By Simplicius Chirinda
Pretoria, August 14, 2013 – The South African government on Monday appeared to be distancing itself from a long list of countries that have given the just ended Zimbabwean election a clean bill of endorsement, this as evidence of poll irregularities start to emerge.
Jacob Zuma, the country’s president, African Union (AU) and Southern African Community Development (SADC) appointed facilitator to the Zimbabwean political crisis has publicly congratulated President Robert Mugabe for winning the July 31 election.
This has been seen in some quarters as a tacit approval of the entire electoral process though AU and SADC are yet to give their final reports on the election fraught with irregularities according to the MDC-T party led by outgoing Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, now challenging the result in court.
The South African government on Monday congratulated Zimbabweans and the country’s political parties for holding a “successful harmonised” elections but backed off from pronouncing the election as having been “free and fair”.
“Cabinet commended the efforts of President Jacob Zuma as the Southern African Development Community facilitator on the Zimbabwe dialogue in ensuring that all political parties were committed to peaceful elections,” Acting Cabinet spokesperson Phumla Williams said on Monday staying clear off making any pronouncement on the credibility of the poll.
Answering questions from the media on why President Zuma had congratulated Mugabe on winning the election if it was not free and fair, a minister in Zuma’s government said though the South African government, through cabinet, had congratulated Zimbabwe for a peaceful election that should not be confused as a “pronouncement on the election.”
“We are in no way making the pronouncement on the elections. We are simply congratulating Zimbabwe that the elections went smoothly without violence. That is what we are congratulating them on,” said Joemat – Pattersson.
Zuma has been heavily criticised over the last week by opposition political parties particularly the Democratic Alliance (DA) for congratulating Mugabe even when the poll results are being contested.
Meanwhile, the High Court on Wednesday began hearing poll petitions from several losing candidates of the just ended election including Tsvangirai’s demand to be furnished with all the voting materials used in the harmonised elections.