Notes following Briefing to Media by Minister Sydney Mufamadi, Tuesday 15 April 2008, Union Buildings, Pretoria

Mr Mamoepa has already indicated what we are here to talk about. And as you know, the president of the republic of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Thabo Mbeki, is involved in this process as a facilitator of the SADC initiated mediation process. He was tasked to do this by the extraordinary summit of SADC which met in Dar eSalaam in March 2007. The initial stimulus for intervention was provided by the ongoing political instability and worsening economic conditions in Zimbabwe.

It was on that basis that SADC decided to launch on the road to lasting peace. And, as I said, this process has been in the works for quite some time. What has the process produced so far? In brief, the process has had a pronounced effect on the situation; particularly the situation or the climate under which the recent elections took place. The elements that were the outcome of this process, which influenced the shape of that climate, were the constitutional amendments by a team. I don’t have to elaborate on what it says. I have seen on TV many of these faces from earlier media briefings done by foreign affairs. The substantive amendments to security and media legislation, and as I said, that had an impact on the electoral climate. And by the reckoning of the parties, that were involved in that process, as well as that of observers, the electoral process in Zimbabwe has been comparative to the transparent and open. One often cited example of a manifestation of this is the voting stations putting up verified results of all the four ballots of counted outside the polling station.

Now, you know that the elections have taken place on the 29th March. And you know that those elections were harmonised: presidential, house of assembly, senate and local council ballots were cast on the same Election Day. This is a consequence of what the parties agreed should go into constitutional amendment number 18. How do we see this role that I said Mr President Mbeki is playing in Zimbabwe?

From the point of view of SADC, as I said earlier, the aim of the dialogue was to assist ZANU-PF and the two MDC formations to reach agreement on the framework in which credible elections could be held. We had lots of meetings with the interlocutors in this dialogue. In addition, through the facilitation team which was deployed by President Mbeki, we also interacted with organs of civil society in Zimbabwe; making sure that they are kept briefed about what was happening in the process; and soliciting their active support for the parties in the dialogue. Now, I think it is important to make this point because you will notice that those of us who are part of this facilitation team (Reverend Chikane and myself) are actually appearing in the media briefing on this issue for the first time, possibly; unless there was another one that I missed.

We were very sensitive to the need to make sure that this process, because of its delicacy, is not conducted in the public domain. If you ask me what are my views about what is happening in Zimbabwe, (I may well have many, many views about what is happening in Zimbabwe, but they don’t come into this equation where you are acting as the facilitator of the mediation process). So we had many discussions. Maybe I can give a few examples. At the starting point of a dialogue, you actually find that there is a lot of acrimony involved. We talked about security legislation and media legislation. Before the parties engage in serious dialogue, the substantive matters, they don’t refer to things like this in the same names. The one party will say repressive legislation, the other party will say security legislation; and then you have to ask whether we are talking about one and the same thing, until you know exactly what the laws that people are talking about are. The parties have actually come a long way. From a situation where they were standing completely on opposite corners to a situation where they make a common cause. And, if we had this election that was described as comparatively transparent and open, it is a result of their labour.

But I am saying that we think that if we sought to play the role that was assigned to us, SADC, by way of going into the public domain and saying that what do we think about their respective positions; either in the beginning of the process or as the process was unfolding, we do think that we would have become part of the problem rather than act responsibly, in a way which is commensurate with the level of responsibility that was given to us by SADC. So you will find that we will continue to conduct this process in this kind of way. Bearing in mind, that the public has a right to know; but the public of Zimbabwe also has a right to be assisted through a process which is likely to yield results; rather than one which is only likely to provide us with exciting sound bites. So that has been the basis on which we conducted ourselves in this process.

This brings me to where I said we are really appearing in the public domain in this kind of way for the first time. As a matter of fact, we appeared in this kid of way last night on TV. You would have seen it in the news at 7 o’clock, SABC 3 last night, there was a clip of what President Mbeki said in Harare on Saturday, en route to the SADC Extraordinary Summit which took place in Lusaka, Zambia; where he was asked a question: ‘You’ve just been to a meeting with President Mugabe, what did you discuss about the crisis occasioned by the delayed announcement of the results of the Presidential Election?” I think as the clip showed very clearly, his answer was….There has been an election which was based on the harmonisation of these four electoral ballots. The results of some of these elections have been made known, they’ve been announced. The presidential one is outstanding. The MDC has approached the Courts, asking the Courts to order the Zimbabwean Election Commission to immediately announce the results of the presidential election. At that time it was known that on Monday, the 14th April, the court was going to pronounce on the matter, so he said: “what crisis are you talking about?” the Court is still going to pronounce on the matter, which is one of the channels available to the parties aggrieved for one reason or another. These channels have not been exhausted. When you look at that clip, you can see that if your bring issues other than what was the subject matter of the discussion between him and the journalist who asked the question, you would be occluding the context in which the discussion was taken place. The question was about the issue that burst directly from the President’s mandate. It was not about the inflation rate. I am saying, SADC has not asked him to reduce the rate of inflation. It has asked him to do what SADC is committed to doing, which is to assist the people of Zimbabwe; to find each other, create conditions for elections whose outcome is not likely to be contested; and then the very many decisions relating to the problem of political instability worsening economic conditions and so on are left to the sovereign decisions that the people of Zimbabwe have to make partly through the elections of the government of their choice, and if they feel they will need the support of the rest of the World, including SADC looking forward, they will say so. So that’s what he said, bearing in mind that he was en route to a SADC Summit which was also going to discuss the same issues; understanding that it has got a role that it can play to assist the people of Zimbabwe, even to resolve the particular problem that the particular journalist was referring to as a crisis. Now, you know that the summit in Harare took certain decisions, I mean in Lusaka, just some of the elements of those decisions.

  • Summit appealed to concerned parties to exercise restraint and refrain from inflaming the political situation in Zimbabwe.
  • Also called on the electoral authorities to release outstanding results expeditiously
  • To ensure that all concerned, regarding the results, are dealt with in accordance to with the laws governing the electoral process.

This decision was taken after President Dos Santos, in his capacity of Chairperson of the SADC organ, had presented a report of the SADC electoral observer mission. He briefed conference on what that report says. Basically, the report was saying the electoral process was acceptable to the parties. Of course, within the context of the Summit itself, there was a briefing also, on the situation that was given by the delegation from the Zimbabwean government. And then, Summit decided to have an informal consultation with the presidential candidates, Dr. Makoni and Mr Morgen Tsvangirai, who both confirmed that the elections were held in a free, fair and peaceful environment. But of course, having made this call that meant that Summit committed SADC to a continuing role for SADC to ensure that (maybe I must also say that there was a call on the parties to accept the results once announced, that’s provided they have no problems with them; not to reject the results) SADC will participate to the extent possible and on whatever form without contaminating the electoral process or undermining the independence of the electoral authority; will participate to the extent possible and necessary to assist in the verification exercise, should there be a need for such assistance to be given. That’s one of the decisions which were taken. So indeed, there will be a continuing role for SADC, including, should there be a need for a run-off; and there is a call, also in this regard, should there be a need for a run-off, the parties must avail themselves to participate in that run-off. SADC pledges to participate in ensuring that the climate and environment in which it would take place, if it has to take place at all, is one which is even better than the environment obtained in the elections that have just taken place. So that is our story.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Question: Minister, you’ve gone to great lengths to explain what the President said on Saturday, people are saying there are indeed crises, not referring to the economy; they are referring to the situation in Zimbabwe with the release of the results not coming forward. They include civil society, they include the opposition and they include our own party, the largest party in South Africa, the African National Congress. Mathews Phosa said this morning there is clearly a crisis for everyone to see. I would like your response on that, please.

Answer: I said to you, the extent that this particular journalist was describing, and the fact of the delay in the announcement of the presidential results as a crisis, and then I was saying we have not reached a dead end. Now you may be of the view that we have reached a dead end, and whoever is civil society in this instance may be of the view that we have reached a dead end. Those of us, who are charged with the responsibility to make sure that a solution is found, also have a responsibility to inform.  To say, we have not reached a dead end and know what processes can still be activated in order to remove the blockage.

I am confident that the Summit decision gives us a basis to ensure that indeed, to ensure that the role that the rest of us can play in support of the Electoral Commission in Zimbabwe, as well as the parties themselves. Because, if you look at the communiqué of SADC, it actually calls on the parties themselves, the concerned parties, to play a particular role is visualised in the electoral legislation of Zimbabwe.

If you ask the parties, “have you exhausted all these channels that you needed to follow?” I am certain they will tell you that they haven’t. We are in touch with the parties - all of them – including the electoral authorities. So it will be wrong for the person who knows that we have not reached a dead end to create an impression that we have reached one. I hope that this communication helps to clear this.

Question:  Minister you said there is no blockage until the high court decision is reached.  The high court basically rejected the MDC bid to have the results released.  As of today, knowing everything that you know now, what do you suggest is the way forward in terms of getting those results released?  Is there anything you can do in terms of the law and constitution of Zimbabwe to get those results released?  Do you trust the ZEC given everything that has happened?

Answer:  Well the correct question to ask is whether the people of Zimbabwe trust the ZEC, because I didn’t establish the ZEC.  The ZEC has got five commissioners.  One of them is the Chairperson appointed by the President of that countries, in terms of powers vested in him by the laws of that country.  The other two were nominated by ZANU PF and the other two were nominated by MDC.

Together they must be an embodiment of everything that the people of Zimbabwe must trust.  To the extent that we are looking at these two parties as parties that were the dominant parties in the parliament which existed before the new one that is going to be established.  They were therefore parties in the dialogue and as I said to you that in our interaction with civil society, which tempted a comfortable degree of deference to say let them negotiate, let us see what they can come up with.

To the extent that the ZEC is their creation, I don’t have reason as an outsider not to trust the ZEC.

I don’t think that we should be tempted at any point to question the decision of the court.  The court has decided.  The court hasn’t said that the results must not be released. 

SADC said please let’s make sure that the results are released expeditiously.  SADC must then interact with all concerned to understand whether the results can still be released expeditiously.

One of the things we didn’t say because we couldn’t say that was because we knew that the court was still going to pronounce on the matter, because that would be wrong.  This is a law governed processed.  These legal processes must take their course.  The assurance I can give you is that SADC is doing what it has to do to ensure that we understand how the call that we made, that was made by the Heads of State at SADC, because of this role that we are playing at the implementation level.  How that call that was made can be given effect to, so as I say, we don’t think that the process has reached a dead end.

Question: Just in terms of… have you heard from him directly.  I know that you keep saying you are not speaking on behalf of the Zimbabwean people as mediators.  I haven’t asked you the question in that capacity, I’m asking you as people who are close to the process because you’ve been mediating, you are aware of the intricacies of the way things operate in that country.  Have the ZEC themselves given you reasons for the delay?  According to the high court, the delay is because they haven’t been able to collect and tally results.  That seems like an improbable situation given the fact that results were posted outside polling stations.

Question:  You spoke about verified results being posted outside polling stations.  What do you as the facilitators think of the decision by the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission to recount votes in some constituencies, yet verified results had been posted outside polling stations?

Answer:  Is that not a technical detail that we can’t go into?  I think the ZEC also, when it has taken a decision such as the one you are referring to, it must explain it.  Although we interact with everybody we should not be reduced to spokespersons for the ZEC.  That decision was taken by the ZEC.

Question:  But I’m asking what you think of that decision.

Answer:  Is that not the problem that I was warning you against?  If you were to say to me ‘who do you think should be the president of Zimbabwe?’ what will I say?  I’m saying they’ve taken a decision.  It’s important that you had people stationed in Harare.  It’s important to note that they have an obligation in the situation that any of the parties raises concerns, examines the concerns and determine whether they warrant a particular course of action.

In this instance they’ve taken this particular course of action.  I’m saying if they are asked how did they arrive at it in the detail, they’d be able to tell that.

Question:  Is that not a worrisome situation as facilitators that verified results are now going to be recounted?

Answer:  No.  Results do get recounted even if they are verified.  If some point to some irregularity which at the time of verification was not picked up.  Now you are getting me into the business of speculating.  I’m saying my speculation is that if at the point of verification there was something that somebody perceived to be an irregularity which was not picked and then it gets picked up later; surely they are entitled to complain.

But the ZEC will then be able to say we thought the complaint was valid for the following reasons.  I’m saying I don’t know.  But the point at which we could possibly come in is if anyone of the parties said we think that our complaint was without reason rejected.  That’s the point at which we could come in.  What we should avoid, you’ve got an electoral authority, is to think that the facilitator of the mediation process must micro-manage the electoral authority.  If we begin to do that, then we are misdirecting ourselves.  That authority is an independent authority, established in terms of the law of Zimbabwe.  We can’t at every turn be asking questions which are best left, either to that electoral authority or to the participating parties.

You must also try to compare and contrast where it is warranted.  Just look at how we run our elections here.  You have your IEC. You have your multi-party forum which interacts with the IEC.  You’ve got the executive which also has certain responsibilities to ensure that conditions for free and fair elections exist, including the deployment of the police and army to secure the elections and so on.  But there are certain things that the executive doesn’t do because it’s not part of what it should do.

We are an outside entity.  We are not a SADC of Zimbabwe.  We are an outside entity and therefore we don’t have unlimited abilities to just go there and do anything and everything.  We come there to help on terms that were agreed by the parties.

Question:  One of the issues of saying SADC may assist in the verification exercise… is there any reason of not trusting the ZEC.  But last week Dr Simba Makoni said he was refused entry into the ZEC location where their operations were.  He said they had dismantled their centre to a place where no one knows.  The same complaint came from Tandai Biti of the MDC.  I just want your comments about that.

Answer:  The SADC Heads of State had discussions with Dr Simba Makoni and Mr Tsvangarai’s.  The decision of SADC took these grievances that you are alluding to into account. 

Question:  Minister I just want to know why President Mbeki went to Harare to see President Mugabe before he went to Lusaka.  And also what do you as a facilitator in this process make of the fact that President Mugabe did not attend the SADC meeting while obviously he was the chief protagonist in this issue.

Answer:  The exact reason is that we interact with both parties in the dialogue.  Two days before Lusaka Mr Morgan Tsvangarai’s came here and had a meeting with President Mbeki.  He had seen Mr Tsvangarai’s before going to the Summit.  The only possibility he had to see President Mugabe was to go past Harare since President Mugabe was not going to attend the Summit.

There was a ministerial delegation with mandates from President Mugabe to represent him at the Summit.  You know that this is not unprecedented.  When the apology was tendered, as is usually the case if anyone of the Heads of State or Government is not able to attend, it was accepted. 

Again you are talking to me as or I’m talking to you as part of the facilitation team.  What does SADC make of President Mugabe’s absence? I’m saying they accepted the apology.

Question:  Minister when SADC was discussing did they consider the point of transparency about these elections?  The ruling party, ZANI PF has managed to hold Politburo emergency meetings where they held decisions to endorse President Mugabe to head the run-off of the elections.  They have even launched the recount of a certain number of constituencies when actually they are not even out in the open.  As much as the parties have said that they support that the elections were free and fair.  Just on the point of results coming out, do they find this as normal or fine or the concerns of these parties as they were raised in SADC were taken into consideration?

Answer:  This situation that we had was one in which people are talking about relative or comparative openness and transparency.  We thought that there was no transparency when things were this transparent.  You know that both parties were making announcements, running commentaries which we could not make if the situation which was as opaque as you seem to be suggesting.

We are under no impression that what was posted outside the polling stations, people could read what was posted.  And ofcourse they make all manner of claims.  The claims incidentally are not made just by one party.  So you have to say on balance the parties are still themselves saying a climate for the free expression of the will of the people existed and therefore from that point of view we are satisfied.

If that is what they then say you are not likely then to say the transparency contaminated the process.

Question:  Minister you spoke earlier about the team’s goal of creating an elections climate that is not contestable.  On this issue of crisis, it seems there are two types of crises.  One is a little crisis which you and the president have been talking about.  There’s also a crisis of confidence.  It seems to me that the Zimbabwean public and the international public are fast losing confidence in the outcome of this election and losing confidence in the ability of the ZEC to come up with the numbers.  Certainly the opposition have said that they don’t believe that the polls or recount is going to be legitimate.  They’ve lost confidence.

Answer:  The anxiety about the delay is shared across the board.  But I think the attitude which the parties have taken to wait for the outcome is a correct attitude.  You may say we are not sure whether outcome will still be a true and correct reflection and so on, but you still are not able to judge before that is announced.

In conditions such as the one which were announced by one of your colleagues who asked a question about transparency.  Perhaps that relative transparency will assist those who are in doubt about what is finally announced.  To say this is the basis on which we doubt the integrity of what is being announced.

To say I doubt is one thing but to produce evidence on the basis of which you came to that doubt is another thing.  But I guess all of us will want something that is evidence based.  I think that is the beauty of this process.  That whoever has a complaint has got a responsibility to say here is the evidence.

Question:  Over the last week there has been widespread intimidation of MDC supporters by ZANU PF supporters.  What is your view as one of the mediators in the process about this intimidation?  The other question refers to this word crisis.  The elections took place 16 days ago.  How many days should pass before this is a crisis?  Most elections results come out in a day or so, now it’s 16 days.  How long has to pass before South Africa regards this as a crisis?

Answers:  I think South Africa will speak on this matter.  But speaking as a facilitator, I think I did say to you earlier that in the context in which we are discussing, a crisis would be a situation which arises and you don’t have the instrument provided for in legislation to deal with it. 

I don’t want to sound like I’m giving the definition which our erstwhile rulers used to give as to why they declared a state of emergency.  When the laws of the land are inadequate to deal with the situation that’s what they used to say.  But I’m saying that indeed if you did not have to make an intervention, the likelihood is that the situation can get out of control.

This Summit in Lusaka was not a scheduled Summit.  It was an extra-ordinary Summit in order to take pre-emptive action.  And I’m saying that the Communiqué tells you what kind of action is being taken, of the pre-emptive kind. 

I don’t think we are in the business of counting days.  We are in the business of assessing the situation politically and saying the situation should not be allowed to get out of hand and therefore what role can SADC play.  And SADC has identified a role for itself which was welcome by the parties.

We receive accusations and counter-accusations from the parties.  I was reading in the papers today something which I know out of interaction with the parties, I’m just giving you an example, that white farmers are being harassed.  That’s one allegation.  Other allegations, white farmers are harassing people in farms which used to belong to them.  That’s another allegation. 

You receive allegations from both sides about beatings.  All the time we insist, you make an allegation you come forward with evidence.  We will act on it.

Let me just say by the way, allegations are not only arising now. Throughout the process of our interaction up to all the agreements that I’m saying were reached, there were allegations flying left, right and centre.  It’s not a peculiarity of Zimbabwe.  Maybe we understand it better here in South Africa because we went into our own elections here in 1994 in a situation which was not dissimilar.

You have to attend to these problems but if you say I’m a political leader, the manner in which you attend to a problem to solve it, should also not be one that diverts your attention from the main goal that you are seeking to achieve to create conditions for lasting stability, create conditions that will allow these meetings to come to a permanent end.  I’m saying that we attend to these things and you can take my word for it.

Question:  Minister you mentioned that SADC is taking steps to ensure that its call for the elections results to be released expeditiously is attended to.  What are you doing?

Answer:  We are taking steps.  It comes back to what I was saying earlier because these steps entail lots of interactions that we had before which brought results.  I’d rather we allow these processes to take their course.  But what I’m saying is that SADC is not asleep.  It understands that its decision is not self-implementing.  It has to enforce it.

Question:  What is the SADC doing in also assisting about the run-off?  Are we talking about more than just observing?

Answer:  There are views from both parties as to what SADC can do to enhance the climate a climate which is conducive to free conduct of such an election.  We will work through these views to arrive at an understanding of what SADC can do.  But we accepted the responsibility which the parties feel we have, namely to ensure that we, if there is a run-off it takes place in conditions which are even better than the ones that obtained before.

Reverend Frank Chikane

You will remember that the Minister dealt with historical processes leading to the elections.  When I read and listen to commentators and even some experts on this matter, it’s quite clear that something was missed in December in terms of the parliamentary action because the process we facilitated produced constitutional amendments but also dealt with all the laws that were a concern to the people of Zimbabwe. 

The Minister referred to the electoral law and order, and all those laws were worked on through by the delegations and were passed in parliament of Zimbabwe during December.  All the laws required for the elections were passed by parliament.  The framework within which the elections were held and conducted. 

I though I must mention this because the learned people I was listening to were talking about the old laws that are so bad you couldn’t uphold the election as though conditions were still the same.  They missed the parliamentary action which was bills presented by both parties, supported by both parties and adopted by parliament.

The constitution as well was agreed upon, the whole constitution.  Except that they processed Amendment 18 which dealt mainly with the issues required for elections.  The rest of the constitution is what is outstanding.  The view was that you need a referendum to process the constitution.

But the agreements have been reached and that’s the story about the facilitation.  The facilitation dealt with all the issues that were presented and agreed upon.  All those laws were passed, including the constitutional amendment except the balance which you didn’t need for the elections.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
Pretoria
0001

15 April 2008

 

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