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Sokwanele's response to statements made by President Mbeki
4 March 2005
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
President Thabo Mbeki said this week that he has every confidence in Zimbabwe’s ability to hold free and fair elections, and that the country’s new electoral law is the first to adhere to SADC’s principles and guidelines governing democratic elections.
As President, not only of the most powerful nation within the SADC group, but also the nation which chairs the SADC organ on defence, security and politics, and which for this reason is to head the observer mission to Zimbabwe, his comments deserve the most serious attention.
President Mbeki is quoted as saying:
“I have no reason to think that anything will happen … that anybody in Zimbabwe will act in a way that will militate against the elections being free and fair.”
Asked how this was possible given that Zimbabwe was already contravening SADC’s new electoral regime, he said:
“I don’t know what has happened in Zimbabwe which is a violation of the SADC protocol. As far as I know, things like an independent electoral commission, access to the public media, the absence of violence and intimidation … those matters have been addressed.”
Like other commentators around the world, we have to say that we are astounded at the President’s remarks. Indeed dumbfounded. We ask, how can it be that a person of Mbeki’s stature, with access to all the information at his disposal, can be so woefully ignorant of the facts ? Leaving aside his intelligence sources which must, if they are of the caliber we believe them to be, confirm the massive electoral rigging already taking place – leaving aside all the President’s special sources of information, the facts are plain for all to see. Those facts, as we and many other non-partisan reporters and analysts have consistently recorded over a period of many months, all point to one, and only one conclusion – that ZANU-PF have seized control of and deployed all the resources of the state, including the army, police, intelligence services, the civil service, judiciary, state-controlled media, and the Grain Marketing Board which has a monopoly control over the supply and distribution of the staple foods, not to mention its own youth militia – to secure a ZANU-PF victory at whatever cost to the nation.
The evidence is clear and indisputable. For example we ourselves have tracked, not all by any means but a significant number, of serious breaches of the SADC guidelines, week by week, over an 18 week period in our special “Mauritius Watch” feature. The catalogue of serious breaches has continued unabated. Specifically we have provided numerous examples of the violence and intimidation which President Mbeki says are “matters (that) have been addressed.” Nor has anyone contradicted the evidence or ever challenged us on the facts reported.
Time and again we have reported on ZANU-PF’s abuse of its monopoly power over the state media and its relentless attack upon the independent media. Indeed only this week in our “Mauritius Watch – No 18” edition we mentioned the story of the closing down of yet another independent paper, The Weekly Times (after publishing just eight editions) by the ZANU-PF controlled Media and Information Commission. The previous week we had reported on the unlawful harassment and severe intimidation which finally forced three international journalists to flee the country. Robert Mugabe’s government is therefore in flagrant breach of the SADC standard requiring “equal opportunity for all political parties to access the state media” – another matter which President Mbeki states “has been addressed.”
Other contraventions of the
SADC principles and guidelines too numerous to mention have been reported week
by week. Here we confine ourselves to the specific areas highlighted in the
Most worrying of all is Mbeki’s claim that the matter of an independent electoral commission has also “been addressed”. Here we move from the realm of reported events (which, however well documented, may always be challenged by someone), to the solid ground of the law and just what the law says. The question, does Zimbabwe’s electoral legislation comply with the SADC requirements for “the independence of the Judiciary and impartiality of the electoral institutions” is surely a matter upon which all but the most partisan of lawyers are bound to agree – and we would add, do agree. The answer has to be a resounding “No”. In our own carefully researched 18 page document entitled “SADC Checklist” we have set down, side by side, the SADC standards and the Zimbabwean electoral and security legislation, pointing out the clear discrepancies between the two. To cite but one example, that mentioned by President Mbeki, how can it possibly be said that Zimbabwe now has an independent electoral commission when the chairman and members of the supreme electoral body, the Electoral Supervisory Commission, are all directly appointed by the President without any input from opposition parties or civic society ? And when all the members of the Delimitation Commission, the chairman of the (subservient) Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the Registrar-General are appointed in broadly similar fashion ? Therefore to state that the electoral bodies in control of the parliamentary election are partisan, is to state an incontrovertible fact.
We refer readers again to the SADC Checklist* which is available from our website or on request from email@example.com for easy reference. In view of the way the position is still being misrepresented, whether intentionally or not, we urge readers to draw the contents of this document to the attention of as many as possible.
We refer also to Zimbabwe’s exclusion of the SADC Parliamentary Forum which observed the 2002 presidential election and had every reason to expect an invitation to observe the forthcoming parliamentary election. It is indeed surprising that that the deliberate exclusion of this group of eminent persons has not prompted even the mildest protest either from President Mbeki or any of the other SADC heads of state.
Which brings us back to President Mbeki’s incredible statement on Zimbabwe’s compliance with the electoral standards set by and for the region. Many have concluded quite simply that the President is determined to whitewash Mugabe’s fraud come what may. Will you prove them wrong, Mr President ?
*The Zimbabwe Electoral Legislation: SADC Check List, is available to download from our website along with other supporting documents. Please note that Sokwanele is in the process of upgrading its website and mailing facilities. Our full website will be live to the public early next week, but we have made these key documents available now. Please contact us if you'd like to receive a copy of the Check List by email.
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Sokwanele - Zvakwana - Enough is Enough is a peoples' movement, embracing supporters of all pro-democratic political parties, civic organizations and institutions.
Sokwanele - Zvakwana - Enough is Enough will never aspire to political office.
Sokwanele - Zvakwana - Enough is Enough is a peoples' force through which democracy will be restored to the country and protected jealously for future generations to ensure that Zimbabweans will never be oppressed again.
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