The South African Presidency has been urged to uncover the truth behind the disappearance of a previously hidden Zimbabwe election report, or risk giving credence to suspicions that Jacob Zuma’s office was deliberately keeping secrets about the state of the neighbouring polls.
The report, compiled by two South African judges on the 2002 polls, contained enough evidence to show the process was neither free nor fair. This was the ruling by South African High Court Judge Joseph Raulinga last February when he ordered the Presidency to hand over the document to the Mail & Guardian newspaper.
Raulinga has since revealed that the document, which he was keeping in his office, went missing earlier this month. Raulinga reportedly said he had suspicions and was investigating the matter. According to the Mail & Guardian Raulinga asked state attorney Petros Rakoatsi why he had made several unsolicited and unsuccessful attempts to access the report. Rakoatsi then wrote a letter rejecting any insinuation that he had knowledge of where the report was, or that he had a hand in its disappearance.
Joy Mabenge, the South African based regional coordinator for the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said a thorough investigation was needed and Zuma’s government must get involved. Mabenge told SW Radio Africa on Tuesday that Zuma’s office was risking giving credence to speculation that the government was deliberating hiding information that proved the Zim polls were illegitimate.
“It is on record that the 2002 elections in Zimbabwe were marred by violence and the result raised a huge spectre on the legitimacy of the winner, Robert Mugabe. What worries us is the role that South Africa then went on to play in mediating the crisis in Zimbabwe. The role was supposedly being played on the basis that South Africa had clean hands,” Mabenge said.
He added: “It is disturbing to know of this disappearance, because it gives credence to speculation around the non-willingness of South African authorities to let Zimbabweans and other players know the truth about what happened in the elections in 2002.”
The report was commissioned the then President Thabo Mbeki, who sent the two judges to visit Zimbabwe and report back on the state of the elections that year. This report was handed over to Mbeki but never made public, although the former President insisted the electoral process was completely democratic.
A lengthy court process has followed with the Mail & Guardian leading various efforts since 2008 to have the report released by the Zuma administration. Numerous orders have been issued by South Africa’s court to the Presidency for the release of the report to the newspaper, but each time Zuma’s office has appealed. Last February Justice Raulinga again ordered the release of the document, but Zuma’s office again stated its intentions to appeal. That appeal is expected later this year, but the disappearance of the report means the process is likely to be suspended.
At the same time, there has still been no sign of a similarly ‘damning’ report on Zimbabwe’s disputed 2008 elections, compiled by six South African army generals. That report has also been kept hidden by the Zuma administration.
The Crisis Coalition’s Mabenge said Tuesday that the situation supports the general belief that South Africa, the regional mediator in Zimbabwe’s political crisis, was willing to flout democratic principles and regional electoral laws to put the long-running Zim situation to bed. He added that this is particularly worrying in the aftermath of the disputed 2013 elections, which South Africa endorsed.
“The expectation for many Zimbabweans would have been for the South African government to stand on the principles of the truth as observed in the two election reports. Sweeping these reports under the carpet means burying these issues for good and gives credence, again, to the suspicion that South Africa’s interest has always been about seeing a stable Zimbabwe at any cost, even if it is a huge cost to Zimbabweans,” Mabenge said.
He added: “We still expect the South African government to investigate the disappearance of the report and give a timely response to the Mail & Guardian, South Africans and Zimbabweans, so the issue is concluded in an amicable way that does not have a negative effect on how Zimbabweans may perceive the role of South Africa in derailing the democratisation of Zimbabwe.”