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Cablegate: Zimbabwe Elections Report

O 071613Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY GABORONE
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5110
INFO SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
AMEMBASSY ABUJA
AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
AMEMBASSY CAIRO
AMEMBASSY HARARE
AMEMBASSY LONDON
AMEMBASSY NAIROBI
AMEMBASSY PARIS
AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
USMISSION USUN NEW YORK
HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
USEU BRUSSELS

UNCLAS GABORONE 000553


DEPARTMENT FOR AF AND AF/S
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV AU BC ZI
SUBJECT: ZIMBABWE ELECTIONS REPORT

REF: GABORONE 547


1. The Botswana Observer Team in cooperation with the SADC Election
Observer Mission (SEOM)has shared with the Embassy the official text
of the statement of the Botswana Observer Team regarding the June
27, 2008 Zimbabwe Presidential run-off elections.

Begin Verbatim Botswana Observer Team Text:

On behalf of the Botswana Team that took part in the observation of
the Zimbabwe Presidential run off elections I would like to start
off by thanking the Government of Botswana for having given us the
opportunity to be part of the SADC Election Observer Mission
otherwise known as SEOM.

Due to time constraints what we are going to present here today is a
brief summary of our report to the Botswana Government concerning
our observations, findings, and conclusions as we saw the situation
on the ground.

The main objective of our mission was to ensure that the Zimbabwe
Presidential run-off elections were held in accordance with the SADC
Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections. These
principles constitute an essential tool for determining the
validity, integrity and credibility of elections. The expectation
was that at the end we should be able to make a determination as to
whether or not the elections were free and fair. Briefly stated
these principles are as follows:

? Full participation of the citizens and political process
? Freedom of association
? Political tolerance
? Equal opportunity for all political parties to access the state
media
? Equal opportunity to exercise the right to vote and be voted for
? Independence of the judiciary and the impartiality of the
electoral institutions, just to mention but a few

The team which represented Botswana was made up of 50 persons drawn
from the three political parties represented in the National
Assembly, Civic Bodies, Civil Servants and Academics.

I believe ladies and gentlemen as you can see the team is well
represented in terms of gender balance, age and background. All in
all, the SADC Observer Mission had 413 observers from 12 of the 14
SADC member states. You will note that the number was quite large
compared to the number sent in the March 29 elections. The
Government of Botswana also availed 8 vehicles to be used by the
Mission. The increase in the number was to allow for a better
coverage of the election process taking into account the nature of
these elections. You will note with the benefit of hindsight ladies
and gentlemen, that this approach by Government has benefited both
the Mission and SADC as well as all those concerned about the
situation in Zimbabwe. Because of the numbers, we were able to cover
all the 10 provinces of Zimbabwe and this gave us the opportunity
to observe first hand what transpired during the run-up to the
elections.

OBSERVATIONS AND FINDINGS

Coming to the observations and findings I will start with the
campaign process.

1. CAMPAIGN PROCESS

In terms of the SADC principles, contesting parties are entitled to
equitable access to the state controlled media. We however observed
that the state media prominently featured ZANU-PF political
advertisements and messages to the exclusion of MDC-T. In the few
instances where reference was made to the MDC-T in the state media,
the messages were ZANU-PF sponsored and intended to disparage,
de-campaign and discredit the MDC-T. A case in point was a TV
advertisement depicting Morgan Tsvangirai's head alongside those of
some three known heads of state from the
Western world and is entitled The Loser's Club. On inquiry by the
observers as to why MDC-T was not covered, the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission responded by saying ZBH which controls the state media
declined to flight MDC advertisements on the basis that they were
uncomfortable with the language used.

I will now move on to the observations we made under the right to
vote and be voted for. Voting in Zimbabwe is in two ways, there is
postal voting which is conducted some days prior to the actual
voting day and the voting that takes place on polling day. Postal
voting is intended for members of the disciplined forces, foreign
missions and any other applicants whose nature of duty may take them
away from their wards on polling day. Under postal voting ZEC informed
the observers that in the March 29 elections 8000 people had applied
for postal voting, but that in the Presidential run-off elections this
number had increased to 64,000. The Observer Teams were however, not
able to observe the postal voting process because information about
it was not forthcoming from ZEC. Even where the Observer Teams got
information about postal voting taking place they were denied access
to the polling stations by the Commanders at the Police Stations
where most of this postal voting was taking place. When the Observer
Teams enquired about this with ZEC we were informed that it was
within the discretion of the Commanding officers to either grant or
refuse such authority. Worth noting however, was that the Observer
Teams received reports that postal voting took place in the
presence, and under the directions of Commanding Officers who
instructed their juniors to vote for the ZANU-PF candidate or risk
losing their jobs.

2. HOLDING OF RALLIES

The Team observed that the holding of rallies was a preserve of the
ruling ZANU-PF, whilst the MDC-T political rallies were
systematically disrupted by the ZANU-PF militia and youth. For
instance, on Sunday 22nd June 2008, the Team witnessed first hand
how a planned "star" rally organized by Mr. Morgan Tsvangirai was
prevented from taking place by a group of youth wearing ZANU-PF
regalia armed with sticks, stones and sjamboks. They chased and
indiscriminately beat all the people in the vicinity of the venue
where the rally was taking place. All this was done in full view of
SADC observers including some members present here. Riot police
passively witnessed these attacks making no attempts whatsoever to
intervene. After completing their task these youth retreated to the
ZANU-PF headquarters where they were treated to food.

Other incidents of politically motivated violence by the Team
included the following:

People believed to be associated with the MDC-T party were
subjected to severe beatings, harassment, torture, killings and
general threats of violence. The Police also appeared not to be
enforcing law and order, and the ZANU-PF youth and militia mounted
illegal road blocks, forcing people to attend ZANU-PF rallies and
had bases where they tortured perceived opponents under the guise of
re-educating them. In contrast ZANU-PF supporters received the full
protection of the Police as their rallies were never disrupted nor
did they report any incidents of harassment to the Observer Teams.

3. LACK OF RESPECT FOR THE ELECTORAL PROCESS

During the campaigns, the observer mission noted with concern the
uncompromising positions adopted by the contesting political
parties/candidates to accept the outcome of the electoral process.
The MDC-T Presidential candidate Mr. Tsvangirai, on the one hand
made it clear that he will not accept a win by ZANU-PF Presidential
candidate, Mr. Mugabe, citing politically motivated violence among
other things. On the other hand, ZANU-PF President Mr. Mugabe made
it clear at most political rallies and meetings he addressed that he
would not accept the outcome of the election if the MDC-T
presidential candidate won. His reasons were also supported by the
leadership of the party, the Military and Police Commanders.

4. POLITICALLY MOTIVATED VIOLENCE

The team observed high level of intimidation and politically
motivated violence that escalated with the approach to the run-off
elections leading to injuries to persons, internal and external
displacements of people, abductions, loss of property, loss of
lives, theft and looting. In short, the mayhem observed by the team
had the effect of depriving the people of Zimbabwe of the
opportunity to fully participate in the electoral process.

5. POLLING DAY VOTING

Generally speaking there was an apparently calm atmosphere on voting
day. But beneath this calmness was a noticeable voter intimidation
where voters were required to record the Serial Number on their
ballot papers and later submit that information to functionaries of
the ruling ZANU-PF. One actually came and asked where the serial
number is. This was intended to induce some voters into believing
that the information pertaining to how they voted would be
accessible and used against them.

In some rural polling stations, Chiefs/Headmen were used to record
the names of their subjects who were then required, against their
will, to go and queue behind their chief/ headman on voting day and
vote in a pre-determined sequence. In this way voters were made to
believe that their voting patterns were capable of bein verified as
to whether they indeed voted for ZANU-PF. We noticed a high number of
those who sai they could not read and write and in such cases tey
were "assisted" by the Presiding Officers in he presence of two
other Plling Officers and a Police officer.

6. WITHDRAWAL OF MR. MORGAN TSVANGIRAI FROM THE
RACE

It is now common knowledge that on 22 June 2008 Mr. Tsvangirai
announced his withdrawal from the Presidential race citing among
other things the prevalence and escalating politically motivated
violence. It is also common knowledge that ZEC did not accept his
withdrawal from the elections arguing that it was not in accordance
with the Zimbabwe electoral laws and regulations. The bottom line,
however, is that for all intents and purposes the election
effectively became a one-horse race, pitting Mr. Robert Mugabe
against a nonparticipating Mr. Morgan Tsvangirai. It is worth
noting, however, that even after Mr. Tsvangirai's withdrawal from
the race the level of
violence did not go down. Voter harassment and intimidation,
beatings and displacements continued unabated.

7. HARASSMENT OF OBSERVERS

The Team noted that some Observers were subjected to
harassment. On different occasions, some members of the Team were
chased away from rallies addressed by ZANU-PF and
prevented from carrying out their observer duties. In some
instances, Observers were threatened with violence and instructed to
leave such rallies. The Team was in particular singled out for
harassment on account of perceptions that Botswana was
anti-ZANU-PF.

CONCLUSION

The level of intimidation and political violence that escalated with
the approach of the June 27 Presidential run-off elections has been
clearly catalogued. There were many victims of violence in the form
of injuries, displacements, abductions, loss of property, and loss
of lives. The atrocities have been corroborated and constitute the
necessary evidence to conclude that the credibility and integrity of
the election process was compromised.

Notwithstanding the apparent orderly conduct that prevailed on
voting day, the entire election process was marred by a wave of
violence. The Team therefore concludes that the Presidential run-off
election was not free and fair and does not represent the will of
the people of Zimbabwe.

End Verbatim Botswana Observer Team Text.

DROUIN

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