The Botswana Congress Party has noted developments around the August
2023 Harmonized Elections in Zimbabwe. These developments should be of concern to all of us in the SADC region from all perspectives. From a human rights perspective, ordinary Zimbabweans have been subjected to an undignified way of life, with a significant number of them being forced by economic hardships to live as undocumented migrants in neighbouring countries and beyond. This has been their life story for decades now and it is becoming accepted as a norm. On the economic front, the country has not leveraged its optimal weight as a trading partner, as a market, and as a supplier of goods and services, thereby negatively impacting the regional economy’s performance. From the diplomatic and regional integration perspective, it is near impossible to have honest discussions and pursue a productive agenda for regional advancement if we have accepted perpetual dysfunctionality of the economy of an important partner. The SADC region has a moral duty and responsibility to help the people of Zimbabwe restore their country to normalcy and greatness.
The Botswana Congress Party believes that good governance is the cornerstone of any development agenda of a democratic state. To that end, ensuring the integrity of an election in any nation is imperative. Elections in Zimbabwe have always been marred with controversy. SADC was called to intervene following the 2008 polls. The SADC intervention resulted in formation of a Government of National Unity. That decision continues to haunt the people of Zimbabwe to this day. The decision continues to hold back SADC on its agenda for regional integration as the problems besieging Zimbabwe persist. In 2020, SADC’s credibility came into question in the Malawi elections after the regional body declared them meeting its guidelines and principles for a credible poll following the declaration of the then incumbent President as the winner. The result of that election was overturned by High Court of Malawi that ordered a re-run and opposition party emerged victorious. There is no doubt that the credibility of SADC has been affected overtime. The 2023 Zimbabwe elections have offered us an opportunity for
redemption. As Botswana Congress Party, we have noted three very significant developments from the election that require urgent action.
a)The SADC Election Observer Mission (SEOM)preliminary report: The report is very comprehensive and professionally written. It covers both the pre-election period, a very critical component of any democratic election, as well as the voting day observations. The SEOM concluded that from their pre-election and voting day observation, the election fell short of the dictates of both the constitution of Zimbabwe and the SADC guidelines and principles governing democratic elections. We do not expect this indicting conclusion to change for the better in the final report. We appreciate that the last phase of the mission is the post-election phase, which includes the counting and announcement of results, as well as any legal challenges that may arise out of the elections. These can not possibly in any way change the findings from both the pre- election and voting day observation. They cannot change the conclusion that the election fell short of the dictates of the constitution of Zimbabwe and the SADC guidelines and principles, based on the pre-election and voting day phases.
b)The reaction from ZANU PF and the Government of Zimbabwe: Through some press conferences, ZANU PF outrightly attacked the SEOM and its findings. The attacks were further extended to the Head of SEOM to Zimbabwe, Dr. Nevers Mumba, former Vice President of Zambia. Furthermore, there are reports that alleged that the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade for Zimbabwe, Prof. Aron Muriwra, convened a meeting of SADC Ambassadors in Zimbabwe on the 27th of August 2023 at the Ministry Headquarters. According to information in our possession, the meeting sought to further discredit the SEOM and influence Members States through their envoys to disregard the SEOM. THIS IS A MAJOR CAUSE FOR CONCERN!! It is a red flag that should worry all democratic and progressive forces in the region.
c)SADC Secretariat Press Statement issued on the 26th of August 2023: Through this statement, the SADC Secretariat provides reasonable assurance on the credibility of not only the processes embarked upon in observing the Harmonized Elections in Zimbabwe, but the team that makes up the SEOM. We are particularly assured by the inclusion of the SADC Electoral Advisory Council (SEAC), which comprises of judges from the Member States as part of the observation Mission. We view the statement from SADC as issuing a red flag not only for citizens of the Region, but stakeholders with interest in the advancement of the SADC Region.
Based on the foregoing, the Botswana Congress Party expresses its deep appreciation to Dr. Nevers Mumba for his fearless leadership and traversing unchartered territory of speaking truth even when it goes against the interests of the ruling elites. It
takes ethical leadership and an unwavering commitment to good governance for anyone to do that. We appreciate the SADC Secretariat, through its Head, Mr. Elias Magosi for facilitating a game changing Election Observation Mission. We hope that this is sustained. These developments point to work that needs to be done as a matter of urgency. The Botswana Congress Party invites other progressive and democratic forces to join in demanding the following:
1. An immediate cessation to the swearing in of the declared President Elect, Mr. Emmerson
Mnangagwa. This is based on the concluding observation by SEOM that Zimbabwe’s
Harmonized Election of 2023 fell short of the dictates of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. That is a serious indictment on the election outcome and if Mr. Mnangagwa has an ounce of respect for the people of Zimbabwe and SADC as an organization, he must not continue with the swearing in until this very grave matter has been dealt with to its fullest. We call on all stakeholders to boycott the inauguration should Mr. Mnangagwa decide to proceed.
2. That the Chairperson of the Troika convenes an urgentmeeting to deal with the preliminary report from the 2023 Harmonized Elections in Zimbabwe and prepare for an
Extra Ordinary Summit of Heads of State of SADC to deal with the Zimbabwe elections at
the earliest possible moment. The outcome of such Extra-Ordinary meeting should be a
time bound transitional government that will facilitate the conduct of democratic elections in Zimbabwe under the supervision of a SADC Special Vehicle established for that purpose.
Further, we call on all progressive and democratic forces in the SADC Region and beyond to pay particular attention to the Conduct of their Member States in relation to the unfolding Zimbabwean situation. We need to point out that this year, we still have two more elections to be conducted in the region. In addition, eight more elections in the region are expected in 2024. It is therefore critically important that we do not allow SEOM to be undermined by sitting Governments in protection of one of their own, as the protection could continue unabated even in the forthcoming 10 elections. If incumbent governments are allowed to undermine the SADC guidelines and principles governing democratic elections in that manner, it would make us complicit in eroding the little progress we have made in the region to promote democracy. Moreso, if the SEOM findings are undermined, it would render SADC citizens complicit in bullying ethical leaders such as Dr. Mumba who stand in the firing line to protect democratic principles and ideals. It would facilitate fulfillment of a deep desire by selfish serving governments to kill functionality of any credible election observation process.
We reiterate our position that good democratic governance is the only catalyst towards a clean and accountable government which serves the interests of their people. Good democratic governance is the only hope for a prosperous SADC region. Should SADC not undertake its duty as demanded above, we
will consider convening a conference of Non- Governing Political Parties in the SADC Region to explore how we can protect our people from imposed Governments whose only mandates are to protect selfish personal interests!
Finally, we will be closely observing the developments, and the Botswana Government actions in this regard. We urge all progressive forces to do the same in their Countries while taking note of what other countries are doing.
Cde Mpho M. Pheko
BCP Publicity Secretary