Zimbabwe: Poor regional president turnout for Mnangagwa’s inauguration

By Veneranda Langa

Posted on September 5, 2023 08:00

 © Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa at his inauguration in Harare, Zimbabwe,  4 September 2023. (Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo)
Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa at his inauguration in Harare, Zimbabwe, 4 September 2023. (Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo)

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa was inaugurated on Monday for a second presidential term as 13 SADC presidents skipped the event.

Only three presidents out of the 16 Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states attended Mnangagwa’s inauguration in Harare. Other world leaders who accepted Mnangagwa’s invitation sent envoys.  Analysts say it is a sign that they do not want to be associated with the election.

A number of election observer missions castigated the government for failure to meet regional and international standards of credible elections.

Mnangagwa was declared the winner of the 23 August elections by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) in an announcement that took only six minutes on 26 August.

Despite the non-violent nature of the elections, different election observer mission reports cited massive voter intimidation, deliberate delays in the opening of urban polling stations, which are opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) strongholds, arrests of local observers and several other irregularities.

CCC leader Nelson Chamisa said the elections were rigged and called for fresh polls. His claim has been corroborated by election observer mission reports, including SADC, which produced a preliminary report stating that Zimbabwe’s elections “fell short of the requirements of the constitution, the Electoral Act, and the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections (2021)”.

Snubbed inauguration

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, his Mozambique counterpart Filipe Nyusi and Democratic Republic of Congo’s Felix Tshisekedi were the only heads of state who attended the ceremony. Presidents of SADC states such as Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Seychelles, and Tanzania only sent emissaries to Harare.

Zambian leader Hakainde Hichilema, who is the chairperson of the SADC Troika responsible for promoting peace and security in the region, also sent a representative.

China was represented by Zhou Qiang, the vice chairman of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Conference, and Belarus by its deputy Prime Minister Petr Parkhomchyk.

Former President of Mozambique Joaquim Chissano who has led efforts to assist Zimbabwe to engage Western creditors to clear its $8.3bn bilateral and multilateral debt also attended the ceremony. Edgar Lungu, former Zambian president was also present.

Of interest was the presence of the former first lady, Grace Mugabe, whose late husband, former President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, was removed in a military coup by Mnangagwa in 2017. Former Zimbabwe Vice Presidents Joice Mujuru and Phelekezela Mphoko were also in attendance.

Chamisa was invited but skipped the inauguration. In a post on X, Chamisa insisted that the election was irregular.

According to CCC organising champion Amos Chibaya, Zimbabweans are unhappy with the outcome of the election.

The poll agency said Mnangagwa garnered 2,350,711 votes (52.6%) against Chamisa’s 1,967,343 votes (44%).

“Mnangagwa was inaugurated as a ZANU-PF president and not the President of Zimbabwe. The snub by most of the SADC presidents shows they are rejecting this sham election,” Chibaya told The Africa Report.

Business as usual

While thousands of ZANU-PF supporters attended Mnangagwa’s inauguration at the National Sports Stadium, it was business as usual for the rest of Harare residents.

Political analyst Vivid Gwede says the failure of SADC countries to be represented at the highest level at Mnangagwa’s inauguration points to a lack of endorsement of his electoral victory.

“The CCC’s decision not to go to court to challenge Mnangagwa’s win has also dealt another blow to Mnangagwa because it would have been advantageous to his legitimacy if the courts endorsed his election,” Gwede tells The Africa Report.

“In addition to exposing ZEC, the CCC has also exposed the judiciary for its perceived impartiality,” he adds.

On his part, political analyst Wellington Gadzikwa added: “We know that in SADC presidents congratulate each other after elections and they attend inauguration ceremonies for fellow leaders. But they accepted Mnangagwa’s invitations by sending proxies, which is not good enough.”

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