JOHANNESBURG — Outgoing Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC-T party took part in Zimbabwe’s elections against advice from the Sadc, which urged him to withdraw from the polls.
Report by City Press
A high-level diplomatic source said that the Sadc told Tsvangirai at the summit in Maputo in June not to take part in the elections.
“This was the only way the elections could be delayed so concerns about the reforms of the security sector could be addressed,” a government aide with close knowledge of the meeting, said.
But South Africa President Jacob Zuma’s spokesperson, Mac Maharaj, said the proposal was not made at the meeting.
“The Sadc’s communiqué (discussed in Maputo) wanted the parties to talk about their differences and approach the courts for a postponement of 14 days,” Maharaj said.
“It did not say that one party should withdraw. That wasn’t an option. If any member advised this outside of the meeting, it would be an irresponsible thing to say.”
The Maputo meeting was attended by Sadc heads, including Zuma, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and Tsvangirai.
The claim was corroborated by a separate source, who was briefed about the meeting.
But the second source said: “The MDC-T didn’t want to (pull out) because they were convinced that they would win the elections.”
On Tuesday night, just hours before voting started, Tsvangirai told a member of the Sadc’s observer mission they were expecting more than 70% of the vote.
The Sadc had hoped that the MDC-T’s withdrawal would force the postponement of the elections and give the regional organ some breathing space. When it became clear the election was lost, Tsvangirai late last week met with Sadc mission leader Tanzanian Foreign Affairs minister Bernard Membe at his plush house in the Highlands suburb of Harare, where he expressed his concerns.
He also met African Union (AU) mission leader, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.
This meeting was confirmed by Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka.
Both the AU and the Sadc this week expressed concerns about the way the elections had been conducted, but in their preliminary pronouncements said the elections had been free.
They raised issues like the printing of two million extra ballot papers, which was more than the international standard; the large number of assisted voters who could have been intimidated to vote in a particular way and the number of voters turned away from polling stations. The Chinese observer mission declared the polls as free and fair.
The diplomatic source with knowledge of the Maputo meeting said Membe held a four-hour meeting with senior MDC-T leaders on Friday night at his temporary office in Harare’s Rainbow Towers Hotel.
They were said to have expressed their shock and concern about alleged vote-rigging and irregularities, but Tamborinyoka denied the meeting.
The Sadc’s most powerful political body, its troika – which consists of three countries and headed by Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, is set to meet again on Wednesday in Lilongwe, Malawi, to debrief.