HARARE — The Southern African Development Community (Sadc) elections observer mission on Monday released its final report on Zimbabwe’s national elections held on July 31 in which it endorsed the poll as "free, peaceful and generally credible".
The region has been at pains to explain its endorsement of the elections, which have been roundly condemned by western governments and the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) as a farce.
It is unlikely that the European Union (EU) and its allies will accept the final election report, even though it had outsourced its observation of the elections to Sadc. The EU, together with many western governments, was barred from sending observer missions to the Zimbabwean polls.
Tanzanian Foreign Minister Bernard Membe, head of the Sadc election observer mission, said at a press briefing in Harare on Monday that despite the shortcomings, the elections were free and had expressed the will of the people. "The elections that took place on 31 July 2013 were free — free in the sense that our observers noted that the candidates were free to campaign, free to associate, free to express their views and the voters were free to cast their votes."
Mr Mugabe won 61% of votes against Mr Tsvangirai’s 33%.
Trevor Maisiri, a senior analyst from the International Crisis Group in Johannesburg, said the endorsement of the election results had sounded the death knell for the MDC-T’s hopes of seeking redress from Sadc.
"The statement of the final report is not materially different from the contents of the preliminary report," Mr Maisiri said.
"It endorses the outcome, which is the most important part of any election observation and monitoring report — endorsement or nonendorsement.
"The report also endorses the elections as having been peaceful and generally credible. The component of fairness is, however, withheld.
"The final report doesn’t seem to dwell on other irregularities around assisted voters and voters who were turned away."
Meanwhile, Mr Mugabe is expected this week to announce a new cabinet, amid growing speculation over the choices of ministers he would make. Ruling party insiders said he would keep to the Zanu (PF) top brass and not offer any cabinet positions to the MDC-T.
MDC-T spokesman Douglas Mwonzora said the leadership of the official opposition had resolved not to take any positions in Mr Mugabe’s cabinet.