via Sadc report causes storm – DailyNews Live by Maxwell Sibanda
The Southern African Development Community, Sadc Election Observer Mission, Seom, last week released the final election report of the July 31 elections which has caused a storm in Zimbabwe’s political field.
Bernard Membe, Tanzanian foreign affairs minister and the head of SEOM and his team of observers have been blasted for being biased towards Zanu PF with MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and civic organisations dismissing his report.
Tsvangirai says the Sadc election observer mission has failed to live up to its set guidelines for free and fair elections.
He said the observer team produced a “saddening” report that is “factually wrong”.
“What I fail to read in the report is first and foremost that in Maputo, Sadc was very clear that certain reforms and processes were key if free and fair elections were to be conducted.
“And secondly, Sadc has guidelines; they don’t even mention whether our elections passed the test of those benchmarks, they don’t even make that reference.”
The Daily News on Sunday spoke to social and political commentators on their take on the Sadc final report.
Playwright Cont Mhlanga says it is clear that the Sadc report is aimed at getting Zimbabwe to move on and get out of the election mood and a disputed election stance will defeat that purpose.
“In this situation it was best for Sadc to avoid the issue of fairness. Let’s not forget that it was the same Sadc that insisted that the election road map and reforms must be carried out to the letter before the election to achieve fairness, but they know as much as we all know that the reforms were not implemented to the dot.
“However the debate on fairness was undermined by the over confident opposition who all agreed to participate in the election before the full implementation of the reforms and by a too wide a margin in the results in favour of the now ruling party,” says Mhlanga.
He believes the gap is just too wide to raise issues of fairness and Sadc finds itself in a compromised situation created by the opposition itself.
“Sadc handled the report the best way they could under the circumstances in the interest of moving the country forward and I agree with them a hundred percent.
“Every Zimbabwean should work at getting the country out of the election mood in all ways possible to them,” Mhlanga says.
Media practitioner Rashweat Mukundu says the report is a balancing act to mollify all contesting parties in Zimbabwe, this regardless of the critical position taken by the MDC.
“The Sadc report falls short of saying the election was not free by describing the voter roll access challenges as a key matter that informs whether an election is free or otherwise.
“Despite the affirmation of the credibility and fairness of the election, Sadc has made a strong point on areas that need reform for future elections. It is a way out for Sadc from a difficult political situation,” says Mukundu.
Harare residents Trust, HRT director Precious Shumba says the Sadc report reflected the thinking within the Sadc region.
“Realising that the regional block has concluded the Zimbabwe election matter, it is prudent for all Zimbabweans to plan for the future and those who are aggrieved by their loss in the elections must not hold the country back but separate their political grievances and the positive development of Zimbabwe as a whole.
“Every citizen has a responsibility to contribute positively towards the development of Zimbabwe where everyone is treated equally before the law.
“The report must be regarded as the source document to address challenges observed. Let us take the contents of that report to inform civil society’s lobby and advocacy approaches,” says Shumba.
Pan Africanist Thomas Deve says the tone of the Sadc report comes as no surprise to many people since the observer team had passed very positive statements in the run up to the election.
“Ironically, there were indications that the majority of Sadc member states were more inclined towards a process that would deliver a Zanu PF government on the assumption that this will be surest way of guaranteeing the so called solidarity enjoyed since the days of the anti-colonial struggle,” says Deve.
A United States non-governmental organisation research group, the Freedom House, has blasted Sadc for its position on Zimbabwe’s just ended elections which saw millions take to the poll with large numbers being turned away.
African director for Freedom House, Vukasin Petrovic said: “These elections were plagued with voters’ roll manipulation and widespread intimidation from the ruling Zanu PF and were, therefore, neither free nor fair,” reads the statement.
“Local NGOs noted systematic disenfranchisement during the election process, with significantly more voters being turned away in urban strongholds of the opposition MDC than in rural Zanu PF strongholds.”
“However reports of vote rigging should not come as a surprise because election results were decided long before election day,” said Vukasin without disclosing the evidence for his assertions.
Last year, Freedom House in a poll survey said Zanu PF had recovered from 2008 election disaster gaining ratings from 19 to 31 percent while the MDC dramatically dropped from 39 to 30 percent in the same period.