Who are the SADC observers? A closer look

Days before the 31st July election, when Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma publicly denied having received complaints of election irregularities from Morgan Tsvangirai – grievances which were well documented – it was a sign of things to come. When Tsvangirai screamed ‘farcical election’ AU and SADC observers, despite noting irregularities, patted Zec on their collective backs and proclaimed the polls to be free, fair and credible.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

And this, after the voters roll was kept from the opposition parties until the last hour and video footage of Zanu (PF) supporters transported by a ZUPCO bus to vote in another constituency is available. Months before the 31 July polls, Zanu (PF) declined permission for European observers, on the grounds that Britain and her allies in the European Union were biased against Zimbabwe. Mugabe claimed that because of the targeted sanctions imposed on some Zanu (PF) officials, the EU were not an objective observer. Perhaps what Robert Mugabe meant was that Western observers were not as malleable as those from the continent.

Malaika L Mahlatsi, known on Facebook as ‘Malaika Wa Azania,’ is part of the SADC observer team. She is a South African citizen who wishes to be buried in Chimanimani, in the eastern highlands of Zimbabwe. Over and above that, she claims kinship with Nehanda, Zimbabwe’s foremost spirit medium, who was hanged by the settlers. Malaika lists, among many other revolutionary words, on her Facebook page, the famous quote ‘Let Bush keep his United States of America and Blair keep his Britain. I will keep my Zimbabwe.’

On the biography section of her Facebook page, she states that “although I am often branded a racist, I am merely an honest and unapologetic pan-Afrikanist [SIC] belonging to no political party or student formation… I am an independent thinker who refuses to conform to popular view or conform to blind loyalty that is nurtured by parties that adhere to IEC rules and laws. My views will never be sponsored and they are uncensored.”

Among her photos is the image of a man with the words ‘economic freedom fighters’ emblazoned across the back of a T-shirt, to which Malaika’s many followers register their approval with remarks like ‘viva comrades.’

Among those in the gallery is a person with the moniker Bongani Zanu (PF) Mugabe Ngwenya who enquires, “where can I buy this T-shirt?” Robert Mugabe is regarded by some analysts as a champion of African freedom, whose goal is to empower Africans, despite the human rights violations that have occurred under his 33 year watch.

For Malaika, a supposedly neutral member of the SADC observer team, Robert Mugabe is a hero. On the Facebook page of one American based Zimbabwean human rights activist, when a reader commented, to no one in particular, that there had been intimidation in Mashonaland West province, Malaika was defensive and challenged the commentator to name specifics.

‘Which Mashonaland West is this that you are speaking of because that is where I am deployed and I know nothing about this? Where in Mashonaland West did this happen?’

Malaika’s remarks reflect that she took personal umbrage to allegations of voter intimidation, as if these claims were levelled at her directly.

If a senior election observer had presented a report, televised to the multitudes, why did Malaika feel the need to be the defender of SADC’s verdict? The answer is simple: she is far from neutral.

On her own page, at 1135 hours, 1 August 2013, Malaika announces that she has handed in her report. Asked by one of her many Facebook follower to comment on the allegations of voters being bussed from different constituencies to cast their votes elsewhere, Malaika responded:

‘I said I am not going to comment about elections. I report to SADC, not to rumours peddled on FB. So please, this issue of Zimbabwe is closed. You will have to wait like everyone else for reports.’ But despite stating that she would not comment on the elections, she infiltrated a discussion between Zimbabweans, offering herself as a human shield for the entire SADC team, demanding ‘specifics’ that show irregularities.

What our young election observer should learn is an old Shona proverb, which goes ‘kuvhunduka chati kwatara hunge unekaturikwa.’ In English, the guilty are afraid.

Malaika Mahlatsi is just one SADC observer but the question has to be asked: is she the only one whose neutrality is suspicious? Applying the cockroach rule – where there is one, there are many – it is likely there are others.

For a young impressionable person (22 years of age) believing herself to be a revolutionary and PAN Africanist, the SADC observer job must have presented an opportunity to impose her extremist views, if not to lend herself to the cause of propping up the regime of her foremost hero.

It might not be clear why SADC and the AU have given their stamp of approval to an election that is obviously flawed but it is at least evident why Zanu (PF)went to great lengths to keep other international observers away. – My pen is capped, Jerà

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis
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