By Morgan Tsvangirai
I welcome you to this press conference where the subject matter is the recently released Judicial Observer Mission report by a special team of respected judges appointed by former South Africa President Thabo Mbeki to observe our 2002 Presidential election here in Zimbabwe.
Predictably, that report confirms what has been the major blemish of our elections in Zimbabwe; that the Presidential poll of 2002 was not free, fair and credible and that it fell far short of the international standards for free and fair elections.
It has taken 12 years for that report to be made public, and this after a strenuous legal fight by The Mail and Guardian newspaper.
I want to pay tribute to the audacity of journalism; the unstinting pursuit of the truth particularly by the press corps at The Mail and Guardian.
Their audacious and persistent journalism has led to the publication of the report.
But while it has taken 12 years for the judges’ report to be made public, the irony is that even after those 12 years, this report has come out earlier than the verdict of our court challenge that we filed in 2002.
Today, we are still awaiting judgment on our court challenge and it appears the ruling on my court petition filed in 2002 may not even come in my lifetime. That delay is certainly a major statement about the rule of law in Zimbabwe.
Reading their final verdict of the 2002 Presidential election, the two judges may well have been talking about the July 2013 election, which was fraught with similar irregularities that they noted in their report.
The significance of the Judicial Observer Mission Report
As I said earlier, the report comes as no surprise to us at all. We are deeply appalled by it and we unreservedly deplore what was done by the South African government to try to sweep this report under the carpet.
2. The Report is a testament to what we in the MDC and some countries in the region and the broader International community (have always maintained: that Zimbabwe has never held a free and fair election.
I am sure the same commission could assist to unearth the motivation of the South African government to work in cahoots with the Mugabe regime across the Limpopo.
Zimbabwe’s polls have been reduced to nothing more than deadly military operations against civilians and the opposition. Over the years Mugabe has successfully rigged elections, starting with the parliamentary elections of 2000 in favour of his party
In 2008, the poll result was not announced for almost two months to allow for tampering of the result to induce a reduction of the margin of the Zanu PF loss. When we went for a SADC summit in Lusaka at Mulungushi Hall in April 2008, Mbeki spoke about a run-off, even though the results had not been officially announced.
This meant he was privy to the Zanu PF machinations to call for a run-off. With the benefit of hindsight, we can understand why he was at pains to ensure this report of the earlier election of 2002 was not made public.
In subsequent years, the rigging has simply gotten out of hand, for instance in 2013 where, in some rural constituencies, there were more ballots than the population residing in that particular Constituency.
Once again we are outraged by the role of some SADC countries in subverting democratic processes of another sovereign state.
When the genocide in Rwanda was taking place, the majority of African leaders remained silent about it. Likewise when violence flared up in Zimbabwe with innocent civilians being butchered in broad daylight, SADC countries turned a blind eye.
Today the Zimbabwean economy is again on a free-fall because of illegitimacy derived from yet another stolen election of 2013 that had the full blessing of SADC, South Africa being the chief sponsor of the “free and fair” verdict.
To an extent, the spirited efforts to hide this report shows that South Africa has wittingly or unwittingly aided the subversion of democratic processes in Zimbabwe, wantonly violating official SADC guidelines on the conduct of free and fair elections, which they helped to create.
It would seem that Mugabe’s treachery should be a cause of instant outrage within SADC itself, potentially stripping Mugabe of the chairmanship but again, the report clearly shows that this man does not operate in isolation of others in the region.
SADC’s failure to censure, denounce and punish Mugabe’s actions continues to represent a travesty of democracy.
While the world condemned the 2002 election in Zimbabwe, the then acting South Africa president Kgalema Motlanthe, who was head of the South Africa observer mission, was one of those who validated Zimbabwe’s rigged 2002 elections, declaring them as ‘completely free and fair’. The dictates of good neighborliness would have meant that we must not sweep under the carpet dirty reports about each other.
Irregularities repeated in 2013
The 26-page report by Juctices Moseneke and Kamphepe identifies several irregularities about that election, which irregularities have been the hallmark of all our elections including last year’s disputed election of July 31 2013.
One year after the election, we are yet to receive an electronic copy of the voters roll used in that election as required by law.
On 18 August this year, I wrote a letter to all SADC Heads of State and told them that their observer mission report was self contradictory, inconsistent and incoherent.
SADC raised issues that rendered the 31 July 2013 election unfair and not credible but at the same time concluded its report by “elevating” the election to a credible one. For example, the report stated “..the provision of Voters’ roll in time goes to the very heart of fairness in the election process. If the voters roll is not made available on time, the fairness of the election is brought into question…”
Having made this point, the Observer Mission also noted that the voters’ roll was not made available on time and yet still made the conclusion that the election was credible. If a voters’ roll is at the heart of the freeness and fairness of an election, how was it possible to have a credible election in the absence of an electronic copy of the roll, which we still have not received to this day in brazen defiance of the law?
The Judicial Observer Mission report of the 2002 Presidential election is refreshing in that it touches on various issues that affected the credibility of that election.
The report referred to Zanu PF’s massive violence against the people of Zimbabwe, the arrest of MDC leaders on the eve of the election on trumped-up treason charges, non-compliance with court orders, biased coverage by the publicly owned media and non-provision to the voters’ roll to all contesting parties, as being among the issues that affected the credibility of the fraudulent election of 2002.
The judges make a poignant and unequivocal evaluation of that massive theft of the people’s mandate in 2002. “..Having regard to all the circumstances, and in particular the cumulative substantial departures from international standards of free and fair elections found in Zimbabwe during the pre-election period, these elections, in our view, cannot be considered free and fair.”
Conclusion: The illusion of choice
For us in the MDC, the respected judges’ verdict of the 2002 Presidential election ought to have been the same verdict even of last year’s elections in this country. Fraudulent elections have been at the epicenter of our national crisis because they seriously undermine legitimacy of leadership.
Regrettably, we have had some complicit leaders in SADC and the regional body itself has not done much to ensure truly free and fair elections, particularly in Zimbabwe where the President has even become the regional leader, notwithstanding his tainted legitimacy as.
The report, while coming out 12 years after the election, makes poignant observations which have continued to undermine the credibility of our successive elections since 2000. As I said at our Congress two weeks ago, we are writing our own script for the endgame.
We have resolved to create a united team of democrats and a cohesive party machinery that will win the next elections, whenever they are going to be held. We are going to invest our effort to ensure the people’s mandate is not stolen again.
The MDC will play its part but we urge all our SADC friends to stand by the people of Zimbabwe in our genuine quest to make sure that the people’s vote counts so that we have a truly legitimate government capable of solving the country’s problems. It’s clear that the current SADC chair has a hugely tainted legitimacy.
Zimbabwe’s problems could have been solved in 2002 if this damning report had not been swept under the carpet. Lastly, only a return to legitimacy through a truly credible election is the answer to all the problems afflicting the country. I am certain that we in the MDC will not fail posterity and the millions of Zimbabweans who have invested their hope in us.
I thank You