FORMER South African president Thabo Mbeki says MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai was wrong to prematurely withdraw his presidential election petition, saying the court challenge would have provided the regional bloc, Sadc, with an opportunity to scrutinise the alleged irregularities.
Mbeki made the remarks during a Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute presentation at the University of South Africa in Pretoria last Friday, a day after attending President Robert Mugabe’s inauguration in Harare.
He said Tsvangirai withdrew his petition when Sadc was still to make a determination on the way the elections were conducted although the regional bloc had subtly endorsed the polls as “free and peaceful”.
Mbeki said the regional bloc had wanted to use Tsvangirai’s evidence as a case study for future elections in the region.
“The MDC-T decided to go to court to contest the elections and suddenly they withdrew,” Mbeki said.
“Personally, I was pleased that they submitted the petition. I was pleased that it would give us the opportunity to scrutinise the election. I was disappointed when they withdrew the petition because it denied us the opportunity to do so.”
Mugabe won the polls by 61% votes, but Tsvangirai immediately challenged the poll outcome citing several irregularities.
The MDC-T leader later filed a Constitutional Court application challenging Mugabe’s victory, but withdrew the petition arguing that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission had denied him access to the poll material which he wanted to support his case.
“But I later understood why they withdrew the petition. They made various allegations and did not provide the court with written evidence,” Mbeki said.
However, the Constitutional Court prosecuted the petition and dismissed it.
Mbeki also took a swipe at Mugabe’s chaotic land reform programme, saying the Zanu PF leader had “set a bad example which we don’t want any country in Africa to follow”.
“The way the land reform was done offended other players in the world. I told them (Mugabe and Zanu PF), they could not listen; they did what they wanted with their own country. They set a bad example which we don’t want any country in Africa to follow. So they must pay a price. I think this is the reason why, apart from diamonds, there is too much attention on Zimbabwe.” he said.
The former South African leader also blasted the West for refusing to endorse the Zimbabwean polls when Africa had done so, claiming such actions were tantamount to undermining the integrity of Africa.
“Yes, indeed there were problems, but we did not need Washington, Brussels and London to say Africans were wrong in endorsing the elections. I know why the special interest in Zimbabwe, a small country by any standards. Zimbabwe has been on the frontline in calling for Africa to determine its future. It’s high time Zimbabwe should be supported in order to put to an end to that African contempt.”