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Liar, liar, pants on fire

Lifestyle Section - Opinion

  Having regard to all the circumstances, and in particular the cumulative substantial departures from international standards of free and fair elections, found in Zimbabwe during the pre-election period, the elections, in our view, cannot be considered to be free and fair. This is the concluding paragraph of the judicial report into the 2002 Zimbabwe Presidential Election, commissioned by then president Thabo Mbeki, and completed by High Court Justices Sisi Khampepe and Dikgang Moseneke.

The report was handed to President Thabo Mbeki, and although its contents have been widely speculated about, it wasn’t until the Mail & Guardian finally succeeded in wresting it from the titanium-clawed grip of the office of the President on Friday November 14, that the speculation was unequivocally confirmed.

Yes, the vote was slanted in favour of Zanu-PF. And yes, the outburst of violence prior to the poll was intended to intimidate the opposition. And neither did the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and its leader Morgan Tsvangirai, get an equitable amount of airtime from the state-owned public broadcasters.

And quite naturally, Robert Mugabe did tinker with electoral laws and the voter’s roll in a bid to weaken, or even exclude unfriendly constituencies. Which is to say, pretty much everything that everybody speculated would be in the report, was in the report, so what’s the big deal? Well, nothing and everything.

Nothing in that its contents come as no surprise. Everything in that the report directly contradicts the 50-person strong official South African Ob-server Mission’s (SAOM) statement on the conduct of the election.

“[It] is the view of the SAOM that the outcome of the 2002 Zimbabwe presidential elections should be considered legitimate,” the observer mission said in a press conference after the vote.

And entirely uncoincidentally, the South African government under Thabo Mbeki, Kgalema Motlanthe and most recently Jacob Zuma, has steadfastly ascribed to that view, despite the three presidents in question, knowing full well that the exact opposite was true.

How does it feel to discover that for the last 12 years, a line of bullshit has been pedalled, and that you, the South African taxpayer has footed the substantial legal bill of the ANC government as it perpetuated the lie by dragging the matter through every level of the judicial system – twice at high court level – until it ran out of appeals and was eventually forced to release the report?

How does it feel to find out, that you’ve been lied to by the very people who it is vital that we should be able to trust at all costs, three successive commanders-in-chief?

And how can we ever trust anything that they say, ever again? And how on earth can world leaders anywhere, ever trust anything they say ever again?

Thabo Mbeki, hailed as a savvy, objective diplomat who has earned widely held respect, is reduced to a dishonest, partial manipulator of the truth.

How many future diplomatic initiatives will he be asked to undertake in trouble spots in Africa by the African Union?

Kgalema Motlanthe, al-though not a significant player in international diplomacy, has always been viewed as one of the most honest and trustworthy people in the top leadership of the ANC.

He also helped to perpetuate the lie while he was seat-warmer president. And he might have been our president.

And Jacob Zuma, who has struggled to make his mark on the international diplomacy stage, so that he can come out of the shadow of his predecessor, in which he has walked for years, has probably made the greatest effort to keep the report supressed. And he is our president.

And to what end, we must ask? Why are they honouring those in their dishonesty, who lent succour to the ANC during the struggle years?

To sell a clearly flawed election to a sceptical electorate, out of a misguided sense of loyalty perhaps? I doubt we’ll ever know.

What does this do to the already tarnished image of the once proud, honourable and oldest liberation movement on the African continent? It drives yet another nail into the coffin lid of the ANC.

The collective embarrassment of Messrs Mbeki, Mothlante and Zuma aside, which they will no doubt to varying degrees shrug off, it is the embarrassment that we must confront as a nation, which feels like an assegai through the heart.

Written by Norman McFarlane You are reading Liar, liar, pants on fire articles

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