THE just-ended elections have once again drawn a line between Africa, on the one hand, and western states, on the other.
Most African states, with the exception of Botswana, have endorsed the elections held on July 31 while the West insists there is need to look into the concerns raised by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by outgoing Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
On Monday, President Robert Mugabe told off his arch-rival Tsvangirai and all others who have questioned his election victory to “go hang” in his first public address since winning the harmonised elections.
“Those who lost elections may commit suicide if they so wish. Even if they die, dogs will not eat their flesh,” he said.
“Zimbabwe’s western detractors have been put to shame. The peaceful (election) process has proved critics wrong who expected Zimbabweans to turn to violence.”
President Mugabe’s confidence seemed to have been emboldened by the outpouring of congratulatory messages from key Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states and several foreign nations that include China, Russia and Iran.
Mozambique, Angola and Tanzania are among the SADC states that have sent congratulatory messages with Kenya also wishing President Mugabe well in his next five year tenure as the Head of State.
Only Botswana has so far broken ranks with regional counterparts and condemned the election and called for an audit of the poll to take place.
Botswana’s 80-member observer team, led by former vice-president Mompati Merafhe, is compiling a report that President Ian Khama would submit to the regional bloc and the African Union.
Khama’s government is, however, likely to be dismissed in the same way the MDC-T’s concerns have been rejected. Botswana and the MDC-T are viewed as lackeys of western countries.
Botswana’s team of observers would need to push hard to produce a convincing election report that would win support in SADC.
A SADC summit in Lilongwe, Malawi at the weekend is widely expected to endorse the poll outcome and officially end South African President Jacob Zuma’s mandate as the mediator in Zimbabwe’s long-drawn out political crisis.
Without the horrid scenes of a bloodbath seen in the 2008 election, Zimbabwe’s July 31 poll has been given the thumbs up by most African nations that were wary of a repeat of the violence that characterised the previous election, resulting in millions of Zimbabweans pouring into their borders.
In particular, Zuma, a day after the results were announced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairwoman, Rita Makarau, sent his “profound congratulations” to President Mugabe.
Zuma has been the SADC-appointed mediator in Zimbabwe’s political crisis for the past four years.
His assessment of the Zimbabwe election was always going to be a crucial barometer in determining whether the outcome would be accepted by other regional counterparts.
Zuma’s hastiness in endorsing the poll and harsh rebuke of the MDC-T over its claims of rigging could have been influenced by his wish to get the Zimbabwe political crisis out of the way and concentrate on his own re-election bid next year.
It is this coalescing around by African nations that has placed SADC at odds against the West.
The United Kingdom, the United States and Australia have refused to endorse the election as free and fair.
These countries have been critical of the election outcome, despite their observer missions having been barred from monitoring the poll and have since called for a fresh election to take place.
Khanyile Mlotshwa, a political commentator based at Rhodes University, said from the look of it and from what President Mugabe said on Monday, it looks like the election is a done deal.
“The West may condemn it, but I don’t see much they will do about it except staying out of the country.
“The current Zimbabwe situation is interesting and I suspect there are behind-the- scenes manoeuvres and meetings between several players including the MDC and ZANU-PF,” he said.
Sam Ditshego, a political commentator from the Pan Africanist Research Institute, questioned the motives of the West in quickly dismissing the election outcome.
“The West always judges the Zimbabwean election results negatively. The African National Congress (ANC) rigged the 1994 elections in South Africa, but the West said nothing because it knew that under the ANC its interests were safeguarded. Are the Zimbabwe elections only going to be regarded as free and fair only when Tsvangirai’s MDC has won?”
Tanonoka Joseph Whande, a political commentator based in Botswana, said Zuma jumped the gun by quickly endorsing the election results.
“With these hurried pronouncements and against acceptable protocol, South Africa and SADC practically and literally declared the Zimbabwe elections over before all was done; they were in a hurry to rid themselves of the Zimbabwean issue and let South African business exploit the economy of Zimbabwe,” he said.
“By jumping the gun and making reckless statements before the official conclusion of the election process, President Zuma and SADC have denied the courts of Zimbabwe a chance to make a decision on the matter.”
Kerry Kennedy, an official from the Robert F Kennedy Centre for Justice and Human Rights, said SADC had to put its foot down on the outcome of the election.
“The forthcoming SADC summit in Malawi provides a timely opportunity for regional leaders to hear the concerns of all parties involved in Zimbabwe’s electoral dispute, including domestic civil society and country observation teams.
“A mere lack of physical violence, while certainly a marked improvement for Zimbabwe, does not itself constitute a credible election,” said Kennedy.