Reproduced verbatim by Prof. Jonathan Moyo for ease of reading, below are the full minutes of the Extraordinary Meeting of the Sadc Organ Troika Ministerial Committee held on 26 September 2023:
THE MINISTERIAL COMMITTEE OF THE ORGAN TROIKA [EO-MCO TROIKA] 26 SEPTEMBER 2023
1. ADOPTION OF THE AGENDA
The Extraordinary meeting of the Troika of the Ministerial Committee of the Organ (hereinafter referred to as the EO-MCO Troika) considered and adopted the Draft Agenda (SADC/EO MCO Troika/6/2023/1A) as presented by the Secretariat.
2. UPDATE ON ELECTIONS IN THE REGION
2.1 The EO-MCO Troika recalled that Summit at its meeting of August 2023 noted the elections calendar as in table 1 below:
Table 1: Election Calendar: August 2023- May 2024
S/N COUNTRY TYPE OF ELECTION DATE
1. Zimbabwe General Elections 23 August 2023
2. Eswatini General Elections 29 Sept 2023
3. Madagascar Presidential Election First Round 9
November 2023; possible Second Round: 20
4. DRC Presidential, Legislative and Provincial
Elections 20 December 2023
5. South Africa National and Provincial Elections
6 Comoros Presidential TBA February 2024
2.2 Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe
response to the SEOM Preliminary Statement
2.2.1 The EO-MCO Troika noted that the SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) was deployed to the Republic of Zimbabwe to observe the Harmonised Elections which took place on 23rd-24th August 2023. In accordance with the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, the Chairperson of the Organ, His Excellency Hakainde Hichilema, President of the Republic of Zambia, appointed Dr. Nevers Mumba, the former Vice President of the Republic of Zambia to lead the SEOM to Zimbabwe.
2.2.2 The EO-MCO Troika also noted that the SEOM is mandated to observe elections in terms of the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections which all SADC Member States signed and adopted, and have been operational since 2004.
2.2.3 The EO-MCO Troika further noted that all SADC Member States send individuals to serve as observers under the SEOM each time another SADC Member State conducts elections. For the purposes of the August 2023 Harmonised Elections, observers were seconded from the Republic of Angola, the Republic of Botswana, the Kingdom of Eswatini, the Republic of Malawi, the Republic of Mozambique, the Republic of Namibia, the Republic of South Africa, the United Republic of Tanzania, and the Republic of Zambia.
2.2.4 The EO-MCO Troika noted that;
(i) in terms of section 6.1.3, the Chairperson of the Organ shall receive the SEOM reports and reports of the SADC Electoral Advisory Council (SEAC) on matters pertaining to elections and the enhancement of democracy and good governance in the SADC region; and
(ii) the reports of the SADC Electoral Observation Mission are handled in terms of section 11.8 of the Principles and Guidelines. The SEOM issues a Preliminary Statement immediately after the close of polls. The Preliminary Statement outlines the initial findings of the SEOM.
2.2.5 The EO-MCO Troika also noted that the Zimbabwe SEOM issued its Preliminary Statement on 25th August 2023 and, as stipulated by Section 11.8.1 of the Principles and Guidelines, the SEOM should produce its Final Report within 30 days and submit to the Member State that held the relevant election.
2.2.6 The EO-MCO Troika further noted that since the 30 days have lapsed, the Zimbabwe SEOM report has been finalised for submission to the Chairperson of the Organ for onward transmission to the Head of State and the Electoral Management Body of the Republic of Zimbabwe.
2.2.7 The EO-MCO Troika noted that in terms of section 11.8.2, when SEOMs officially submit their election reports, Member States which held elections, may:
(i) consider the recommendations advanced by the SEOM for improving the conduct of elections; and
(ii) submit to the Chair of the Organ, a response to the SEOM report.
2.2.8 The EO-MCO Troika also noted with concern, the personal attacks and threats on the media that have been directed at the SEOM Head of Mission Dr. Nevers Mumba and the Chairperson of the Organ, His Excellency Mr. Hakainde Hichelima since the Zimbabwe SEOM released its Preliminary Statement on 25th August 2023. The attacks were made by individuals in both the ruling ZANU PF political party and some in high level positions in the Government of Zimbabwe. The narrative in these attacks have been that the SEOM Preliminary Statement on the Zimbabwean elections was personally authored by Dr. Nevers Mumba.
2.2.9 The EO-MCO Troika further:
(i) noted that such attacks undermine the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections and might have a negative bearing on the SEOMs that are to be deployed in the future elections, especially with another election coming on the 29 September in the Kingdom of Eswatini; and
(ii) reiterated that SEOMs are in line with the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, and that reports are produced by a collective of the Member States observers, led by
the Organ Troika and supported by the Secretariat.
2.2.10 The EO-MCO Troika noted that there is a risk that if unchecked, further attacks on the leadership of the Organ and of the SEOM have the potential to damage the credibility of SADC as an institution.
2.2.11 The EO-MCO acknowledged and commended the Secretariat for taking the initiative to issue media statements that clarified the procedures that are followed by the SEOM, and in the same statements, for protecting the credibility and leadership of the Organ and the SEOM.
2.2.12 On the basis of paragraphs 2.2.8 and 2.2.9 above, and in order to manage the situation and avert future attacks on the leadership of the Organ and SEOMs and restore the dignity and resilience of SADC and its long standing Structures, the EO-MCO Troika recommended as follows:
(i) The Secretariat to remain proactive in its efforts at protecting the credibility and leadership of the SADC structures such as the SEOM;
(ii) Given that some circumstances are not predictable, and that there will always some individuals who will not agree with the SEOM, 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;
(iii) Continue to field technically experienced staff from the Secretariat who are complemented by capacitated observers to facilitate the work of the SEOM; and
(iv) The Secretariat to ensure that the Organ Troika Member States continue to process, adopt and own the reports of the SEOM so as to avoid unwarranted suggestions that the reports are the product of one individual or Member State.
1. It is notable that the foregoing are the views of the ministers in the Organ Troika. For example, the full Sadc Council of Ministers is yet to make its views. And the response of the Government of Zimbabwe is not yet on the record.
2. It is also notable that most of the views of the ministers in these minutes had already been expressed publicly by the
secretariat. See the document here.
3. It is clear that SEOM’s observation of and report on Zimbabwe’s 2023 harmonised general election did not proceed in terms of the standing rules and procedures, hence a can of worms was opened for Sadc.
3.1 It is understandable and indeed right that the ministers expressed concern about the attacks by government and ruling party officials in Zimbabwe on Nevers Mumba, Zim’s SEOM’s chairperson; and, by extension, on Mumba’s appointing authority,
, the Chairperson of the Sadc Organ Troika.
3.2 But there’s no price for guessing why the public attacks on Mumba and on his appointing authority were predictable and unavoidable, and that they would happen in the same or worse way any similar future circumstances in any Sadc member state.
3.3 Contextually, the attacks had nothing to do with the contents of the SEOM report per se, but had everything to do with the reckless manner in which Mumba used the megaphone of the public gallery to become a media star as he personalised, distorted, exaggerated and misrepresented the SEOM preliminary report in ways that were undiplomatic, unprecedented and were totally unacceptable under any circumstance.
3.3 For example, whereas it is common cause that SEOM observes elections in Sadc member states and prepares a report for the benefit of the member state in question, with a view to improving the conduct of its future elections; Mumba made a lot of unacceptable public statements and comments through various media platforms, including this particularly insidious statement he made on Zambian state television in a programme in which he was given more than an hour to malign Zimbabwe’s election processes outside Sadc and SEOM rules and procedures:
“He [President Hichilema] said to me, Mr Vice President go on behalf of Sadc, and all I expect from you is to help and give the Zimbabweans a free, fair and credible election. Those are the only…he said it twice. I need nothing from you Mr Vice President but free, fair and credible election, you would have done your job.
When I was in Zimbabwe, and we were on our way to go and see President Mnangagwa to pay a courtesy call on him, I contacted the President, President Hakainde Hichilema, I said Mr President I’m going to see, we are going to see your colleague, do you have a word for him; any greeting whatever? He said no, the only thing you tell my colleague is that let’s go ahead and give the Zimbabweans a free, fair and credible election. He repeated the same twice”. Dr Nevers Mumba, speaking live in a long talk-show on Zambian national television. This is the link to the talk-show: https://youtube.com/live/9ZO5h_9JtXI?si=QBB0tkAy2tMYYYlV……
3.4 It is trite to say there’s no member state in Sadc that would keep quiet and allow an official, let alone a Chairperson, of SEOM to make such outrageous statements in the public gallery about a SEOM report on its elections. Silence would be a dereliction of duty.
3.5 In this regard, it is notable and a step in the right direction that item 2.2.12 paragraph (ii) of the minutes of the Sad Organ Trokia ministerial meeting, the ministers made this important commitment:
(ii) Given that some circumstances are not predictable, and that there will always some individuals who will not agree with the SEOM, 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.
3.6 It is self-evident and there for anyone to see that the SEOM preliminary report on the Zimbabwean election and many Mumba statements on that report were not, “crafted in a manner that [ensured] relevant procedures and rules [were] followed to protect the Sadc institutions from unwarranted attacks”. This is what went wrong, and which needs urgent fixing.
4. Otherwise, all told and going forward, one hopes that the episode has been an important learning opportunity for everyone!