The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) extraordinary Summit ended in Lusaka this morning with a call to the electoral authorities in Zimbabwe that the verification and release of the March 29 election results be expeditiously done in accordance with the law.
The Summit also urged all the parties in the electoral process in Zimbabwe to accept the results when they are announced.
In a communiqué issued after a 13- hour- closed door session chaired by President Mwanawasa and attended by seven other Heads of State and Government delegations from the 14-member regional grouping, the Summit said that the verification and counting of the votes must be done in the presence of the candidates or their agents who must all sign the authenticity of such verification and counting.
Reading the Communique in the early hours of this morning before an anxious horde of Journalists, SADC Executive Secretary Dr Tomaz Salomao said the regional body has also offered to send its election observer mission to Zimbabwe which will be present throughout the verification and counting of votes.
In the event of the verification and counting of votes makes it necessary for the parties to go for a second round of elections, the government of Zimbabwe has been urged to ensure that the runoff are held in a secure environment.
He also said the Summit appealed to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to ensure strict compliance with the rule of law and SADC principles and guidelines governing democratic elections.
Dr Salomao also disclosed that the Summit has also requested South African President Thabo Mbeki to continue his role as a mediator on Zimbabwe on outstanding issues.
SADC member States at the Summit, with the exception of Zimbabwe, held informal consultations with presidential candidates Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and Independent candidate Dr Simba Makoni.
Dr Salomao said both opposition leaders confirmed that the elections were held in a free, fair and peaceful environment.
However, the two candidates expressed concern on the delay in announcing the results as well as lack of their participation in the verification process of the presidential results currently being conducted by the ZEC.
Presidential election results in Zimbabwe have not been announced 15 days after the elections were held. MDC have since lodged an appeal in the High Court to compel ZEC to release the results.
And later answering questions from journalists, Zambia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Kabinga Pande who is also Chairperson of the SADC Council of Ministers said that according to the reports from both the government and opposition representatives at the Summit, the elections were conducted in a free and fair atmosphere.
Mr Pande said both parties told the Summit that there was no crisis in Zimbabwe but that their bone of contention was delayed announcement of the presidential election results.
He said the Summit was confident that the resolutions would help in finding a lasting solution to the current impasse in Zimbabwe.
And in a Press Briefing soon after the release of the Communique, MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti welcomed the efforts of the SADC in resolving the post election impasse in Zimbabwe.
Mr Biti said the regional leaders had sent a clear message to the Zimbabwean government on their concerns surrounding the delay in the announcement in the presidential results, the rule of law, violence and militarisation.
He welcomed the renewed mandate of Mr Mbeki’s mediatory role in Zimbabwe but urged the regional body to break the quiet diplomacy approach as this would not help the situation in that country.
Mr Biti said the South African leader should deal with the situation with more vigour during his extended mediatory mandate.
The MDC Secretary General said that the party welcomed the outcome of the Summit but felt that fundamental concerns such as violence, intimidation, and militarised situation were still outstanding and described the situation in Zimbabwe as tense.
The Summit was attended by eight Heads of State namely South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki, Edwardo Dos Santos of Angola, Mozambique’s Armando Guebuza, Malawi’s Mbingu Wa Mutharika and Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Others are Namibia’s Hifikepunye Pohamba, Ian Khama of Botswana and host President who is also SADC Chairman Levy Mwanawasa.
Other countries which were represented at either ministerial or ambassadorial level included Lesotho, Mauritius, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Madagascar.
The SADC extraordinary Summit was convened to identify ways and means of assisting Zimbabweans in finding a solution acceptable to them and all parties involved in the recent elections.
The SADC intervention was anchored on its pursuit of two objectives namely to promote common political values, systems and other shared values which are transmitted through institutions that are democratic, legitimate and effective.
The intervention was also premised on the need to consolidate, defend and maintain democracy, peace, security and stability.
Earlier, during the official opening, President Mwanawasa appealed to the ruling and opposition party leaders in Zimbabwe to embrace the virtue of humility in charting the future of their beloved country that they rightly reclaimed from the colonial masters after a long and bloody liberation war.
President said the extraordinary Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Summit is not intended to put Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on trial over the current political situation in that country.
Dr Mwanawasa who is also SADC Chairperson said SADC can not continue to standby and do nothing when one of its members was experiencing political and economic difficult.