SOUTH Africa Deputy International relations and Co-operations minister Ebrahim Ebrahim (EE) headed the SA team of Sadc observers to Zimbabwe’s elections.
He spoke to Nicholas Kotch (NK) of Financial Mail in Harare. Below are excepts.
NK: Will President Robert Mugabe’s re-election and Zanu PF’s economic policies lead to more economic migration from Zimbabwe to SA?
EE: I don’t think so. I’m hoping that if the election results are accepted by all the parties it will stabilise the country. Once that happens, the country will open up and economic development will mean fewer migrants, particularly economic refugees, leaving Zimbabwe; and hopefully those in SA, particularly the illegals, will return to Zimbabwe.
NK: Mugabe stressed during the campaign that Zanu PF will move faster to indigenise the economy. Will that encourage investment?
EE: Many things get said in the heat of elections, but afterwards you have to face realities. Mugabe will have to determine whether his policy of indigenisation is good for the economy and will attract the investment it needs. It may — one doesn’t know how international investors will behave. But the reality is that he will have to develop the economy and if indigenisation doesn’t work he will have to choose other policies.
Zimbabwe has an unemployment problem and a currency problem — it does not have a local currency. It has mineral wealth which has to be exploited.
This will require a great deal of investment.
If there is no investment because of Mugabe’s policies, he will have to rethink them.
NK: Is Mugabe untouchable in the Southern African Development Community?
EE: I don’t think he’s untouchable. He is very sensitive to regional and international opinion, though he may not show it. He would like to see the lifting of sanctions.
NK: On the eve of the elections, Mugabe twice referred to the late Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein as “an innocent man”. Isn’t that an extreme position?
EE: The point he was making is that Iraq didn’t have weapons of mass destruction. Saddam was a dictator, but by invading Iraq the pro-Western powers caused more damage and deaths than he ever did. He wasn’t innocent, but then there are many dictators in the world who have committed atrocities and the West chose for a specific reason to invade Iraq.
NK: The African Union statement on the Zimbabwe elections was much less supportive of the process than the Sadc’s?
EE: The African Union (AU) statement was not very dissimilar to ours. Probably they used stronger language than we did. We wanted to compare this election with previous elections, to say they were held under a certain amount of freedom that was not there before. People were free to canvas, to have rallies, to put up posters, to go to the polling stations without hindrance. In that way it was free. We (Sadc) were careful not to say the elections were fair or credible. We thought it was too early.
NK: The voters’ roll was virtually secret. Why even have an election without a clean and public voters’ roll?
EE: You are correct. It was a matter of concern to us and to all the observer teams. The election was announced and organised in a very short period of time. What was really of concern is that the electronic version of the voters’ roll was not available. Parties were not able to check the authenticity of the voters’ roll. That is a serious problem and in our recommendations we say that there should be an ongoing process of registration.
NK: Was the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) dominated by Zanu PF?
EE: We can’t say that. I don’t know the people in Zec and their backgrounds. But in our interaction the Zec was very co-operative.
NK: A Sadc observer told me she would love to tell Morgan Tsvangirai “ you will never win in this country, there will never be a fair election here”. Your comment?
EE: If Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) says the election was rigged, the onus is on them to prove how. Our suggestion is that they should go to court to say so. Without concrete evidence, it doesn’t help anybody.
NK: The European Union has said it will consider the Sadc and AU assessments. Do you think the EU will normalise relations with Zimbabwe?
EE: We hope so. We are opposed to sanctions and we don’t think they helped. You cannot have another five years of instability. Our appeal is for all the parties to accept the result, bring stability and address Zimbabwe’s economic problems. The EU could be an important partner.