Africa putting relationships before principles

By Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum

A series of events over the weekend at the African Union and SADC levels critically indicate that the region is prepared to ignore strong evidence in support of electoral process manipulation in Zimbabwe.

Lindiwe Zulu
Lindiwe Zulu

Once again the region is placing relationships before principles-the major root cause of corruption and mismanagement across Africa.

The AU’s statement at its meeting in Ethiopia and SADC’s vow that it will stand by the country to ensure the vote will be “credible enough’ clearly points out to the fact that the region is prepared to sacrifice principles in order to preserve ‘ warm historical relations with the Republic of Zimbabwe’.

Such fears are buttressed by President Zuma’s Statement of humble apology over what appears to be a diplomatic faux paus between Pretoria and Harare.

The current issues facing Zimbabwe at the moment are: whether there has been compliance with the Global Political Agreement especially the material clauses that would give rise to an independent electoral commission, non partisan security sector and judiciary as well as independent media.

The answer is an unequivocal ‘No’. As we write, President Mugabe has been packing the High Court bench with new Judges and promoting some to the Supreme Court and serious plans are underway to ensure that Zimbabwe’s independent TV does not broadcast in Zimbabwe.

The second issue is whether the electoral conditions are consistent with SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections. The answer again is ‘No’..

It is not even necessary to take the inquiry further to assess if the conditions and the late deployment of observer missions comply with Articles 13(1) of the ACHPR and 19 of the ICCPR as well as the Declaration of Principles for international election observation.

The statements both by SADC and the AU slightly fell short of their public certification before the polls that electoral conditions are consistent with SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections as well as with Article 13 (1) of the ACHPR.

On Friday 19 July the African Union categorically said that problems that bedevilled Special Voting for members of the security forces this week do not detract from the holding of free and fair elections in Zimbabwe on July 31.

The AU also further stated that assessments by the AU Observer Mission showed Zimbabwe was on course to a credible vote. “According to our observers on the ground, we believe that it is possible to have free and fair elections in Zimbabwe.

But we cannot guarantee that it will be the most perfect or optimum of situations,” Dr Abdullahi was quoted as saying by AFP.”The environment in Zimbabwe so far reassures us that the conditions are good for the election to be held on July 31,” Dr Abdullahi said.

One wonders which Zimbabwe he is talking about. If he is talking about conditions on the streets of Harare, yes the situation looks normal but if he is speaking of the voters’ roll then his statements could not be further from the truth.

The AU statements were echoed by SADC, which, although noted that putting together an election within a month “is very stressfull” vowed to stand by the country to ensure the vote will be credible enough.

“We have committed to work with the people of Zimbabwe and see whatever we can do to make sure within the remaining 11 days, we can have an election that is going to be credible enough,” he said’, SADC said.

It is yet to be seen how, within 11 days, both SADC and AU will be in a position to independently verify Reports raising serious concerns over the electoral roll . Without a credible , transparent and accessible voters’ roll it is inconceivable how Zimbabwe could ever have the prospect of holding a free, fair and credible election.

These concerns are further backed by yet another unconfirmed but shocking Report in the media that the electoral process is being manipulated.

SADC and the AU are prepared to ignore all these reports for the sake of expediency and preserving good and warm relations with the people of Zimbabwe.

SADC’s overriding concern with relations rather than principles is further seen in President Zuma’s statement in which he regrets unauthorized statements on Zimbabwe.

While that statement appears to be an overture meant to correct what appears to be a diplomatic faux paus, President Zuma’s goodwill is not reciprocated by President Mugabe who has consistently attacked the former’s top foreign affairs advisor and spokesperson, Lindiwe Zulu.

Again SADC’s Saturday summit came amid a renewed attack by Mugabe of Lindiwe Zulu.Speaking at a campaign rally on Saturday, Mugabe said Zuma should rein in Zulu and that SADC should not lie about the situation in Zimbabwe.

Zulu had said on Friday that there are still “challenges” in the run up to Zimbabwe’s vote. But Mugabe said “I appeal to President Zuma to stop this woman of theirs from speaking on Zimbabwe.”

President Zuma’s official position clearly reveals that there is policy backtracking and/or dissonance within his government with regard to Zimbabwe.

Whilst Lindiwe Zulu has remained very principled by listening to concerns by both civil society and the opposition, President Zuma appears to be backtracking and this backtracking can be traced back to Africa’s culture which values relationships over principles.

President Zuma says ‘South Africa remains fully committed to the warm historical relations with the Republic of Zimbabwe and wishes the people of Zimbabwe well as they prepare for the elections’.

However what the President overlooks is that his best wishes for the people of Zimbabwe should be demonstrated by insisting on principles and values that are cherished across most SADC countries at the moment.- values which are embodied in the SADC Charter and the Electoral Guidelines.

It would appear that President Zuma is undergoing increasing pressure from the region which is prepared to ignore the elephant in the room and sacrifice all principles at the altar of expediency and good relations.

There is anecdotal evidence that President Mugabe is prevailing over the region. For example the Daily Mail Report cited above states that ‘Yet the documents show a third of Mugabe’s election fund is being spent on ‘regional diplomacy’ to ensure a clean bill of health from the Southern African Development Community, the 14 nations whose observers are monitoring the election’. Baba Jukwa’s Facebook page similarly confirms this.

At this crucial historical juncture, South Africa would do itself and the region a great favour by continuing to upholding the correct principles and insisting on full compliance with the Global Political Agreement.

Rather than weaken its position within the region, it will make it stronger and a beacon of hope for the African renaissance.