SADC seeks to avert divisions

…As Troika concedes some situations ‘unpredictable’

Political Writer

Fault lines and vulnerabilities of the Sadc bloc have been exposed following disputes in how it handled the Zimbabwe elections, and the recent meeting on the Organ on Defence and Security sought to avert future controversies that could tear the region apart.

The Sadc Troika on Defence and Security, chaired by Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema, came to face with the dangers facing the body if election observer missions, which fall under the ambit of the troika, encounter resistance or questions about their authority and conduct.

The recent case in which Zimbabwe pushed back strongly against the Sadc Electoral Observer Missions and singled out the head of mission, Zambian Nevers Mumba for criticism for apparent biases, has led to the troika exploring ways to avoid conflicts that could foment a schism in the regional body.

In particular, during the Sadc Troika meeting convened by Zambia in the midweek, it was resolved that “relevant procedures and rules are followed” and that there is consensus among members of observer missions.

Under the Sadc framework the troika system, gives authority to a group of members to take quick decisions on behalf of SADC that would ordinarily be taken at policy meetings scheduled at regular intervals, as well as the power to provide policy direction to SADC institutions in between regular SADC Summits.

The SADC Organ on Politics Defence and Security is also managed on a Troika basis and is responsible for promoting peace and security in the Sadc region. It is mandated to steer and provide member states with direction regarding matters that threaten peace, security and stability in the Region.

Among its functions is the conduct of elections in which the chair assigns head of election observer missions in line with Sadc principles and guidelines governing democratic elections.

Zambia is currently the chair of the organ and Hichilema was left scampering to cover for his envoy and ways to avoid dividing the region following his Mumba’s report which uncharacteristically chastisised Zimbabwe, and has been used as a cat’s paw by Western countries that have had issues with Zimbabwe in the past two decades.

In a communique following the troika meeting chaired by Hakainde extraordinary meeting of the ministerial committee of the Organ (EO-MCO Troika) said it “noted with concern, the personal attacks and threats on the media that have been directed at the SEOM Head of Mission Nevers Mumba and the Chairperson of the Organ, His Excellency Mr. Hakainde Hichelima since the Zimbabwe SEOM released its Preliminary Statement on 25th August 2023”.

The attacks were made by individuals in both the ruling ZANU PF political party and some in high level positions in the Government of Zimbabwe. The narrative in these attacks have been that the SEOM Preliminary Statement on the Zimbabwean elections was personally authored by Dr. Nevers Mumba.
“The EO-MCO Troika further: (i) noted that such attacks undermine the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections and might have a negative bearing on the SEOMs that are to be deployed in the future elections, especially with another election coming on the 29 September in the Kingdom of Eswatini; and (ii) reiterated that SEOMs are in line with the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, and that reports are produced by a collective of the Member States observers, led by the Organ Troika and supported by the Secretariat.
“The EO-MCO Troika noted that there is a risk that if unchecked, further attacks on the leadership of the Organ and of the SEOM have the potential to damage the credibility of SADC as an institution,” it said.

To insulate the body from attacks the troika recommended efforts at aimed at “protecting the credibility and leadership of the SADC structures such as the SEOM”.

“Given that some circumstances are not predictable, and that there will always some individuals who will not agree with the SEOM, all reports and statements should be crafted in a manner that ensures relevant procedures and rules are followed to protect the SADC institutions from unwarranted attacks;” it said, among other recommendations.

Sadc member states such as South Africa, eSwatini and Madagascar will conduct elections soon, and there are worries about credibility of observer missions.

In the past week, there were some reports claiming eSwatini was not cooperating with a Sadc advance party.

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