Posted by Alex Bell on Sunday, August 4, 2013 SW Radio Africa
South African President Jacob Zuma has endorsed the results of Zimbabwe’s elections and called for ‘acceptance’ of the outcome from opposition parties.
Zuma, in a statement on Sunday, extended his “profound congratulations” to Robert Mugabe, who was declared the overall winner of last week’s poll.
“President Zuma urges all political parties in Zimbabwe to accept the outcome of the elections as election observers reported it to be an expression of the will of the people,” the statement said.
Zuma’s endorsement is already resulting in angry reactions from some Zimbabweans, because his statement effectively shuns the complaints of vote rigging and fraud raised by civil society and the opposition MDC parties.
Political analyst Clifford Mashiri said Zuma’s endorsement “is a betrayal,” because, as the regional facilitator in Zimbabwe’s political crisis, “he was supposed to guarantee a free and fair vote that reflects the will of the people.”
Zuma’s position has been prompted by observer mission reports from the SADC region and the African Union (AU), which have so far moved to accept the polls results as ‘free and peaceful’. SADC and the AU have both congratulated Zimbabwe for the peaceful election period, while saying the fairness of the polls cannot yet be decided.
The endorsements from South Africa and the rest of the region come as Western nations have been raising serious doubts about the credibility of the vote, which was marred by serious irregularities.
Australia’s government has called for a re-run, warning that Australia won’t lift its targeted sanctions on ZANU PF unless free and fair polls are held. Foreign Minister Bob Carr on Sunday echoed concerns raised about the problems with Zimbabwe’s voters roll. He said in a statement that “Australia calls for a re-run of the elections based on a verified and agreed voters roll.”
The statement from Australia followed that of the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, who called on SADC and the AU to address the concerns over the election, saying it was not credible and ‘deeply flawed’.
“In light of substantial electoral irregularities reported by domestic and regional observers, the United States does not believe that the results announced today represent a credible expression of the will of the Zimbabwean people,” the US statement read.
The UK’s Foreign Minister William Hague has also voiced “grave concerns” about the conduct of the election.
“The preliminary statements of the AU and SADC observation missions, and those of the domestic observer groups, have outlined many of these significant concerns and I hope that their final assessments of the elections will take into account the full impact of these irregularities on the outcome,” Hague said.
The EU meanwhile has been slower to criticise the elections. In a statement, the EU High Representative, Catherine Ashton, congratulated “the people of Zimbabwe for a peaceful vote and for turning out in high numbers,” and welcomed “the generally peaceful and orderly manner in which the elections were conducted.”
“The EU is concerned about alleged irregularities and reports of incomplete participation, as well as the identified weaknesses in the electoral process and a lack of transparency. The EU will continue to follow developments and work closely with its international partners in the weeks to come. The EU encourages all parties to maintain calm and order,” Ashton said.
Analyst Mashiri said the Western nations and their concerns will not be taken very seriously, because “ZANU PF knows who its trading partners are, and they are Russia and China especially.”
“When ZANU PF allowed observers from China and not from the West, this was simply an acknowledgement and a strong message that ‘these are our friends’. So ZANU PF doesn’t really care what the West says when they know countries like Russia and China support it,” Mashiri.
He agreed that the West, which has been attempting to re-engage with ZANU PF in recent months, “has also lost some credibility in criticising what is happening now.”