Botswana: Government Statement On Zimbabwe Elections

press release

Photo: Trevor Davies/IPS
MDC-T supporters

In its previous statement of the 1st August 2013 on the 2013 harmonised elections held in the Republic of Zimbabwe, the Government of Botswana stated that it was continuing to monitor the electoral process and would announce its position on the matter after receiving the findings of its election observers, who were then still deployed within Zimbabwe.

As part of the Southern African Development Community's (SADC) collective commitment to observe the electoral process in Zimbabwe, the Government of Botswana dispatched an 80 member election observer team to Zimbabwe. The team, which was led by His Honour the Former Vice President, Lt. General Mompati Merafhe, consisted of distinguished citizens drawn from a wide range of experience in the conduct of elections including former diplomats, senior civil servants and politicians, as well as academics, civil society and religious leaders.

The team retuned on the 3rd of August 2013 and shared its findings with Government. In this context, and consistent with the preliminary statement released on behalf of the SADC Electoral Observer Mission (SEOM), the Botswana observer team has reported that the election day itself was free of overt intimidation and violence. However, various incidents and circumstances were revealed that call into question whether the entire electoral process, and thus its final result, can be recognised as having been fair, transparent and credible in the context of the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections within the Community. That is why the SEOM described the elections as "free and peaceful" as opposed to "free and fair," the latter being the criteria for credible elections.

Evidence of possible shortfalls include the fact that the voters' rolls were released on the 29th of July 2013 only in hardcopy two days before the election; questions about both the inclusion and exclusion of people on the rolls; questions over the forms of identification required to vote in the election; as well as credible allegations of people otherwise being denied the right to vote. Concerns were also raised about the conduct and integrity of the Special Voting Process that was carried out on 14th-15th of July 2013. There are many other examples that our observers shared with Government that clearly indicate that the process was undermined by these and other irregularities. Our observers are currently compiling a report of such incidents for submission to SADC, the African Union (AU) and other concerned stakeholders.

It is the position of the Government of Botswana that it is in the common interest of SADC Members States, including in this instance Zimbabwe, to observe the SADC Community's shared Election Guidelines so as to ensure transparency and credibility of the entire electoral process. In this respect, the door should not be left open for others either within or outside the Community to disparage our collective commitment to our common principles on democracy in general and the conduct of free and fair elections in particular.

Further to the above, it is the perspective of the Government of Botswana that in the context of the preliminary findings of SEOM, as well as the initial report of our own observer team, that there is a need for an independent audit of the just concluded electoral process in Zimbabwe. Such an audit will shed light on the conduct of the just ended election and indicate any shortcomings and irregularities that could have affected its result, as well as the way forward. This will ensure that all involved in future elections would be aware of what to look out for and that there is no repeat of the same.

There is no doubt that what has been revealed so far by our observers cannot be considered as an acceptable standard for free and fair elections in SADC. The Community, SADC, should never create the undesirable precedent of permitting exceptions to its own rules.

The Government of Botswana hopes, therefore, that at the next Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government, which is scheduled for later this month in Lilongwe, Malawi, this issue will be placed on the agenda.

The Government of Botswana wishes to once more commend the people of Zimbabwe for the orderly manner in which they conducted themselves during the Election Day and since then and further appeals to all parties in Zimbabwe to continue to do so.

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