ONGOING lobbying for the convention of a SADC Extraordinary meeting on Zimbabwe has triggered tremors in Harare with such efforts being described as a treacherous attempt to interfere with internal processes.
Information Ministry’s secretary, Nick Mangwana alleged: “There is some treacherous lobbying going on by one SADC member state to have an Extraordinary Summit on Zimbabwe. The other members are seeing through this and it’s not going to happen. This agenda being pushed by this member state is not its own. It’s doing a hatchet job for some powerful nations.”
There is some treacherous lobbying going on by one SADC member state to have an Extraordinary Summit on Zimbabwe. The other members are seeing through this and it’s not going to happen. This agenda being pushed by this member state is not its own. It’s doing a hatchet job for… pic.twitter.com/mNo15CgscR
— Nick Mangwana (@nickmangwana) September 9, 2023
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is yet again being forced to step in to unlock a political logjam in Zimbabwe after a disputed election in what is becoming routine for the bloc.
SADC’s Election Observer Mission (SEOM), which is usually cautious in its easements of elections in the 16-member bloc, this time issued a damning report on Zimbabwe’s August 23-24 elections, which it said fell short of regional and international standards.
Now a group of prominent Zimbabweans is also lobbying SADC to nudge Zimbabwe towards a transitional government after the disputed elections and by Wednesday a petition to buttress the position had garnered over 29, 000 signatures online.
“We want a transitional government, which includes both (the ruling) Zanu PF (party), CCC and the civil society broadly,” said academic Ibbo Mandaza, who is one of the petitioners.
“It should have representatives of the civil society that is trade unions, church, intellectuals, academia, technocrats and professionals.”
Only three heads of state from the bloc; namely South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi and Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Felix Tshisekedi attended President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s inauguration on Monday after his disputed election victory.
A number of regional leaders, including Zambia President Hakainde Hichilema who chairs the SADC Troika on Politics, Peace and Security that deployed the election observer mission, are yet to send congratulatory messages to President Mnangagwa in what is being interpreted as a show of disapproval of the way the elections were conducted.
The 80-year-old Zimbabwean ruler was declared winner of the presidential election with 52.6 percent of the vote against his main rival Nelson Chamisa of the Citizen Coalition for Change (CCC), who garnered 44 percent.
Mr Chamisa, 45, rejected the results as a gigantic fraud and is demanding a fresh poll.
Observers say the elections were marred by several irregularities that included late delivery of election material in opposition strongholds, intimidation of voters, an uneven playing field and a biased judiciary.
The SEOM this week submitted its final report on the Zimbabwe election to President Hichilema and it will be discussed by the bloc at different platforms until it is tabled at the next SADC summit, incidentally to be held in Harare next year.
Riding on the regional bloc’s observer mission’s findings that the elections were flawed, Mr Chamisa is now lobbying SADC leaders to push for fresh credible elections in Zimbabwe.
Parallels are already being drawn between the current impasse and the 2008 election dispute where SADC intervention and mediation by former South African president Cyril Ramaphosa forced the late Robert Mugabe to form and inclusive government with his main rival Morgan Tsvangirai.
The Pretoria-based Institute of Security Studies (ISS) said the SEOM report was unprecedented and could force the region to push for decisive action on Zimbabwe.
“The SEOM’s unprecedented report was scathing, identifying a raft of procedural and process deficits at odds with the Zimbabwean constitution, Electoral Act and SADC’s Principles and Guidelines for Democratic Elections,” ISS said.
“The SADC mission noted the (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s) lack of readiness, even though the commission had declared it was fully prepared.
“The mission found a lack of transparency around the voters’ roll, the contentious delimitation report, skewed access to state media, voter intimidation and deeper structural concerns including the conflation of party and state interests, the manipulation of the judiciary and problematic legislation.
“Most of these issues have been recurring items in SADC reports on Zimbabwe’s elections in the past two decades.
“However, the mention of structural and systematic challenges reflects a break from the past, exposing various concerns that opposition and civil society have repeatedly raised.”
President Mnangagwa’s Zanu PF reacted angrily to the SADC report and attacked former Zambian vice president Nevers Mumba, who headed the mission, whom it said was pushing a regime change agenda.
President Hichilema, who appointed Dr Mumba in his capacity as head of the SADC Troika on Politics, Peace and Security, has also come under a barrage of attacks from Zanu PF officials who accuse him of working with Western countries to impose a puppet government in Zimbabwe.
“It remains to be seen who will buckle first, although Zanu PF is unlikely to concede any ground,” ISS added.
“It can rely on SADC’s collective management style grounded in comradeship and the primacy of stability rather than confrontation or action.
“Zanu PF is also the past master of diplomatic manoeuvre in the region. Nevertheless, the country faces a political dilemma and getting that genie back in the bottle won’t be easy.
“SADC is unlikely to muster the political consensus and willpower to put Zimbabwe back on the bloc’s agenda.
“Not all member states will be comfortable with the SEOM’s findings, which could set an unwelcome precedent that represents a departure from its previous approach.
“So, while SADC probably won’t backtrack on its SEOM report, it will park the concerns rather than elevate them to a rejection of the election result.”
ISS said the regional and international communities will seek a conciliatory middle-of-the-road approach under the guise of constructive engagement.
Zimbabwe was also desperate for the elections to pass the credibility test to facilitate its readmission into the Commonwealth after two decades in the wilderness due to democracy deficits.
The elections were also a key requirement for debt relief negotiations with major creditors that are led by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and championed by former Mozambique president Joachim Chisano.
“Creditors seek the Zimbabwean government to stay engaged in the AfDB process with its three pillars of governance, economic reforms and land reform,” ISS added.
“Geopolitical imperatives and sheer fatigue with the Zimbabwean issue among Western creditors will shape their debt resolution efforts.
“They will have to live with the unsettling reality that the Mnangagwa administration is not a partner you can do business with and expect to act in good faith.”