Innocent Gore and Sinikiwe Marodza
The SADC and African Union observer missions to the just-ended South African elections have described them as inclusive, credible, transparent and peaceful.
This came as several SADC leaders congratulated President Cyril Ramaphosa and the African National Congress (ANC) for its victory in the May 8, 2019 national and provincial elections, and urged South Africans to continue working together towards developing their nation.
Ramaphosa and the ANC party won the election with 57.5 % votes and gained 230 and seats in parliament. The ANC win assured the party a sixth straight term since the end of the apartheid 25 years ago.
The SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) said the polls were conducted in an orderly and professional manner and within the requirements of the legal framework of the country.
The elections were also held in accordance with the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections of 2015, SEOM head, Joseph Malanji, said when he released the mission’s preliminary statement this week.
Malanji, who is the Zambian Minister of Foreign Affairs, commended the government, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and the people of South Africa “for conducting themselves in an exemplary manner during the election period”.
He also commended the public and private media for providing equitable coverage to all political parties during the election process.
Malanji said the mission’s preliminary statement observed a number of good practices worth sustaining, which include the fact that the political and security environment before, during, and immediately after polling day was generally peaceful and the efficient management of the elections by the IEC, despite a few challenges.
In the preliminary statement, SEOM makes a number of recommendations for the improvement of the electoral process in South Africa, which include the need to urgently assess the possible causes of voter apathy among young South Africans, with a view to designing and implementing voter and civic education programmes to address it.
SEOM recommended the introduction of modalities to increase the representation of women as candidates in political parties and in elected offices; and for the government to consider amending the Municipal Elections Act to ensure that municipal by-elections do not take place during the national and provincial elections. Malanji also recommended the operationalisation of the law on political parties funding which, among others, will regulate private funding of political parties.
The SEOM to the 2019 South Africa national and provincial elections was composed of observers from 10 SADC member states namely Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. A total of 50 observers were deployed who covered nine provinces of South Africa.
The SEOM's final report will be completed and issued within 30 days after the close of the poll in accordance with the provisions of the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections (2015).
Head of the AU Election Observer Mission and former Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete said
the initial conclusions of the mission were that the elections were peaceful, transparent, inclusive and credible.
“The people of South Africa were given the opportunity to elect leaders of their choice. The 2019 elections satisfied the African Union and international standards for democratic elections,” he said in the AUEOM’s preliminary report released this week.
“The AUEOM highly commends the various stakeholders for their invaluable contribution to achieving this outcome. In this regard, it would like to recognise specifically the government and people of South Africa, the Independent Electoral Commission, political parties, security agencies, civil society, the media and others.”
Kikwete said the final report of the AUEOM will be released approximately two months after the elections and will contain a detailed assessment of the electoral process and recommendations.
“The mission notes that South African democracy is young compared to other countries in Africa. However, it is among the advanced democracies on the continent,” he said.
In his congratulatory message, SADC Chairperson and Namibian President Dr Hage Geingob said that the victory was a guarantee for democracy for the people of South Africa,
“I congratulate our sister movement, the African National Congress under President Cyril Ramaphosa, for the decisive electoral victory. The Swapo Party of Namibia and the ANC are bound by a history of struggle and sacrifice for the benefit of our people.
“We look forward to years of friendship and cooperation as we drive our countries towards shared prosperity. Amandla Awethu!” President Geingob said.
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa took to Twitter to congratulate President Ramaphosa just a few minutes after the election results were announced.
“Congratulations Cyril Ramaphosa on your election victory. We wish you success as you build a strong and prosperous South Africa, and look forward to working closely together as we further strengthen the relationship between our two nations,” said President Mnangagwa.
Botswana Mokgwetsi Masisi also took to Twitter to congratulate the ANC and President Ramaphosa and assured him of Botswana’s hand as the two countries continue to foster relations between them while working towards building their nations.
“Congratulations, Your Excellency, on your appointment as the new President of the Republic of South Africa. We look forward to a continued fruitful and progressive relationship between our two countries. I wish you all the best,” President Masisi said.
Other SADC and worldwide leaders also congratulated President Ramaphosa.
The year 2019 seems to be a year for elections in the SADC region, with polls set for Malawi in two weeks’ time, Botswana and Mozambique in October; Namibia in November, and Mauritius in December.