Botswana on Monday called for an independent audit of the just concluded electoral process in Zimbabwe.
Speaking at a media briefing, Foreign Affairs Minister Phandu Skelemani told reporters that it is the perspective of the Government of Botswana that in the context of the preliminary findings of SADC Election Observer Mission, as well as the initial report of “own observer team, that there is a need for an independent audit of the just concluded electoral process in Zimbabwe”.
He said such an audit would shed light on the conduct of the just ended election and indicate any shortcomings and irregularities that could have affected its result as well as the way forward.
This will ensure that all involved in the future elections would be aware of what to look out for and that there is no repeat of the same, he said.
Asked how the Botswana Government intends to mobilise the region for an independent audit to be conducted ┬ásince South African President Jacob Zuma has already congratulated Mugabe on his seventh election victory, Skelemani said it was South Africa’s sovereign right to do so.
Skelemani insisted that the audit was not only about the just ended electoral process but about the future.
“We had hoped that the elections would bring hope to the people of Zimbabwe, not that we want anyone toppled, but our hope was that a conducive environment would be created,” said Skelemani. ┬á
He appealed to Zimbabweans rejecting the outcome of the elections to approach the courts and avoid violent means.
Asked who should be held accountable for the shortcomings identified by the election observers, Skelemani replied that “an audit should tell us who was responsible for what in the run up to the elections because an election is a process. After an independent audit we will be in a position to say whether we accept the outcome of the results or not,” said Skelemani.
He said the Botswana observer teams had reported that the Election Day itself was free of overt intimidation and violence.
However, Skelemani said, various incidents and circumstances were revealed that call into question whether the entire electoral process, and thus its final result can be recognised as having been fair, transparent and credible in the context of the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections with the Community.
“That is why the SADC Election Observer Mission described the elections as free and peaceful” as opposed to “free and fair “the latter being the criteria for credible elections,” said Skelemani.
The Minister said evidence of possible shortfalls include the fact that voters’ rolls were released on the 29th of July 2013 only in hard copy two days before the election; questions about both the inclusion and exclusion of people on the rolls, questions over forms of identification of people otherwise being denied the right to vote. Concerns were also raised about the conduct of and integrity of the Special Voting Process that was carried out on 14-15 of July 2013.
Skelemani revealed that there are many other examples that our observers share with Government that clearly indicate that the process was undermined by these and other irregularities.
Botswana observers are currently compiling a report of such incidents for submission to SADC, the African Union (AU) and other concerned stakeholders.
“It is the position of the Government of Botswana that it is in the common interest of SADC member States, including in this instance Zimbabwe, to observe the SADC Community’s shared Election Guidelines so as to ensure transparency and credibility of the entire electoral process,” said Skelemani.
He added that “there is no doubt that what has been revealed so far by our observers cannot be considered as an acceptable standard for free and fair elections in SADC. SADC should never create the undesirable precedent of permitting expectations to its own rules,” he said.
The government of Botswana hopes, Skelemani said, that at the next Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government, which is scheduled for later this month in Lilongwe, Malawi, this issue will be placed on the agenda.
Botswana commended the people of Zimbabwe for the orderly manner in which they conducted themselves during the Election Day and since then and further appeals to all parties in Zimbabwe to continue to do so.