SOUTHERN African Development Community (Sadc) leaders received their controversial election observer mission report on Zimbabwe at an extraordinary summit of heads of state and government in Luanda, Angola, on Saturday, paving way for further action on the issue which has divided the nation, region and international community.
Diplomatic sources say Sadc leaders have appointed a sub-committee which includes Angola, Namibia and Tanzania to handle the Zimbabwe situation currently being delicately discussed privately within the regional grouping’s circles.
The sub-committee will act after receiving Zimbabwe’s response to the report.
The NewsHawks has been reporting on behind-the-scenes Sadc processes around Zimbabwe since the country’s shambolic and disputed elections on 23-24 August whose outcome was rejected by the regional body, saying they did not meet the standards set by the country’s constitution, the Electoral Act and Sadc’s Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, as well as international best practice.
Sadc leaders initially convened on Tuesday for a virtual summit before deciding to meet in person in Luanda to discuss the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zimbabwe mainly. Eswatini featured due to its recent elections.
Lesotho was also mentioned, together with other Sadc countries going to elections. Part of the communiqué issued after the Luanda emergency summit said: “Summit received an update on the elections in the Sadc member states and noted the report of the Sadc Election Observation Mission to the harmonised elections in the Republic of Zimbabwe held in August 2023, and the general elections in the Kingdom of Eswatini in September 2023.
“Summit wished the Republic of Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of Congo peaceful and successful elections as the two Sadc member states hold their elections in November and December 2023, respectively, and reiterated Sadc’s support through the deployment of the Sadc election observation mission.
“Summit reiterated the urgent need for all stakeholders, in particular, political parties in the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Lesotho, to ensure that the reform process is brought to finality in the interest of national political, economic and security stability.
“Summit commended the efforts by H.E. Mr. João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço as the designated facilitator by the African Union (AU) in bringing peace in the Eastern DRC. Summit mandated the chairperson of Sadc, supported by the organ troika to intensify the diplomatic efforts between the DRC and Rwanda to bring lasting peace in the DRC. Summit commended H.E. Mr. Hakainde Hichilema, President of the Republic of Zambia and the chairperson of the organ on politics, defence and security cooperation, for his leadership in sustaining peace and security in the region.”
This came against a backdrop of resistance by President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Foreign Affairs minister Fredrick Shava to have Zimbabwe on the agenda and to be discussed at the meeting.
Their feeble protest failed. Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu PF and its government are in denial over the country’s deep-seated problems.
About four million Zimbabweans — a quarter of the population — have fled the country due to social and economic woes, posing a regional political and security threat.
Sadc, led by Angolan President João Lourenço and Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema, warded off Mnangagwa and Shava’s pressure to remove Zimbabwe from the agenda.
Lourenço is Sadc chair, while Hichilema chairs the troika of the organ on politics, defence and security cooperation.
Despite resistance from Harare, Zimbabwe was discussed on Tuesday and on Saturday, yes terday, as Sadc leaders intensified diplomatic efforts to find a political settlement to the protracted crisis which has gripped the country for over two decades now.
Strangely, Mnangagwa suggested after the meeting that Zimbabwe was not discussed. However, Hichilema had said before the summit it was on the agenda and would be discussed.
Prior to that, the Sadc Council of Ministers and the troika of the organ on politics, defence and security had met virtually on 26 and 27 October respectively in Lusaka to discuss the same issues — DRC and Zimbabwe.
Again, Eswatini was just mentioned. Lesotho is also an issue on the regional agenda. Sadc ministers stood firm behind their election observer mission led by former Zambian vice-president Nevers Mumba who was appointed by Hichilema.
They rejected the bile and insults directed at them by Zanu PF and government officials led by Zanu PF spokesperson and now War Veterans minister Chris Mutsvangwa and Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George CharambaHichilema has been pushing privately for Sadc to tackle the Zimbabwe issue amid diplomatic manoeuvres by different stakeholders involved.
So far, the Zambian leader has won all his battles regarding Zimbabwe’s recent chaotic and fraudulent elections.
Mnangagwa used the United Nations General Assembly in September to engage and lobby Sadc leaders who were pushing for an extraordinary summit after the electoral observer mission’s preliminary report highlighted that Zimbabwe’s general elections had violated the constitution, Electoral Act and the regional body’s Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.
The final report said the same, meaning Zimbabwe’s elections were not free, fair and credible in the eyes of Sadc. Chaired by Lourenço, the summit was attended by heads of state and government or their representatives: DRC President Félix Tshisekedi, President Cyril Ramaphosa (South Africa), President Samia Suluhu Hassan (Tanzania), Hichilema (Zambia), Prime Minister Ntsokoane Matekane (Lesotho), Vice-President, Nangolo Mbumba (Namibia), Dr Lemogang Kwape (Botswana), Nancy Gladys Tembo (Malawi), Verónica Nataniel Macamo Dlhovo (Mozambique), Thabisile Mlangeni (Eswatini) and Mnangagwa (Zimbabwe), among others.
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.
Sadc leaders have been pushing for an extraordinary summit on Zimbabwe as they resolutely dug in on the country’s recent disputed elections.
There is consensus in Sadc that the 23-24 August general elections violated Zimbabwe’s constitution, Electoral Act and Sadc Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections as highlighted by the regional body’s election observer mission.
Diplomatic sources said minutes of the extraordinary meeting of the Sadc organ troika ministerial committee held on 26 September captured the thinking of Sadc leaders.
The ministers, diplomats said, cannot reflect their own opinions but express the views of their leaders.
The minutes showed that the ministerial committee defended the report produced by Mumba and his team.
The ministers slammed senior Zanu PF and government officials for vilifying Mumba and Hichilema after the observer mission, for the first time, gave an adverse report on the polls.
They said attacks from Harare had the potential of undermining Sadc processes and credibility while insisting that the report re flected the opinion of the regional observers and not Zambia as wrongly portrayed by Zanu PF propagandists.
Diplomats told The NewsHawks that the ministers reflected the Sadc opinion which was expressed in a way that heads of state would not do.
Sadc is headquartered in Gaborone, Botswana’s capital. Angola is the current chair, while Zimbabwe is the incoming chair.
DRC 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. 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 Ramaphosa engaged in secret talks with Mnangagwa on the way forward.
They recently met three times in a month and also yesterday. 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, Zimbabwe’s elections have also been causing waves. They were discussed in the United Kingdom’s House of Lords, for instance, and on 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 entity 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 judgments, 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 reported, 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.
While Mnangagwa and his supporters protested vehemently against the Sadc report, urged by a wounded Zanu PF, 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, chaired by 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 for Sadc’s 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 issued the damning report on Zimbabwe, Harare officials and their media hacks went ballistic, calling Mumba all sorts of names and levelling threats against him. Hichilema was also targeted.
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 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.
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 used to treat them with deference in 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 are unhappy were already there. Only three leaders, Ramaphosa, 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 — Lourenço — 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 the 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.
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.