Post-election violence that saw the killing of six unarmed people, the injury of several other protestors and the abduction of opposition activists has unnerved Western countries. This comes amid indications this week that they cannot make head or tail of the political situation in the country after initially cosying up to President-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa’s re-engagement efforts.
By Wongai Zhangazha
Diplomatic sources said a number of powerful Western governments are increasingly concerned that the tail end of the electoral process could have tainted the legitimacy and credibility of the current administration and might reconsider a foreign policy shift on Harare.
According to diplomatic sources, Western countries are closely monitoring the electoral petition’s outcome and whether it will leave the electoral process and Mnangagwa’s administration with its reputation intact.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) declared Mnangagwa won the presidential election with 2,46 million (50,8%) votes against MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa’s 2,15 million (44,3%) votes.
However, Chamisa last week filed an election petition challenging the result at the Constitutional Court (ConCourt), arguing that he had in fact garnered 2 674 032 votes, while his rival Mnangagwa got 2 008 639.
Chamisa’s petition also challenged Zec’s failure to follow due process relating to collation and announcement of results, adding the actual result was afflicted by mathematical errors, a development that affected the credibility of the outcome.
In his founding affidavit submitted this week at the ConCourt, Mnangagwa, dismissed Chamisa’s claims he had won the just-ended presidential election and challenged him to prove the vote-rigging allegations.
Mnangagwa, who described Chamisa’s application as “grossly childish”, said his adversary had filed the court application to stage-manage an electoral fraud and draw sympathy from other opposition politicians.
Western diplomats are deeply concerned.
“Of particular concern has been the killings and crackdown which has affected how these countries (Western) view the current administration and how they should engage going forward,” said the diplomatic source.
Britain, which has been known to support Mnangagwa’s administration, expressed “deep” concern over the deadly violence that took place in Harare and claimed six lives on August 1.
In a statement, British ambassador Catriona Liang condemned the “excessive use of force” against protesters and called for the immediate withdrawal of troops.
International election observers and human rights groups also said the deployment of troops and use of live ammunition on opposition demonstrators was “indefensible.”
In a joint local statement, the European Union Delegation, the Heads of Mission of EU Member States present in Harare (France, Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom) and the Heads of Mission of Canada, Switzerland and the United States of America noted with “grave concern” the eruption of violence and occurrence of serious human rights violations following the peaceful election on July 30, 2018.
“These tragic events stand in sharp contrast to the high hopes and expectations for a peaceful, inclusive, transparent and credible election in Zimbabwe . . . The heads of mission condemn the violence, attacks, and acts of intimidation targeted at opposition leaders and supporters. These human rights violations have no place in a democratic society and contravene the fundamental tenets of international human rights standards,” read the joint statement.
America has already taken a hardline stance against Mnangagwa and his administration after its President Donald Trump last week signed the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Amendment Act of 2018 (S2779) into law, effectively dampening hopes of re-engagement.
The Australian government also condemned the brutal killings of at least six people after soldiers opened gunfire on civilians, crackdown on opposition members and disruption of an opposition press conference by riot police.
Locally, civic group Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition released a report recently titled: Gunning Down People, Legitimacy and Hope, Zimbabwe’s July 30 Democracy and Legitimacy Test, Forward to The Past, expressing concern over the legitimacy of the current regime.
Instead of addressing the legitimacy issue of Mnangagwa’s administration, the killings had opened a new era of illegitimate government that is undemocratic, the report states.
“The 2018 elections constituted a turning point and a critical juncture that could have allowed Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans to look forward to the task of rebuilding and making Zimbabwe great again off a clean political slate with limited to no legitimacy challenges on the state and those presiding over it,” reads the report.
“Now that the 2018 process lacks legitimacy and was undemocratic, Zimbabwe finds itself at a similar political moment to 2008. While difficult, the situation is not intractable.”
This comes as the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) heads of state and government meet today and tomorrow in Windhoek, Namibia, for the regional bloc’s 38th summit to be held under the theme Promoting Infrastructure Development and Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development.
Although incoming chairperson of the Sadc Council of Ministers and Namibia’s Foreign Affairs minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah yesterday said Zimbabwe was not on the agenda at the summit, outgoing chairperson and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa indicated that naturally the regional bloc would have to consider the Zimbabwe issue.
The Sadc Organ for Politics, Defence and Security usually gives reports on member states coming out of elections at the Sadc summit.
Nandi-Ndaitwah said: “What is there to discuss about Zimbabwe? We don’t have an agenda item on Zimbabwe at this summit. It is not there. I have not seen it.”
However, the chief director of communications in Ramaphosa’s office, Tyrone Seale, told the Zimbabwe Independent yesterday from Namibia that the Organ for Politics, Defence and Security and the summit would reflect on a range of regional issues, including peace and security.
“I am not sure which aspect exactly, but definitely the recent elections in Zimbabwe, especially on issues to do with peace and security in the region, will be discussed. We are also waiting for the outcome of the investigations report on the post-election violence. It is also worth noting that President Ramaphosa is the outgoing chair.”
At the summit, Namibian President Hage Geingob will assume the rotating Sadc chair from Ramaphosa.