SADC triumphs on peer review

The Sunday Mail

Writing Back
Ranga Mataire

Despite some shrieks from the usual quarters, the recent Mozambican elections were given a positive nod by the SADC Observer Mission comprising of 61 observers.

The observers said that the plebiscite was peaceful and consistent with the regional body’s principles governing democratic elections.

The SADC Election Observer Mission was led by Zimbabwe’s Defence and War Veterans Welfare Minister, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, who was appointed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa — the current chairperson of the regional body’s Organ on Politics, Defence and Security.

The endorsement by SADC is indicative of how far the regional body has matured to be able to exercise peer review over members including observing whether the principles and guidelines of holding elections are being obeyed.

While pockets of violence were reported in some areas, the elections were said to have been generally fair and peaceful rendering the outcome the authentic expression of the Mozambican people.

It was a marvel to see our own Minster Muchinguri leading the SADC observer team clearly showing that southern Africa has come of age and that the democratic tradition of periodic elections is entrenching itself in most countries on the continent.

It is the fervent hope of everyone in the region that the relative peaceful conduct of voters and the transparent nature of the whole election process would be replicated in other countries that are scheduled to hold elections this year in October and November.

Botswana, Mauritius and Namibia are also set to hold elections in October and November.

Botswana will hold its polls on 23 October while Mauritius and Namibia will hold theirs on November 7 and 27 respectively.

The uniqueness of the just ended Mozambican elections is that for the first time governors will be elected directly in an election in which people voted for the president and parliamentarians.

Four candidates contested for the presidency — Filipe Nyusi of Frelimo, Ossufo Momade of the former rebel movement, (Renamo), David Simango of the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), and Mario Albino of the Action Party of the United Movement for Integral Salvation (Amusi).

Nyusi has been president since 2014 and was seeking re-election for a second and last term as stipulated by the Mozambican constitution.

Frelimo has won all elections since Mozambique gained independence from Portugal in 1975 and has a strong support base throughout the country.

Momade took over Renamo leadership in May 2018 following the death of long-time leader, Afonso Dhlakama.

In the last election held in 2014, Nyusi garnered 57 percent of the ballots cast compared to 36,6 percent by the late Dhlakama.

It is everyone’s hope that the people of Mozambique would accept the results and try to move forward in uniting the nation which was recently ravaged by Cyclone Idai.

Mozambique has borne the brunt of armed conflicts over the past two decades and every African hopes that these elections will herald a new era of lasting peace and unity.

Democracy must be the victor. The mark of good leadership is seen by acceptance of the results for the sake of nation building.

The winners of the election must be magnanimous in victory and work towards rebuilding the nation long ravaged by civil war. A peaceful and prosperous Mozambique is not only good for the SADC region, but the entire African continent.

What is most gratifying about the Mozambican election experience is that the country adhered to the SADC principles and guidelines governing democratic elections and the opposition parties were free to campaign. They were also allowed access to the public media including advertising their political messages.

The SADC region has made significant strides in the consolidation of the citizens’ participation in decision-making processes and also consolidation of democratic practice and institutions.

As such, the constitutions of all SADC member states enshrine the principles of equal opportunities and full participation of the citizens in the political process.

Building upon their (SADC member states) common historical and cultural identity forged over centuries, agreed to encapsulate their commonality into a single vision, that of a SHARED FUTURE.

Article 4 of the Treaty on the holding of elections states that “human rights, democracy and the rule of law” are principles guiding the acts of its members with Article 5 outlining the objectives of SADC, which commits member states to “promote common political values, systems and other shared values which are transmitted through institutions, which are democratic, legitimate and effective. It also commits member states to “consolidate, defend and maintain democracy, peace, security and stability” in the region.

The Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation provides that SADC shall “promote the development of democratic institutions and practices within the territories of State Parties and encourage the observance of universal human rights as provided for in the Charter and Conventions of the Organisation of African Unity (African Union) and the United Nations.”

In addition, the Strategic Indicative Plan for the Organ (SIPO), as the implementation framework of the Protocol, emphasising the need for democratic consolidation in the region.

The development of the principles governing democratic elections aims at enhancing the transparency and credibility of elections and democratic governance as well as ensuring the acceptance of election results by all contesting parties.

The guidelines are not only informed by the SADC legal and policy instruments, but also by the major principles and guidelines emanating from OAU/AU Declaration on the Principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa and the AU Guidelines for African Union Electoral Observation and Monitoring Missions.

In the event, a member state decided to extend an invitation to SADC to observe its elections, this shall be based on the provisions of the Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation.

Just like Zimbabwe, Mozambican elections are a shining beacon of the adherence in terms of respect of the tenets enshrined in the regional statues which include full participation of citizens in the political process, freedom of association, political tolerance, equal opportunity by all political players to access state media, adequate voter education and acceptance and respect of the election results by political parties proclaimed to have been free and fair by a competent National Electoral Authorities in accordance with the law of the land.

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