LUSAKA – The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has condemned attacks by Zimbabwe targeted at Zambian leader Hakainde Hichilema after the regional body’s elections observer mission said Harare failed to organise polls that meet international standards last month.
President Hichilema as chairperson of the SADC Troika on Peace and Security appointed the head of the region’s observer mission Nevers Mumba who issued a damning preliminary report on the August 23 and 24 elections. The revelations angered Zimbabwe’s ruling party Zanu-PF.
The report said the polls did not meet regional and international standards because the election management body was biased against the opposition and that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s main opponents were not allowed to campaign freely.
SADC ministers from Zambia, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo and Namibia, which form the Troika met early this week to consider the report on Zimbabwe’s disputed elections where they raised concerns about the attacks.
In a communique, the minister said, “Such attacks undermine the SADC principles and guidelines governing democratic elections and might have a negative bearing on the election observer missions that are to be deployed in the future elections” and they cited the Eswatini polls being held on Friday.
“The Troika noted that there is a risk that if unchecked, further attacks on the leadership of the organ on the SADC election observer mission have the potential to damage the credibility of SADC as an institution,” the communique added.
They urged the SADC “secretariat to remain pro-active in its efforts at protecting the credibility and leadership of the SADC structures such as the SADC election observer mission”.
“Given that some circumstances are unpredictable and that there will always be some individuals who will not agree with the SADC election observer mission, all reports and statements should be crafted in a manner that ensures relevant procedures and rules are followed to protect the SADC institutions from unwarranted attacks,” the communique said.
“The secretariat must ensure that the Organ Troika member states continue to process, adopt and own the reports of the SADC election observer missions so as to avoid unwarranted suggestions that the reports are the product of one individual or member state.”
Read: Foreign observers say Zimbabwe poll not free and fair
Following a meeting of heads of State for members of the Troika chaired by President Hichilema on Wednesday, the SADC report on Zimbabwe’s elections was handed over to President Mnangagwa and will be tabled at the regional body’s annual summit next year.
Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF singled out President Hichilema and Dr Mumba for attack over the stinging report as it accused them of pushing a western regime change agenda.
The relentless attacks against the two have strained relations between the two neighbours.
Other observer missions such as those from the European Union and African Union said Zimbabwe’s elections did not pass the democracy test.
President Mnangagwa was declared winner of the polls with 52.6 percent of the vote, but the result was dismissed as a “gigantic fraud” by his main rival Nelson Chamisa who is refusing to recognise 81-year-old ruler’s victory.
Zimbabwe has a history of disputed elections dating back to years of the late Robert Mugabe who was toppled in a military coup six years ago.