Zimbabwe: President Mbeki's Momentous Decision
INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP MEDIA RELEASE
ZIMBABWE: PRESIDENT MBEKI'S MOMENTOUS DECISION
Harare/Brussels, 14 March 2002: Despite clear evidence of state-sponsored violence and rigging that ultimately subverted the expression of the will of the people of Zimbabwe, South Africa's official observer mission has certified the election as credible, if not free and fair. This is despite a great diversity of views within the mission itself, a contrary view expressed by the Southern African Development Community's (SADC) Parliamentary Forum, and a clear rejection of the results by a number of Zimbabwean election monitoring and civil society groups.
President Mbeki has yet to pronounce his own judgment on behalf of the South African government. A statement by him that the election seemed seriously flawed, and did not appear to reflect true majority will in Zimbabwe, would be a cue to other African leaders to follow suit - and, most importantly, influence the calculations of the ZANU-PF leadership around President Robert Mugabe as well as key leaders of the Zimbabwean military.
"It's a momentous decision for Thabo Mbeki. He can be a huge influence for good if he takes a stand on the basis of principle and does not accept the election outcome as legitimate", stated Gareth Evans, President of the International Crisis Group.
South Africa, by taking this course, can at the same time both defend the standards for free and fair elections it has subscribed to within the SADC Parliamentary Forum and reinforce the foundation of the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), Africa's blueprint for future engagement with the broader international community. Good governance is a central component of NEPAD, as is African peer pressure.
Going the other way and legitimising the ZANU-PF victory sends the disturbing message that violence can be used to win elections, and electoral fraud is an acceptable way to remain in power. This would be a raw deal for the people of Zimbabwe, South Africa's most important neighbour, and would present a red light to investors and aid donors seeking to help the region develop politically and economically.
"This is a defining moment for South Africa", said John Prendergast, Africa Co-Director of the International Crisis Group, who personally observed the Zimbabwe election. "It can take its rightful leading role in southern Africa, fully emerging from the long shadows of its apartheid past, or it can remain constrained by those ghosts that continue to undermine a potentially more assertive and constructive role in the region and the continent".
Katy Cronin (London) +22.214.171.124.93.51
Sascha Pichler (Brussels) +32.2.536.00.70
Heather Hurlburt (Washington) +1.202.408.80.12
All ICG reports are available on our website www.crisisweb.org
The International Crisis Group (ICG) is a private, multinational organisation, with 75 staff members on four continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and contain conflict. The ICG Board is chaired by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, and its president is former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans.