THE election saga in Zimbabwe has played itself out and all indications are that the country needs a helping hand to steer it out of its troubles – hence the Southern African Development Community (SADC) chairman and Zambian President, Levy Mwanawasa’s call.
If not, SADC at the very least has to be formally informed about the reasons for the delay in the release of the presidential election results in the spirit of cooperation and good neighbourliness and seeing that Harare is both an economic and political partner of its neighbours. That is, of course, if they have not been informed already.
Zimbabwe as a matter of courtesy and goodwill has to appraise its neighbours about the state of play in the aftermath of the elections, seeing that Zimbabweans and the world are anxious to hear the election results.
Ideally, the country should have sent a special envoy to its neighbours to keep them abreast of developments in that country following the delay in the release of the presidential election results because now and then, they are having to come to its defence or explain to the world what is happening in that country.
The statement by Zimbabwe Minister of Information and Publicity, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, on Wednesday that his country is prepared to appraise SADC on political developments if need be, is therefore most welcome. It is also welcome news that President Hifikepunye Pohamba has dispatched Namibia’s Foreign Affairs Minister to Zimbabwe to consult and report back on the situation in that country.
Ndlovu was reacting to reports that Mwanawasa has called for an extra-ordinary one-day summit of the regional grouping to discuss the situation in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe held a peaceful democratic election last month, contrary to earlier predictions by its detractors that the elections would be marred by violence.
Others, including former coloniser Britain and the United States, claimed that the elections were rigged even before they were held. It now appears they are having second thoughts. They are now itching for the results of the elections they deemed rigged.
Apart from that, these same detractors were almost hysterical at the beginning of these elections, about an electoral commission that was “appointed by President Mugabe”. For the record, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) was constituted after negotiations mediated by President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa between the contending parties. In other words, the composition of that commission includes people approved by both parties.
The conduct of the elections and simultaneous release of the parliamentary and municipal election results earlier re-affirmed Zimbabwe’s credentials as a democratic country that is able to hold periodic, free and fair elections.
The country earned praise for the mammoth task of organising and running peaceful elections for the presidency, parliament, senate and municipalities at the same time.
Understandably so, Zimbabwe’s neighbours have so far opted to let that country deal with its own elections which are a sovereign matter save for sending election observers and monitors during the elections.
They have done so notwithstanding the enormous pressure being exerted on them to condemn one of their own for the delay in releasing the presidential election results.
What critics forget is that Zimbabwe is not the first country to have election results delayed. The United States delayed the results of the Florida elections in 2000 for more than a month after balloting. Similarly, those elections became a matter for the courts.
Germany too had its fair share of delayed election results when Angela Merkel ascended to power. The Democratic Republic of Congo had theirs delayed for up to three months. There are numerous other examples of delayed election results around the world. It is unimaginable that the world would have been so furious if the delay in releasing election results occurred in America as it did in 2000 or Britain.
Strangely, one of Zimbabwe’s critics Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister, did not subject himself to a democratic vote and declined to hold snap elections when he succeeded Tony Blair.
Democracy did not come to Zimbabwe through a barrage of US bombs as in Iraq. Zimbabweans themselves brought it. Those who delayed Zimbabwe’s democracy for so long have no moral right to preach the righteousness of non-delays. It is like the pot calling the kettle black.
SADC and Zimbabwean institutions such as the ZEC and the courts should be allowed to deal with the issue of delayed results without undue interference from those who are hell bent on regime change irrespective of the electoral process.
The summit over the weekend is crucial and we hope President Robert Mugabe will confide in his colleagues and that together they can map a way out of the impasse.