• SADC issues adverse preliminary opinion on Zim elections
  • Zimbabwe highly susceptible to sanctions from SADC given a final adverse report
  • A looming re-run to rectify wrongs, given a final adverse report

Harare - In an unprecedented yet expected move, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) observer mission has criticised Zimbabwe’s local government, national assembly and presidential election, saying the poll partially falls short of regional and national standards, and the constitution.

The SADC has issued an adverse opinion on the election process in Zimbabwe, saying that it was not free and fair. This is a significant development, as SADC is the region's most important political and economic bloc. Zimbabwe held its election on the 23rd of August, 2023, and however extended the polls to the 24th as the election board failed to supply necessities on time. The SADC statement comes after a series of reports of irregularities in the lead-up to and during the election. These reports from both regulated and unregulated election observers include allegations of voter intimidation by the infamous ruling party’s affiliate FAZ, ballot stuffing, and vote rigging.

Head of the SADC observer mission, Nevers Mumba, reportedly claimed, “The mission observed that the pre-election and voting phases of 23-24 August harmonised election were peaceful and calm. However, the mission noted that some aspects of the harmonised elections fell short of the requirements of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the Electoral Act and SADC principles governing democratic elections.”

Despite the state-controlled media bashing Mumba for allegedly aligning with the opposition, the SADC statement is likely to have a significant impact on the legitimacy of the election results. It is also likely to increase pressure on the Zimbabwean government to potentially hold a new election that is free and fair. The SADC statement is a sign that the region is increasingly concerned about the state of democracy in Zimbabwe. It is also a sign that SADC is willing to take a stand against electoral fraud and other forms of political manipulation. The SADC statement is a positive development for democracy in Zimbabwe. It is a sign that the region is committed to upholding democratic principles and values. It is also a sign that SADC is willing to act on protecting the rights of Zimbabweans. First and foremost, SADC's adverse opinion challenges the legitimacy of the Zimbabwean government. Elections are a fundamental component of a functioning democracy, as they provide citizens with an opportunity to elect their representatives and hold them accountable. When a regional organization such as SADC questions the credibility of an election, it raises doubts about the government's mandate and the legitimacy of its decision-making process at a time when the government is under sanctions from the west due to its long history of perpetrating violence towards the opposition. This can erode public trust and confidence in the government, leading to increased political polarization and potentially even social unrest.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwean government has rejected the SADC statement, saying that it is biased and politically motivated. However, the SADC statement is likely to have a significant impact on the legitimacy of the election results. The long-term impact of SADC's adverse opinion on elections in Zimbabwe extends to the country's overall development. In a globalized world, international perception plays a crucial role in attracting investment, fostering trade, and promoting economic growth. When a country's electoral process is called into question, it raises concerns about the stability and predictability of its political environment. This can lead to reduced foreign investment, decreased economic opportunities, and hindered development prospects for Zimbabwe. Additionally, Zimbabwe stands highly susceptible to sanctions from SADC given a final adverse opinion, and this will further isolate the country from international trade, or rather, come as a final blow to the already existing effects of western sanctions on the economy. While Zimbabwe can narrowly navigate without the hand of the European Union, the same can-not be said with SADC.

In the short term, the adverse opinion is likely to fuel political instability in Zimbabwe. The main opposition party and civil society organizations will likely seize upon this opportunity to challenge the legitimacy of the elected government, further dividing an already polarized country. Protests, demonstrations, and legal challenges are expected to escalate in the coming days or, potentially, weeks, as those who feel disenfranchised by the electoral process seek accountability and justice.

Moreover, the adverse opinion is likely to strain Zimbabwe's relationships with regional and international partners. The SADC has historically played a crucial role in mediating political crises within the region, and its adverse opinion on Zimbabwe undermines the country's standing within the organization. This could lead to Zimbabwe's isolation within the regional bloc and potentially impact its access to regional trade agreements, foreign aid, and diplomatic support. Furthermore, the adverse opinion is likely to impact Zimbabwe's economy in the short term. Investors, both local and foreign, are likely to be deterred by the lack of transparency and the political uncertainty created by the adverse opinion. This could result in reduced foreign direct investment, a decline in business confidence, and a slowdown in economic growth. Additionally, the adverse opinion may jeopardize the country's prospects for debt relief of its legacy foreign debt, and access to international financial institutions, further hampering economic recovery efforts.

In response to the adverse opinion, the Zimbabwean government must take immediate measures to address the concerns raised by the SADC. An independent investigation into the electoral process, as well as implementing comprehensive electoral reforms, would help restore credibility and rebuild public trust. Engaging in dialogue with opposition parties, civil society organizations, and regional partners is crucial to finding a peaceful and inclusive resolution to the current political impasse. Given the precedence set by the early report, a final adverse opinion from SADC is highly expected. In this case, the country will highly likely head towards a re-run of the election to avoid an imminent sanction from neighbouring countries.

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