Former Vice President LieutenantGeneral MompatiMerafhe said his fi rst wordswhen he met President Ian Khamaon his arrival from the electionobservation mission in Zimbabwewas that he never came across thekind of circus such as the one hewitnessed in the Zimbabwe elections.Merafhe, who was the captainof the 80 member electionobserver team dispatched by governmentto Zimbabwe revealedthe news to the media yesterday.He said Zimbabwe let themdown. “What was supposed to bean election turned out to be somethingelse. Our brothers and sistershave let us down.
When youare dealing with a government,and especially when you are agroup of countries like SADC,you rely on the goodwill of everybody;you would expect all thestakeholders to come on board butyou cannot give any instructionsto an independent state no matterhow violently you disagree withthe way they are doing things. Sowe can only use our powers ofpersuasion,” he said.Merafhe said there are fi ve criteriathat are used to determine thefairness of the election. “They arecalled the principles or guidelinesof SADC on the observation ofthe elections. The elections haveto be fair, peaceful, transparent,credible and free. These principlesdetermine the worth of an electionbut the Zimbabwe case hasbeen classifi ed as free and peacefuland it is fair there was peace.
The elections were violence shy.But the other three criteria werecertainly lacking. You cannot saythey were transparent, you cannotsay they were fair and you cannotsay they were credible,” Merafhesaid.In his remarks, the Minister ofForeign Affairs and InternationalCooperation, Phandu Skelemanisaid the Botswana observer teamreported that the Election Day itselfwas free of overt intimidationand violence; however, variousincidents and circumstances wererevealed that call into questionwhether the entire electoral process,and thus its fi nal result canbe recognised as having been fair,transparent and credible in thecontext of the SADC principlesand guidelines governing democraticelections within the community.
That is why the SADCElectoral Observer Mission describedthe elections as free andpeaceful as opposed to being freeand fair.“It is the position of the governmentthat it is a common interestof the SADC member’s statesincluding Zimbabwe to observethe SADC community’s sharedelection guidelines so as to ensuretransparency and credibility of theentire electoral process. In this respectthe door should not be leftopen for others either within oroutside the community to disparageour collective commitment toour common principles of democracyin general and the conduct offree and fair elections in particular,”said Skelemani.“It is the perspective of the governmentof Botswana that in thecontext of the preliminary fi ndingsof SADC Electoral ObserverMission, as well as the initial reportof our own observer team,that there is a need for an independentaudit of the just concludedelectoral process in Zimbabwe,”Skelemani said.
He further saidthat government hopes that the issuewill be placed on the agendaat the next SADC summit to beheld in Malawi later this month.“There is no doubt that whathas been revealed so far by ourobservers cannot be consideredas an acceptable standard for freeand fair elections in SADC. TheSADC should never create theundesirable precedent of permittingexceptions to its own rules,”he said.Contacted for comment, ZimbabweAfrican National Union– Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF)Secretary for Information andPublicity, Rugare Gumbo saidthat the Botswana delegation, likeany other, is entitled to its opinion.“I think the delegation is entitledto its opinion, that’s whatthey think. The concrete fact isthat the elections were peaceful,free, fair and credible,” he said,further indicating that the issue ofwhether something is fair or not isan opinion.
“We have our opinion, theyhave theirs, SADC its own, AUhave its own and the Chineseobservers have theirs; that is nota key issue, the key issue is thatthe elections were conducted in atranquil environment,” he said.Douglas Mwonzora, spokepersonof Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movementfor Democratic Change reiteratedMerafhe and Skelemani’ssentiments. He said that SADChas set the standards for electionsand must stick to them. “TheSADC guidelines on free and fairelections were adopted in Lesothosome years ago. They said theelections must be free and fair forthem to be accepted. The absenceof bloodshed does not mean thatthe elections were fair,” he said.He said that SADC has requestedthe MDC to provide them withevidence that the elections werenot fair, which he said they arecurrently preparing.
He said thatprior to the elections close to 500,000 people were denied the rightto register for elections and a further750, 000 were turned awayon the voting day with the reasoningthat voting had been closed. “Ithink this is the type of unfairnessthat SADC is talking about, whyshould we accept the results whenthe elections were not fair?” hesaid.He said the fact that his partywas given the voters roll on theday of the elections means thatthe elections were illegitimate andso fl awed that it vitiates its credibility.“Zimbabwe does not havespecial standards for elections,the standards should be universal.SADC must stop appeasing (Robert)Mugabe,” Mwonzora said,concluding by saying that the ZANU-PF can say that the electionswere fair because they were theperpetrators of unfairness.