THE Southern African Development Community (Sadc)'s decision this week to endorse the controversial outcome of Zimbabwe's July 31 general elections was hardly surprising, considering the regional bloc and African Union (AU) observer missions had already expressed satisfaction with the country's electoral process two days after the polls.
Sadc initially said the elections were "free and peaceful" but withheld the "fair and credible" stamp, something which left President Robert Mugabe still facing a legitimacy problem in the aftermath of the polls marred by accusations of manipulation and rigging.
However, things changed for the better for Zanu PF and Mugabe this week when Sadc observer mission head, Tanzanian Foreign minister Bernard Membe announced the elections were "free, peaceful and generally credible", while AU mission head and former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo had already said the polls were "free, honest and credible".
Membe even went further to say Mugabe and his party won with "flying colours".
Soon after the polls, Sadc leaders, led by South African President Jacob Zuma - the bloc's facilitator to the Zimbabwe political question - wasted little time in heartily congratulating Mugabe and Zanu PF for their victory.
To cement their position, Sadc leaders elevated Mugabe to deputy chair of the bloc at their summit in Lilongwe, Malawi, recently despite the opposition alleging the polls were deeply flawed and rigged.
So Monday's final ringing endorsement merely confirmed the Sadc position, but what was somewhat unexpected was the way Membe borrowed from the Zanu PF hymn book in calling for the closure of "pirate" radio stations beaming into Zimbabwe, and "advising" the MDCs to work alongside Zanu PF in ensuring sanctions are removed.
"Let me tell you passionately from my heart," Membe intoned. "The question of appealing to the world to remove sanctions in Zimbabwe is fundamental, not only to the people of Zimbabwe, but it also gives a chance to the opposition to come to power in 2018," Membe said.
As Mugabe begins a fresh term with daunting socio-economic challenges lying ahead, the implications of Sadc's endorsement of Mugabe's disputed victory which clearly did not meet the regional body's principles and guidelines governing democratic elections are serious.