SADC and the African Union (AU) had no option but to endorse Zimbabwe’s July 31 elections, as a failure of the polls would have reflected badly on the reputation of the regional bloc, analysts have said.
BY PATRICE MAKOVA
They said despite allegations of irregularities, geopolitical dynamics and the issue of stability were key factors which influenced Sadc and AU’s decision to declare the elections credible.
The AU observer mission led by former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo and the Sadc one chaired by Tanzanian Foreign Affairs minister, Bernard Membe said the elections were free, peaceful and credible.
But the two blocs did not give a verdict on the fairness of the elections.
Several African leaders, save for Botswana’s Ian Khama who called for an audit of the elections, have also congratulated President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF after garnering an overwhelming two thirds majority.
But most local civil society organisations, the US and Western countries said the elections were not credible, citing irregularities on the voters roll, the chaotic special voting, assisted voters and bussing of the electorate.
Political analyst, Thabani Nyoni said the AU and Sadc were quick to endorse the elections, as they considered stability to be more important than democracy.
“The region aspires for democracy,” he said. “But where this threatens stability, they rather go for stability.”
Nyoni said an assessment made by Sadc on the military involvement in Zimbabwean politics concluded that if Prime Minister and MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai were to win the presidential poll, Zimbabwe could have witnessed an upheaval.
He said this is why Sadc and the AU observers came to the conclusion that the elections were credible, despite citing several irregularities.
Nyoni said the absence of violence might also have influenced AU and Sadc observers to endorse the elections.
“They came to observe against the background of violence in 2008. The absence of violence and the orderliness, which the observers have not seen even in their own countries, led them to pass the verdict that the elections were free and fair without looking at other fundamental issues,” he said.
Oxford University political science lecturer, Blessing Miles Tendi said as Sadc and AU were the guarantors of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) which established the outgoing coalition government, it was the regional bodies’ responsibility to ensure that elections were a success.
He said the elections were never about freeness and fairness, but a comparison to Kenya, which went through a similar process to Zimbabwe.
Kenya held its elections last March ending a coalition government established in the wake of violence after the disputed 2007 elections.
He said Kenyan elections were passed as free and fair because of the absence of violence this time around, a verdict which was similar to that of Zimbabwe’s polls.
“The Kenyan experience set the bar low. It set a precedent that if there is no violence, elections can pass as credible. This is the benchmark which was used to determine whether Zimbabwe’s elections were free and fair,” said Tendi.
He said the elections could not have failed, as this would have been a slap in the face of Sadc.
“If the elections had failed, then Sadc and the facilitator, President Jacob Zuma [South Africa] would have failed,” Tendi said. “The issue of Zimbabwe was an African solution to an African problem. If it fails, it’s Africa that gets blamed.”
But outgoing Mashonaland Central governor and resident minister Martin Dinha said the AU and Sadc’s quick endorsement of the elections was a true reflection of what transpired on the ground.
He said the elections were truly free and fair as noted by the African observers, with Zanu PF winning because of its clear pro-people policies, and the “acumen and stature of President Mugabe which is incomparable to Tsvangirai”.
“The crushing defeat of Tsvangirai and MDC is a political tsunami and signals the defeat of imperialism in Africa,” Dinha said. “They were thrown into the dustbins of history.”
He said although the Americans and other Western countries were refusing to endorse the elections, it was none other than them who had admitted that Mugabe was a shrewd politician and tactician.
African leaders need assistance from zimbabwe: analyst
An analyst who preferred anonymity said most African leaders endorsed Mugabe because they needed him now more than before.
He said the threats of renewed civil strife in Mozambique, due to problems with Alfonso Dhlakama’s Renamo and the volatile situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) caused by M23 rebels, required a strong leader like Mugabe.
“Mugabe is currently the only African leader who can stand up to such threats. Already, we have seen Mozambican soldiers graduating at the Zimbabwe Military Academy. This proves that the two countries are preparing for any eventualities in the event the situation in Mozambique deteriorates,” said the analyst.
Zimbabwe was involved in the Mozambican war against Renamo in the 1980’s.
It also participated in the DRC’s operation sovereign legitimacy in the 1990’s aimed at countering a Ugandan and Rwandese supported rebellion against the Laurent Kabila regime.