As the dust settles following the parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe, it’s clear that claims that African observer missions had certified the vote by consensus were as fraudulent as the voting itself. Brave electoral observers have now come forward, stating their dissenting views. Meanwhile, South Africa, in its zeal to whitewash the elections, has further damaged its credibility.
Official results gave the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front 78 of the 120 contested seats, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change 41, and an independent one seat. The head of South Africa’s parliamentary observer mission, Mbulelo Goniwe, chief whip of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), said over the weekend that the mission “unanimously agreed that the elections were credible, legitimate, free and fair.”
Observers with South Africa’s opposition parties, though, are now claiming the approval had been anything but unanimous. Roy Jankielsohn, from the Democratic Alliance, and Vincent Gore, of the Independent Democrats party, said the vote had been rigged. Mr. Jankielsohn also alleged that the mission’s leader, Mr. Goniwe, had tried to intimidate members of the observer mission. The head of the DA party, Tony Leon, elaborated on Mr. Jankielsohn’s claims, maintaining that his party’s observers were “subjected to extreme pressure, with ANC leaders threatening to abandon DA representatives to the whims of the Zimbabwean security forces.”
The ANC’s Mr. Goniwe responded by saying that he would ask that Messrs. Jankielsohn and Gore reimburse parliament for the cost of their trip.
Like the ANC, an 11-country observer mission from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) said that the election reflects “the will of the people of Zimbabwe.” However, Dianne Kohler-Barnard, who represented South Africa’s DA party in the SADC observer mission, withdrew from the mission to protest its approval of the poll and said “no one who has been in Zimbabwe for the full three-week period SADC requested . . . and actually left their air-conditioned comfort zones to ask the tough questions at the grassroots level could declare these elections to have been either free or fair.”
That is to be expected in Zimbabwe, ruled since 1980 by the repressive Robert Mugabe, who has brought the country to its knees, economically and spiritually. But South Africa’s willingness to whitewash the vote has caused significant damage.