next year in which the governing ANC faces a litmus test of political survival.
Immigration is now a big election issue in South Africa.
About four million Zimbabweans — a quarter of the population — have fled the country as political and economic turmoil at home became dire and still further deteriorates.
The majority of those are in South Africa.
Internationally, the Zimbabwe’s elections have also been causing waves.
They were discussed in the United Kingdom’s House of Lords, for instance and many other platforms.
Even in countries like Russia, notorious for authoritarian political repression and democratic aberration, when they talk about election rigging, Zimbabwe features.
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his ruling Zanu PF won the disputed elections amid complaints of brazen voter suppression and manipulation of the voter registration, voters’ roll inspection and the voting process, as well as a series of irregularities and illegalities.
Main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, who leads the CCC, described the polls, unconstitutionally and illegally run by a Central Intelligence Organisation-controlled hybrid securocratic entry Forever Associates Zimbabwe (Faz), as a “gigantic fraud”.
With the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) dysfunctional due to internal divisions and divisive partisan conduct, Faz ran the elections after the army was withdrawn by Mnangagwa for self-serving political reasons over bhora musango (internal sabotage) from the process.
The pliant judiciary, which is crucial in elections, was partisan and made compromised judgements, favouring officialdom, while discrediting the electoral process.
The CCC is now in turmoil over Faz-engineered recalls that have divided the party. Before that, Faz tried to block its parliamentary election candidates for Bulawayo.
As The NewsHawks has always insisted, from day one Sadc leaders were determined to discuss the issue of flawed Zimbabwean elections and the aftermath as they are clear the recent polls have a destabilising effect on the region.
The key points and roadmap on the issue included robust discussion of the report of the Sadc elections observer mission led by former Zambian vice-president Nevers Mumba —which rejected the polls, saying they did not meet the standards set in Zimbabwe’s constitution, the country’s electoral law and the regional body’s principles and guidelines governing democratic elections; an extraordinary of meeting ministers; special meeting of the Sadc leaders of the troika organ on politics, defence and security cooperation; and ultimately a heads of state and government extraordinary summit set for Wednesday.
While Mnangagwa and his supporters protested vehemently, urged by a wounded Zanu PF, against the Sadc report, regional leaders knew where they were leading to.
The issue of disputed elections in Zimbabwe falls under the Sadc troika of the organ on politics, defence and security cooperation, which is chaired by Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema.
The Sadc organ on politics, defence and security cooperation has jurisdiction over any matter affecting peace and security in any member state as enshrined in Article 11 of the Protocol, of which Zimbabwe is a signatory.
This is the basis on which Sadc intervention in Zimbabwe. It was the same basis which Sadc used in 2008 to step in, resulting in the creation of the transitional Government of National Unity (GNU) led by the late president Robert Mugabe and his bitter rival Morgan Tsvangirai.
After Mumba issue his damning report on Zimbabwe — which actually praises the country and its authorities in vast swathes of paragraphs and issues — Harare officials and their media hacks went ballistic, calling Mumba all sort of names and making threats against him.
Hichilema was also targeted.
Mnangagwa’s spokesman George Charamba, Zanu PF mouthpiece Chris Mutsvangwa and ruling party Treasurer Patrick Chinamasa led the attacks.
However, Mumba, supported by Hichilema, stood firm. The Sadc council of ministers and the troika of the organ on politics, defence and security also supported the Mumba and the report — after their extraordinary meetings from Lusaka last month — which is now the regional body’s property authored by its secretariat and experts.
After their virtual meeting coordinated from Lusaka on 26 September, ministers said they “noted with concern” personal attacks and threats through the media on Mumba and Hichilema.
They said there was risk that if left unchecked the attacks might damage and undermine the credibility of Sadc as an institution.
The Sadc troika organ on politics, defence and security leaders met virtually on 27 September coordinated in Lusaka. Hichilema chaired the meeting with Namibia and Tanzania, troika representatives, sending delegates. They agreed during the meeting to hold an extraordinary summit on Zimbabwe.
Prior to that, Sadc had issued a statement saying: “Sadc expresses concern on statements made about its electoral observation of mission) following the release of its preliminary statement on Zimbabwe’s harmonised (general) elections.”
Given its responsibilities under the Sadc Treaty and relevant protocols, Zimbabwe’s attacks on the troika of the organ on politics, defence and security were out of step with obligations.
Although Mnangagwa and Zanu PF are deeply wounded by Sadc findings as the region previously treated them with deference ion previous fraudulent and disputed polls, they do not have sufficient regional support to resist the processes and their responsibilities as a member state.
Signs that Sadc leaders unhappy were already there. Only three leaders, Ramaphosa, Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Félix Tshisekedi and Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique attended his inauguration.
The leaders at the inauguration were heavily criticised by the opposition and civil society in the region for indulging Mnangagwa.
The chairpersons of Sadc — Lourenco — and the Sadc troika of the organ on politics, defence and security, Hichilema, were not there.
After that private consultations through the Sadc summit troika, which comprises DRC, Angola and Zimbabwe, and the organ, which has Zambia, Namibia and Tanzania, accelerated to discuss problems destabilising the region and threatening stability — leading to the extraordinary summit on Wednesday.
Recent elections in Eswatini and the forthcomings ones in Madagascar and DRC will be discussed. Looking into next year, South Africa and Comoros might also feature.
Yet Zimbabwe has been a deep scar on the conscience of the region for some time now.
An extraordinary summit on Zimbabwe was held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in March 2007 where Sadc asked former South African president Thabo Mbeki to mediate talks between Zanu PF and then then main opposition MDC.
Mbeki’s mediation ended up with a Government of National Unity in 2009.
Zimbabwe has had several negotiated political settlements before.