Tensions have arisen in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) following Zimbabwe’s recent elections. A SADC member state reportedly tried to call an extraordinary summit to discuss Zimbabwe, but other countries saw this as an attempt by outside powers like the EU to meddle in Zimbabwe’s affairs.
The SADC election observer mission to Zimbabwe was led by former Zambian Vice President Dr. Nevers Mumba. However, his impartiality has now been called into question. Zimbabwe’s opposition CCC party says it was given Mumba’s preliminary report ahead of schedule. This would violate SADC’s rules requiring observer teams to remain neutral.
Mumba is also accused of aligning too closely with CCC candidate Nelson Chamisa during the election period. He accompanied Chamisa to vote and spoke at a CCC press conference. This raised concerns about his objectiveness.
Sources indicate the Zambian government in particular took a very active role in following the Zimbabwe election. They allegedly got regular updates from CCC and pushed other countries to hold an urgent SADC meeting on Zimbabwe. Zambian officials even prematurely claimed Chamisa had won, when the results later showed a victory for incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa.
This angered some SADC members, who felt Zambia was interfering rather than remaining impartial. To defuse tensions, former Tanzanian president Kikwete was proposed to visit Harare as a mediator. However, other regional leaders first wanted confirmation from Zimbabwe itself before taking any action.
While election outcomes are a domestic matter, Mumba and Zambia’s actions have opened them up to accusations of covertly supporting the opposition rather than observing neutrally as mandated by SADC. The organization will now have to determine how to respond to ensure credibility in its observation missions going forward.