HARARE, ZIMBABWE— The Southern African Development Community (SADC) says Zimbabwe’s July 31 elections were free and generally credible, but allowed that some irregularities cast doubt on fairness. The vote saw longtime President Robert Mugabe re-elected with more than 60 percent of the vote. .
Tanzanian Foreign Affairs Minister Bernard Membe headed the SADC observer mission to Zimbabwe’s elections and is satisfied with how the Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) handled the polls.
“The elections in Zimbabwe were generally credible," Membe said. "On behalf of the entire the SADC, [SADC] congratulates ZEC and the people of Zimbabwe for holding a free, peaceful and generally credible harmonized elections of July 2013 in which the will of the people was sufficiently expressed.”
The polls resulted in Mugabe extending his 33-year rule of Zimbabwe. The final election results show him defeating former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, 61 to 34 percent.
Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party has refused to recognize the election result, saying ZEC rigged the election for the 89-year-old Mugabe.
The SADC observer mission head said it was difficult to declare Zimbabwe’s elections as fair, due to biased reporting by state media and because ZEC failed to release the voters roll to the contestants in the time required by the law.
But it appears there will be no attempt by the SADC to overturn the election result, meaning that Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party will control Zimbabwe for the next five years.
The Tanzanian foreign minister said the SADC will urge Western nations to lift sanctions imposed on Mugabe and the ZANU-PF leadership. Zimbabwe's leaders have pressed for an end to the travel and financial sanctions, which were imposed for alleged election rigging and human rights abuses.