16 April 2014

Southern Africa: Khama Maintains SADC Boycott Over Flawed Zim Polls

Botswana's President Ian Khama has reiterated that his country will no longer take part in regional election observer teams, because of the flawed polls in Zimbabwe last year.

Khama, the only African leader to raise any concerns about the disputed elections in Zimbabwe, has called for an audit of the Zim polls that saw Mugabe re-elected as President.

The Botswana leader earlier this year told the national television station BTV that the Zim elections were neither free nor fair and that SADC had let Zimbabwe "off the hook" for the flawed process. Khama also said the rules that govern democratic elections in Southern African were not followed in Zimbabwe's case, and announced that his country would no longer participate in any SADC election observer missions.

Khama reiterated this position this week, through a statement by his spokesperson Jeff Ramsay.

"In the interest of public understanding and in light of recent media speculation over Botswana's participation in SADC election observer missions, the Government of Botswana wishes to re-affirm its position to not send official observers to participate in such missions," Ramsay said.

Ramsay added that the move by Khama's government was based on principle.

"Further to the above, Botswana's position is based on a matter of principle and thus not targeted at any institution or state," he said.

Khama's comments about the lack of fairness in Zimbabwe's polls fly in the face of SADC's endorsement of the elections, which have also been disputed by the opposition MDCs in Zimbabwe, civil society groups and regional observer teams present during the polls.

Elias Bila, who was part of the Southern African Trade Union Coordination Council (SATUCC) observer team, said on Wednesday that a sense of "comradeship" in Southern Africa's political leadership was the reason for the endorsement of Zimbabwe's polls. He told SW Radio Africa that the elections there "could not be said to be either free or fair."

"SADC is represented by my members of countries and the challenge we have as observers is that the leaders are comrades (from liberation movements) who won't stand against each other. So I think Khama is sending a message to African leaders to say 'we need to change and to the right thing'," Bila said.

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