Zimbabwe’s opposition parties and civil society say the findings of the Khampepe report on the 2002 Zimbabwe presidential elections, made public on Friday after a protracted legal battle between the Mail & Guardian and the South African government, have vindicated them for insisting the polls were not free and fair.
Zanu-PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa declined to comment on the report. He said the party had not received the report so he could not comment “on something we have not seen”.
The report compiled by then Pretoria high court judge Dikgang Moseneke and Johannesburg high court judge Sisi Khampepe concluded that the elections were not “free and fair”.
The Khampepe report highlights numerous anomalies during the polls, including violence that led to the deaths of at least 107 people. Some of the anomalies in the report are similar to those noted by the Commonwealth Observer Mission, opposition parties and Zimbabwean civil society.
Movement for Democratic Change – Tsvangirai (MDC-T) spokesperson Obert Gutu welcomed the release of the report, saying it vindicated the party while exposing Zanu-PF and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.
But he said the delay in releasing the report showed that Africa had a long way to go in achieving the rule of law and democracy.
“We are very happy because the findings have vindicated us, as we have consistently maintained that the elections were rigged, characterised by violence and intimidation. At the material time we even compiled a dossier highlighting all those issues,” Gutu told the M&G.
“However, we also feel very sad because it has taken 12 years for the report to be released and in that time the Zimbabwean economy has nose dived, with the country being reduced to a basket case. We believe that, had it been released timeously, the impact would have been different on the political economy of Zimbabwe and SADC [the Southern African Development Community] as a whole.
“The lengthy delay in releasing the report was a sad indictment pointing to the absence of the rule of law, not just in Southern Africa, but Africa as a whole.”
Zanu Ndonga chairperson Reketai Sengwayo said it was a scandal that some African countries accepted the election results, given the scale of violence witnessed in the run-up to the elections.
He said the findings in the Khampepe report were important as they highlighted the need for opposition parties to work together and be vigilant, considering that it was possible for regional leaders to cover up for each other.
“The findings are spot on,” he said.
“All parties that participated in the election, other than Zanu-PF, were victims of state-sponsored violence and regrettably the perpetrators walked scot-free.”
“I am also a victim of that violence because I was assaulted in Rushinga [Mashonaland Central] just for not having a Zanu-PF membership card. I reported the case back then and have made numerous follow-ups on the matter and, as of yesterday [Friday], the police told me they are still investigating.”
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, a broad-based civil society network of more than 72 members comprising churches, women’s groups, social movements, residents’ associations, labour unions, human rights lawyers and health professionals, said it was unfortunate the report had come this late.
The organisation, which focuses on democracy, human rights, good governance and sustainable development issues was at the forefront of highlighting the violence and human rights abuses that occurred during the election period.
Its executive director, Macdonald Lewanika, concurred with sentiments that the judges’ findings vindicated civil society and all other observers who concluded that the elections were not free and fair.
“The findings also show that those who had imposed measures against the illegal government were justified. It’s unfortunate that it is coming late because, as they say, justice delayed is justice denied,” said Lewanika.
But he expressed optimism that lessons could be drawn from it to ensure future elections meet international best practices.
Zanu-PF candidate Robert Mugabe won the 2002 election after garnering 1 685 212 votes (56,2%), while his longtime rival, Morgan Tsvangirai of the then united Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), got 1 258 401 votes (42%).
Three other candidates participated in the polls: Wilson Khumbula of Zanu-Ndonga, who managed 31 368 votes (1%), Shakespeare Maya of the National Alliance For Good Governance, who got 11 906 votes (0,4%), and Paul Siwela, who got 11 871 votes (0,4%) after contesting as an independent.
Mugabe’s rivals, particularly the MDC, cried foul during the election period and refused to accept the results, insisting the polls were rigged. They argued that the environment was not conducive to free and fair elections as there was widespread violence and intimidation, and the number of polling stations was reduced in opposition strongholds, especially in urban areas.
The MDC, civil society and some observer missions highlighted that the voters roll was not made available to opposition parties timeously and neither was information on the location of some polling stations. The opposition also had limited access to the public media.
Tsvangirai challenged the election results in 2002 but the Zimbabwean High Court is still to pass its verdict on the matter.
Members of civil society, Western nations, most African countries and the African Union described the election as “transparent, credible, free and fair” despite it being condemned by Zimbabwean opposition figures.
Then South African president Thabo Mbeki endorsed the elections, supporting the view by the South African Observer mission, which said the elections were “legitimate”.
Mbeki had tasked the two judges, now serving on the Constitutional Court bench, with leading the Judicial Observer Mission to cover the March 8 to 10 elections and drawing up a report on their observations.
But the observer mission’s report was never released to the South African public, despite pressure to do so.
Mbeki and his successors, Kgalema Motlanthe and Jacob Zuma, spent more than six years fighting against the public release of the report after the M&G‘s lawyers applied for its release.