Leon slams Mbeki over Zim elections

In his State of the Nation address on Friday, President Thabo Mbeki repeated an all too familiar pattern of legitimising Zimbabwean elections before they have even taken place, said the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) spokesperson for foreign affairs Tony Leon.

In a statement on Sunday, Leon said: “On no fewer than three previous occasions, the president has gone out of his way to ensure that elections in Zimbabwe, which were an affront to even the most basic of democratic norms and standards, were declared free and fair.

“Thus, far from practising quiet diplomacy, he has been actively complicit in the imposition of a tyranny and a willing accomplice in the destruction of democracy in our northern neighbour.”

Leon said that in his address, President Mbeki claimed that his mediation efforts on behalf of the Southern African Development Community were successful.

“This is simply pure fiction and helps build the myth that Mbeki has propagated in the past that all parties can compete for votes on an equal footing,” said Leon.

President Mbeki was ignoring the fact that President Mugabe had refused to implement any new constitutional amendments before the March 29 poll, thereby rendering any agreement reached on these issues irrelevant.

Leon said a free and fair election in Zimbabwe was impossible because the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission was staffed by senior military personnel who were unwilling to carry out vigorous voter-education programmes and were likely to invite only “friendly” observer missions to rubber-stamp the elections.

Furthermore, said Leon, the registrar’s office, responsible for compiling the voters roll, was staffed by Zanu-PF loyalists who undermined efforts to register opposition voters and who resisted attempts to verify the veracity of the voters’ roll.

Leon added that the Delineation Commission had “gerrymandered constituency boundaries” to give Zanu-PF an unfair advantage by increasing the number of constituencies in Mugabe’s Zanu-PF rural heartland without Parliamentary input.

He said that the state retained a broadcast monopoly and was jamming any independent radio signals into Zimbabwe.

Also, the judiciary had been purged of independent voices and was therefore clearly biased in favour in the ruling party—making any electoral challenge an essentially fruitless exercise, Leon said.

“Millions of Zimbabweans living outside their homeland, in South Africa and elsewhere, have been disenfranchised. Knowing full well that this bloc of voters are more likely to vote for the opposition, no agreement has yet been reached that will allow for overseas voting,” Leon noted.

Unless President Mbeki took urgent action, “then his legacy will be further undermined by his willingness to stand by while one of our most important neighbours moves even closer to the point of political and economic no-return.”—Sapa

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