Election ‘free and democratic’, Mnangagwa tells region

President Emmerson Mnangagwa addresses his first SADC Summit, Windhoek, Namibia Friday, Aug 17. (Pic credit: New Era)

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has told regional leaders that the election represented the “free and democratic will of the people of Zimbabwe”, as he sought neighbours’ help to rebuild what he called Zimbabwe stagnated and isolated economy.

In his maiden speech to the SADC Summit, held in the Namibian capital Windhoek on Friday, Mnangagwa said the election, the outcome of which is being contested by the opposition in the courts, met regional standards on credible polls.

“As such, all political parties were free to campaign in all parts of the country, however they saw fit,” Mnangagwa said.

The election had been held in the “full glare” of international observers and world media, and this showed the “maturing and entrenchment of the democratic traditions of my nation”, he said.

Ahead of the Summit, rights groups had pressed regional leaders to place Zimbabwe on the agenda, after the army shot and killed at least six people when it was deployed to quell post-election violence on August 1.

Foreign Affairs Minister SB Moyo said the Zimbabwe election would not be on the agenda. “Zimbabwe is ready to play its part not as an agenda item, but as a driver of this region,” he told journalists.

While Mnangagwa got the recognition of regional peers, many said they looked to the court process to conclude the dispute peacefully.

South African president and outgoing SADC chair Cyril Ramaphosa said Zimbabwe’s election showed that the region was entrenching democracy. “The recent elections in Zimbabwe declared as free and fair by SADC Observer Mission is a positive sign,” he said.

While SADC observers broadly endorsed the poll, they faulted the lack of transparency at the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, the involvement of traditional leaders in the campaigns and State media bias, among other issues. Mnangagwa acknowledged the criticism. He told the Summit: “We have taken note of all the observer Missions recommendations, particularly the areas we need to improve on in future.”

Mnangagwa pleaded for the region’s support in rebuilding the economy, which he said had suffered from “years of isolation and stagnation”. Zimbabwe was ready to make comprehensive economic reforms in order to catch up with its peers.

“We have also set out to engage and re- engage with the international community with a view to pursuing strategic partnerships as we quest to be part of the global family of nations. In all these endeavours, we continue to count on the support and solidarity we have always received from SADC.”

Mnangagwa’s main opponent in the poll, Nelson Chamisa, has lodged an appeal to have the result of the election set aside, citing what he says was widespread fraud. The case will be heard in the Supreme Court on Wednesday.