Addressing the leaders at the start of the summit Saturday, Southern African Development Community (SADC) incoming chairperson and Malawian President Joyce Banda extended the region’s compliments to Mugabe.
“Congratulations to Comrade Robert Mugabe for conducting peaceful elections. We wish to offer you continued support as a member of the family,” Banda said.
The endorsement is said to have been met with applause from the gathering, which a smiling Mugabe also acknowledged with a clenched fist, media reports indicate.
Although SADC observers have withheld the word ‘fair’ in their verdict of Zimbabwe’s July 31st poll, it was clear from their initial statements that they were keen to adopt the outcome based on the absence of violence.
Protestations from both civil society groups and the losing MDC formations have largely gone unheeded by SADC which, like the Zim courts, says there is no evidence to support claims that the polls were not credible.
MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Friday dropped his presidential poll petition filed at the Constitutional Court after another court deferred ruling on a matter in which the party wanted access to that crucial evidence.
The ConCourt petition had stalled Mugabe’s 7th inauguration, now slated for Thursday, with indications that the affair will be as grand and over-the-top as the rigging that delivered the victory.
On his return Sunday, Mugabe also announced that the SADC summit had accepted Zimbabwe’s elections “as free and credible, putting paid to hopes by the MDC-T and its supporting NGOs for an adverse report,” the state media quoted him as saying.
However, the jury’s out on whether the very old ZANU PF leader will see out even half of his term, amid reports of visible walking difficulties observed in Malawi and as he arrived back in Zimbabwe on Sunday.
Mugabe’s lieutenant and deputy, Joice Mujuru, backed up these observations Sunday when she indicated that she was waiting in the wings to take over in the event of Mugabe’s death, citing her leader’s advanced age.
But Nixon Nyikadzino, of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition lobby group, said SADC’s resolution to endorse the poll was “simply the region protecting Mugabe just as they did in 2005 when they negotiated the unity government on his behalf.”
“So in that regard, Mugabe derives his legitimacy from regional leaders and not from what the people of Zimbabwe or the SADC guidelines http://www.swradioafrica.com/pages/sadc_elections.htm on elections say,” Nyikadzino said.
“They have set a wrong template for the conduct of democratic elections because their decision says ‘if you do not kill someone during an election, then that is acceptable’ never mind the plethora of documented irregularities,” he added.
Nyikadzino said despite the uphill task ahead for civil society groups, they will carry on lobbying for good governance and democracy for Zimbabweans.
“We will continue to engage all African leaders to comply with acceptable benchmarks for free and fair elections. ZANU PF must comply with the dictates of democracy, the new constitution and the outstanding reform issues,” he added.
With South Africa, Malawi, and Madagascar set to hold elections in the next year, Nyikadzino said the region through its endorsement, was sending out a wrong message that the guidelines signed by the 15-nation grouping can be set aside. - SW Radio Africa