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SA government remains silent over widespread reports of electoral abuses in Zimbabwe

SA government remains silent over widespread reports of electoral abuses in Zimbabwe
Election posters hang on a wall in Bindura, Zimbabwe on 29 July 2018. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The South African Presidency has called on Zimbabwe’s political parties to work together for peace and prosperity, but the government has failed to comment on widespread reports of electoral abuses.

The South African government remains mum on the credibility of the widely condemned elections of Zimbabwe, which saw Zanu-PF maintain its 43-year-long rule.   

Incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa won 52.6% of last week’s vote, controversially clinching a second term, while Nelson Chamisa of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) won 44%, according to the official results which were announced on Sunday.  

Reacting to the results on Monday evening, South Africa’s Presidency congratulated Zimbabwe for holding elections but remained silent on the preliminary findings made by observer missions, including from the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

“South Africa is conscious that these elections took place under a difficult economic environment due to the burdening sanctions which the people of Zimbabwe continue to unjustly endure … South Africa calls on all the parties in Zimbabwe to work in unison in sustaining peace and work towards development and shared prosperity in the country,” said Presidency spokesperson Vincent Magwenya in a statement, that said the Government has “taken note” of the preliminary pronouncements by AU and SADC observers.

Flawed vote

The head of the SADC election observer mission, Dr Nevers Mumba, said the election had been relatively peaceful and calm, but was marred by provisions of Zimbabwe’s Constitution being broken, the Electoral Act being overlooked and SADC guidelines abused.  

Among other violations, Mumba cited the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s failure to release the voters’ roll to various stakeholders timeously. 

Read more on Daily Maverick: ‘Unfree, unfair’: The post-election danger of Harare’s unchecked course

“Our goal is to authenticate the process. If the process is flawed, then the results cannot be legitimate,” he said in an interview with Newzroom Afrika.   

Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) election observers said the vote did not meet international standards for transparency and was conducted in a climate of fear. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Zimbabwe 2023 Elections

The DA’s shadow minister of international relations and cooperation, Emma Louise Powell, said President Cyril Ramaphosa and International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor’s silence was hastening South Africa’s decline as a leader on the African continent and a defender of human rights.    

She said the two should be coming to the defence of the SADC election observer mission.  

“If the SADC and South Africa are to retain any remnant of credibility, they must reject these primitive bullying tactics by Zanu-PF and demand an independent review of the election,” she said.

The EFF’s Julius Malema told journalists at the weekend that there was a strong belief that the elections had not been free and fair.

‘They are allies’

The ANC has also remained silent on the elections.   

At the weekend, ANC spokesperson Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri asked Daily Maverick to send her written questions about the elections. On Monday, however, she said the party’s position would be discussed at a National Working Committee meeting that evening following the receipt of a report from people it had sent to observe the elections.  

ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula posted a series of tweets appearing to praise Mnangagwa and his party, and urging voters to accept the outcomes of the election.

Political analyst Jan Venter said the ANC was having a difficult time formulating a position on the matter because of its ideology. 

“It is nice to have a pro-African ideology, but the pro-African ideology is leading to conflict on the ground, and we have seen it in a lot of xenophobic attacks or instances in South Africa.  

“[The ANC and Zanu-PF] are allies, they are not going to speak against each other. They have been allies since the fight against apartheid. The blood shared in those days is now buying silence.”

SA ‘must not remain silent’

The IFP’s Liezl van der Merwe said: “Based on multiple reports from election observers monitoring the recently held Zimbabwean general elections, the IFP is concerned about the validity of the election results. Among others, the head of the European Union’s observer mission stated that the elections were held in a ‘climate of fear’, while the SADC mission also listed multiple issues of concern. 

“We trust that the issues raised will be investigated and resolved, and that those elected to lead will deliver on promises made to the people of Zimbabwe.”  

ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba accused the ANC of choosing to support a “murderous regime” instead of demanding accountability for human rights abuses.

“The ruling party has repeatedly allowed the Zanu-PF to abuse the Zimbabwean people, leading to thousands of Zimbabweans crossing over into our borders to seek jobs, healthcare and shelter in South Africa.   

“ActionSA will continue to monitor developments in Zimbabwe and lobby the South African government to take the necessary action to restore fundamental human rights in our neighbouring nation. The people of South Africa and Zimbabwe deserve better.”   

Mmusi Maimane, leader of the Build One South Africa political party, implored the government, as Zimbabwe’s largest trading partner, to take a strong view on the elections. 

“As the country most affected by democratic failure in Zimbabwe, we must not remain silent. There comes a time when we have to stand with the people and stand on principle. This is the time. 

“Mr President, do not hide behind arguments about sovereignty. We cannot allow abuse of human rights, electoral cheating and undemocratic norms in the name of sovereignty. Your government stands with the people of the Sahrawi region but keeps quiet when it comes to the people of Zimbabwe. This is logically unsound and not consistent. 

“I challenge the ANC and the South African government to support the findings made by the SADC observer mission and in addition to call for a new election in Zimbabwe,” Maimane said.

South Africa is home to more than 700,000 Zimbabweans, according to preliminary data released by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency in 2022. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Henry Coppens says:

    The silence may appear obvious, in that the ANC just might be viewing how Zimbabwe went about their election. The ANC may be contemplating actions of this nature in the future elections to preserve their power.

  • Johann Olivier says:

    Well, of course. There are serious issues in Europe. Looking good creating BRICS+ … How can Squirrel & Co possibly spare time for a small, dysfunctional African state (or any African issue)?

  • William Dryden says:

    As they say, birds of a feather flock together, criminals will always support each other.

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