JOHANNESBURG — The highly sought-after report on the controversial 2002 presidential elections which was compiled by two South African High Court judges at the request of ex-South African President Thabo Mbeki was released to the public last Friday following a lengthy legal battle.
The report, which found the Zimbabwe elections of 2002 not to be free or fair, was released following several court applications spanning over five years by South African-based Mail&Guardian newspaper.
The report was first published on the Mail&Guardian’s website at the weekend after the newspaper had applied to access it in terms of South Africa’s Promotion of Access to Information Act.
“These (Zimbabwe) elections (of 2002), in our view, cannot be considered to be free and fair,” said then High Court judges Dikgang Moseneke and Sisi Khampepe in the report.
Moseneke was appointed deputy chief justice of South Africa by Mbeki in 2005.
The elections were controversially won by Zanu PF’s President Robert Mugabe who went on to win the successive 2008 and 2013 elections under controversial circumstances with his rival MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai citing massive rigging and voter intimidation.
The MDC-T yesterday hailed the report, saying it confirmed its earlier concerns that Mugabe rigged the polls.
MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said: “We are happy as MDC that the report has vindicated us. We have always been saying Zanu PF did not win the 2002 and the successive elections held thereafter.
“Publication of the report today, 12 years later, is sad news to the MDC because it’s too late to reverse the clock of time, the economy has nose-dived to unprecedented levels and 85% of Zimbabweans are now surviving on less than a dollar per day. It would have been better had the report come earlier as that would have allowed the African Union and Sadc to order a re-election.”
Gutu added: “But, all the same it’s a clarion call on AU, Sadc and other regional and international bodies to take the opposition’s concerns seriously. Moseneke and Khampepe are respected jurists internationally and their judgment cannot be disputed.”
The South African judges said they reached the conclusion that Zimbabwe’s 2002 presidential election was not “free and fair” after “having regard to all the circumstances, and in particular the cumulative substantial departures from international standards of free and fair elections found in Zimbabwe during the pre-election period.”
The report found, among other things, that 107 people mainly MDC supporters had died in the midst of pre-election violence and intimidation in certain areas of the country.
The deaths were believed to be politically motivated killings of mostly opposition politicians, between March 2000 and March 2002.
This violence and intimidation had the effect of curtailing freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly and association of voters to varying degrees.
The judges noted that Zimbabwe’s electoral laws were also “drastically amended and manipulated by executive decrees”, the consequences of which were felt upon voter education and the voters’ roll.
On the polling days, there were a reduced number of voting stations in urban areas, particularly Harare and Chitungwiza, but the report acknowledged that in other constituencies, polling stations were easily accessible and their operations conducted satisfactory.
The secrecy of the ballot was also found to have been generally respected and impartial assistance given to voters where necessary.
“We observed no material counting irregularities,” Khampepe and Moseneke said in their report. “If any existed, they were not drawn to our attention or reported on.”
The two judges were sent to Zimbabwe by Mbeki as observers during the 2002 elections.
The Mail&Guardian reported that the report was made public on Friday afternoon after a ruling by the Constitutional Court, following the newspaper’s legal battle for access to the report.
At one time, the report was said to have gone missing, raising speculation that the South African authorities wanted to sweep it under the carpet because of its adverse contents.
The report draws on the work of Danish political science professors Jorgen Elklit and Palle Svensson, who set out criteria to evaluate the “free-ness” and fairness of an election.
These include international standards relating to the time prior to voting day, on the polling days, during ballot counting and after the election.
South African President Jacob Zuma was among the first regional leaders to endorse last year’s July 31 election which was again controversially “won” by Mugabe and Zanu PF, sparking an outcry from many Zimbabweans who condemned the poll as neither free, fair, nor credible. — Sapa/Staff Reporter