The Herald

SADC Council of Ministers congratulates Zim on polls

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Ambassador Frederick Shava

Africa Moyo

Deputy News Editor 

THE SADC Council of Ministers yesterday congratulated Zimbabwe on holding free, fair and peaceful elections last month, in line with the region’s principles and guidelines.

The meeting was held to consider the Draft Budget for the SADC Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (SAMIDRC).

Speaking during an Extraordinary Council of Ministers Meeting held virtually, Angola’s Minister of External Relations, who is Chairperson of the SADC Council of Ministers, congratulated Zimbabwe “on holding free and fair elections in a climate of peace and tranquillity, in accordance with the regional body’s principles and guidelines”.

The endorsement of Zimbabwe’s August 23 and 24 harmonised elections by the SADC Council of Ministers flies in the face of a preliminary report released by the SADC Election Observation Mission that was led by Dr Nevers Mumba of Zambia, which scrutinised the country’s laws.

It is not in the purview of election observation missions to stray into “helping countries come up with their desired legislation”, as their mandate is specifically to observe the conduct of elections, their freeness and fairness, and come up with reports along those lines.

Former liberation movements have expressed concern over the preliminary report crafted by Dr Mumba and his team, and there is a feeling in the region that some people are being used by Western capitals that wish to replace them with pliable opposition parties they illegally sponsor.

Diplomatic sources say some SADC countries holding elections this year are no longer comfortable with SADC Election Observation Mission heads following Zimbabwe’s incident.

Political analysts say Zimbabwe held probably the most open elections ever witnessed in the region, if not the world, with minor incidents that were noted such as delayed distribution of ballot papers in a few constituencies not peculiar to Harare.

In his remarks during the meeting, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister, Ambassador Frederick Shava, said yesterday’s meeting was important.

“We commend you Chair, on the able manner in which you are handling our proceedings. 

“While we note the smooth preparations towards the general elections scheduled in the DRC for December 2023, in which 43 million people have registered to vote, we also note with concern that attacks in the Eastern DRC have displaced over 3 million people, most of whom have not managed to register to vote for the scheduled December elections,” said Ambassador Shava.

He also said it was important that there be a conducive environment for the running of free and fair elections, adding that the deployment of the SAMIDRC should be seen in that light.

“Mr Chairman, we take note of the revised SAMIDRC budget of US$436 183 884 million that was recommended by the Extraordinary Defence Sub-Committee, at its virtual meeting held on 30 August 2023. 

“Honourable Chair, we should approve a budget that does not strain member States, as they strive to meet their assessed contributions. We are all aware that all countries in the region are still reeling from the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, hence the need to be more pragmatic and realistic,” he said. 

Providing the Mission with sufficient funds was essential for it to be effective in dealing with the enormous challenge at hand, said Ambassador Shava.

He added that the assumption that International Co-operating Partners (ICPs) would contribute US$100 million, presents a challenge to his delegation. 

“The International Cooperating Partners may contribute as per assumption of our Secretariat, and they may as well not contribute. We may be wrong in our assumptions, but we need to be cautious and realistic. 

“Perhaps we need to work from the premise that SADC member States will fund the operation 100 percent, and then adjust when the International Co-operating Partners make their US$100 million contributions.

“Mr Chairman, maybe Zimbabwe is too cautious, at a time when the Secretariat has positive indications from the International Co-operating Partners. Possibly, the Secretariat can shed some light on their resource mobilisation efforts so far, so that our fears can be addressed. It will also be helpful if the Secretariat can address the issue of alternative funding sources,” said Ambassador Shava.

He assured the meeting that Zimbabwe will meet its assessed contributions, in line with its desire to see peace and security thrive in the region.