Botswana has called on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to investigate Zimbabwe’s general election after opposition groups rejected the outcome of the vote.
Botswana sent an 80-member poll watching group to monitor last Wednesday’s election in Zimbabwe.
“While they found that the election was free of violence and intimidation, and that indeed voting was peaceful, they also did raise a number of other issues about the process, particularly to do with the voters roll, and the ability of people to vote,” said Jeff Ramsay, Botswana’s information minister. “We are proposing that an independent audit should be undertaken [by] SADC itself, so that there is a way of assessing the situation for lessons moving forward.”
Ramsay says Botswana looks forward to hearing a response to its request from the regional bloc as heads of state and government in the region plan to meet at a SADC summit later this month in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe.
“This thing should not be seen as a division between us and either the government or the people of Zimbabwe,” he said, “but rather us expressing our perspective on the way forward in dealing with some of the questions that were raised about the electoral process.”
Botswana’s call for an investigation comes a day after South African President Jacob Zuma congratulated Robert Mugabe for winning Zimbabwe’s presidential election with 61 percent of the total votes.
Some analysts say Botswana’s call could spark a diplomatic row with neighboring Zimbabwe.
But, Ramsay disagreed, saying his country’s inquiry call was not aimed at creating a diplomatic spat with President Robert Mugabe’s administration.
“We certainly hope not [and] that is not our purpose, but we believe that we have to stick by the principles of which we are governed by,” said Ramsay. “To us, it’s not just about Zimbabwe. It’s about the region as a whole, upholding the principles and the frameworks which we’ve agreed to. And at the same time [that] we’ve called for an audit, we have cited some circumstances which create doubt, but we are not making a final judgment on the matter.”
Ramsay also cautioned that his country’s call should not be seen as a sign of divisions within the ranks of the 15-member Southern African regional bloc.
“We are not challenging the free and peaceful [SADC assessment] we are concerned about other issues to do with transparency, credibility and fairness,” said Ramsay. “By calling for an audit we are basically calling for those issues to be treated with the seriousness that they deserve, not simply for what has happened, but as SADC maintaining its principles.”
Ramsay says he is hopeful that Zimbabweans will see his country’s stand as a positive development.
“We do commend the people of Zimbabwe, including all the parties concerned, for the orderly manner in which they conducted themselves during the election day and in that respect we trust and believe that that peace will continue,” he said.