The worth of 1,000 African elections’ observers in Washington, London and Brussels

Excerpt from the lecture of Thabo Mbeki, former South African president, at UNSA delivered on 23 August 2013

The full document is an objective critic about how Africans let themselves be seen by the rest of the world.

Thabo Mbeki

Thabo Mbeki

I was talking three-four days ago to a member of the executive of the SADC Lawyers Association which includes all the lawyers in this region and their lawyer societies and this and that and the other. They decided to send an observer team to Zimbabwe, which they did.

They have done their report and I have asked for a copy but they said they would send it. But what they are telling me is that one of the things that surprised them was that as soon as they made that announcement that they would be deploying an observer team in Zimbabwe, out of the blue, completely unsolicited they got huge offers of money from the United States to say, “Look, we want to pay for your observer mission.”

And they say that we never asked for this money, we had never ever been in contact with these people, we don’t know how they got to know that we were going to do this, but were very, very happy to support us with huge sums of money. But we said, “No” we refused. We said, “No, we will finance ourselves”.

The reason we did it was because we knew that if we accepted that money, then we would have to produce a report consistent with the views of the paymaster, so we said, “No”.

Now, the very strange thing at the end of this story which I am telling you . . . Well, let me say, what the Zimbabwe government did was of course to refuse that organisations like the EU which have imposed sanctions against Zimbabwe, countries like the US which have imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe, should have election observers for the natural and I think logical reason that, “You declared yourselves as an enemy, in what way would you then send observers who are going to be objective in terms of observing these elections, please don’t come.” I think they were right.

Nevertheless they said all the countries that have embassies in Zimbabwe, the embassies are free to observe the elections, which they did. African, European, Asian — all of them. But I am saying one of the strange things is that you have the entire continent in terms of its credible and legitimate institutions say, “Yes indeed there were problems, and we are going to detail those problems, but these elections represent the will of the people of Zimbabwe.”

Then you have an alternative voice in Washington, London and Brussels which says, “No, you Africans are wrong.” How does that happen? Why this absolute contempt for the view of the Africans about themselves?

I was saying just these two organisations, the AU and Sadc, had at least a 1000 observers in Zimbabwe — I am not talking about others, even the African Caribbean and Pacific Community had an observer team there, I am not talking about those — watched this process.

When the chair of the AU Commission was in Harare and talked to all the political leaders, she said none of them have raised any issues about serious problems with the elections, they hadn’t. And yet when all of these Africans say, “Yes problems, we will tell you what these problems were, but the result presents a credible view of the Zimbabweans,” you have people in America and Europe who say the Africans are wrong.

Why? Maybe because the Africans are stupid. The Africans can’t count . . . or something. The latest Sadc summit has just taken place in Malawi, in Lilongwe. In the days before the summit, during the summit, the British government were putting pressure on the government of Malawi to persuade the summit that there should be an audit done of the Zimbabwean elections.

The MDC decided to go to court in Zimbabwe to contest, as you know, the elections. And then suddenly withdrew the petition. Personally I was very pleased that they submitted the petition, because it would give a possibility actually to look in detail at all the allegations that have been made about what went wrong with the election.

I was quite upset when they said they were withdrawing the petition, because it denied us the possibility to do this thing. But later I understood why they withdrew, because even in the petition they made various allegations and did not submit to the court any document to substantiate any of the allegations.

 

Full transcript of the text

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