AFTER last Saturday’s Sadc troika on politics, defence and security meeting in Pretoria, South Africa, to deliberate on Zimbabwe’s elections, the bloc’s communiqué merely acknowledged “problems” during special voting by the uniformed forces but remained mum on the coalition government partners’ failure to fully implement Sadc-brokered elections roadmap before next week’s polls.
Sadc said it was pleased all political parties were committed to a peaceful environment during the elections and even the bungling Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) was commended for “taking these (problems) as challenges to be overcome on July 31”, while political parties were urged “to co-operate as fully as possible with Zec in order to ensure that it is able to meet these challenges.”
“The summit encouraged the government, all political parties and leaders to continue with these commendable efforts which will help realise credible elections,” the communiqué said.
Analysts say there is an anti-climax in the regional body’s latest pronouncements, given that in all its summits starting with Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo in 2009 to Maputo, Mozambique in June 2013, Sadc has been steadfast in insisting on the elections roadmap and reforms before credible elections can be held.
A cursory examination of Sadc summits and troika resolutions from 2009 to last month in Maputo is enough to show the regional body has consistently demanded the full implementation of reforms before elections.
However, analysts say the country is nowhere near fulfilling those reforms which begs the question: How will Sadc pronounce on the outcome of next week’s elections?
At the first summit in Kinshasa in 2009, Zimbabwe leaders were urged to fully implement the Global Political Agreement (GPA) and this push was repeated at the Maputo summit in January 2010.
An exasperated Sadc upped the ante in Livingstone in March 2011 where it resolved to appoint additional officials to work on the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (Jomic) to monitor, evaluate and implement the GPA.
The regional bloc also resolved to assist Zimbabwe to formulate guidelines that would assist in holding a peaceful, free and fair election in accordance with the Sadc Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.
At the Sandton summit in South Africa in June 2011, Sadc resolved to assist Jomic and urged the troika to “remain seized with the implementation of the GPA” while in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in December 2012, the bloc expressed disappointment and “impatience in the delay of the implementation of the GPA”.
It also urged the coalition government to deal with the resurgence of violence, arrests, hate speech and intimidation.
Just last month in Maputo, Sadc “endorsed recommendations which include, among others, media reform, upholding the rule of law, the role of Jomic, general elections date, validity of electoral regulations and deployment of Sadc observers”.
There is no doubt Sadc has been consistent in demanding full reforms and, therefore, this apparent about-turn in Pretoria suggests the regional body may have buckled under President Robert Mugabe’s pressure to endorse the processes leading up to the elections.
Mugabe has said that by establishing a peaceful environment, the country had fulfilled the only pre-condition for elections.
South African newspaper BusinessDay took the view Sadc’s hand has been forced by Mugabe, saying “Sadc has folded time and again whenever confrontation has loomed, which for Mugabe is whenever he does not get his way”.
But Zimbabwe Democracy Institute director Pedzisai Ruhanya defended Sadc saying it had done all that is possible by insisting on a peaceful environment although it cannot force the implementation of all reforms as “there has never been any transitional regime which fully implements reforms”.
“Sadc was forced to step in after shocking levels of political violence and economic catastrophe during the 2008 elections,” said Ruhanya.
Given this scenario, Ruhanya said barring a spectacular upsurge of violence or something as blatant as Zec failing to announce election results on time, Sadc and the African Union (AU) will endorse the elections because the prevailing climate is generally peaceful.
Political commentator Blessing Vava said Sadc and other international organisations should not have any problem endorsing the polls as the prevailing conditions are just the same as those that characterised the March constitutional referendum.
“There shouldn’t be a problem now when Sadc, EU (European Union) and Zimbabwe’s own political parties endorsed the referendum. The conditions are the same as those under which the referendum was held,” said Vava.
There is general peace in the country, except for a few cases of violence. Even Mugabe’s nemesis, the EU, seems to be readying itself to endorse the polls, after EU Council president Herman van Rompuy confirmed during a visit to South Africa last week that it would accept Sadc recommendations.
This is not surprising as the EU began efforts to normalise relations with Zimbabwe through the “Friends of Zimbabwe” initiative in March.
The EU even lifted targeted measures imposed on some Zanu PF officials and allowed a delegation of ministers led by Zanu PF’s Patrick Chinamasa to visit Europe for re-engagement talks.
The United States has also been making rapprochement moves towards Harare.
As it is, it seems Sadc, the AU and others may well endorse the polls although it is up to Zimbabweans to legitimise whoever wins the election.