Botswana has become the first Southern African nation to criticise the regional bloc’s endorsement of Zimbabwe’s disputed elections, with President Ian Khama moving to break rank with fellow SADC leaders over the polls.
In an interview aired on Botswana’s national television station, BTV, Khama said the Zimbabwe elections were neither free nor fair. He also announced that Botswana will no longer participate in any SADC election observer missions, because the leadership bloc appears to have let Zimbabwe 'off the hook'.
SADC has faced serious criticism for endorsing Zimbabwe’s 2013 polls in the face of widespread reports of irregularities, witnessed not only by Zimbabweans, but also observer missions from across the region.
For example the main opposition party in South Africa rejected the endorsement of Zimbabwe’s elections by the SADC Parliamentary Forum observer mission, saying the polls were not free, fair or credible. The Democratic Alliance (DA)’s Masizole Mnqasela, who was part of the mission, refused to sign off on a report that moved to endorse the polls.
Another observer, Elias Bila, who was representing the Federation of Unions for South Africa (FEDUSA) as part of the Southern African Trade Union Coordination Council observer team, called the poll outcome 'a fraud.' He also said the polls were not credible.
This was also the position of yet another regional observer team, the Southern Africa Regional Civil Society and Social Movements observer mission. That mission, organised by the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum, said in its preliminary report that “these elections were heavily compromised and fall far short of meeting the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.”
Botswana had initially rejected claims that the poll was credible, and in early August called for an audit of the results. But a final decision was later voiced by SADC, with its main observer mission saying the polls were generally free and peaceful.
“I want to correct the word fairness… the SADC observer statement said the elections were free and peaceful, they never used the word fair… that’s why we asked for an audit of the Zimbabwe election,” Khama said on BTV.
“And in Zim, we sent 80 plus or so observers and almost every one of them said there were irregularities in that election, and there were. I am convinced of it…So, do we say Zimbabwe is an exception to the SADC guidelines?”