“The South African government did not pluck its views about the outcome of these elections out of thin air,” Mbeki said in a letter published in the Mail & Guardian on Friday.
“South Africa sent two fully fledged missions to observe the 2002 Zimbabwe presidential elections. One of these was a multiparty South African Parliamentary Observer Mission (SAPOM), constituted and deployed by Parliament without any intervention by the South African government.”
The other was the South African Observer Mission (SAOM), the larger of the two sent by the SA government and consisted of 50 members of civil society. It was led by ambassador Sam Motsuenyane.
The letter follows the public release of the Khampepe report. The report by two South African High Court judges found the elections not free or fair.
“These [Zimbabwe] elections [of 2002], in our view, cannot be considered to be free and fair,” then high court judges Dikgang Moseneke and Sisi Khampepe said in the report.
In his letter, Mbeki indicated that the two-member judicial observer mission had a very limited mandate and only focused on the matters of the “legal framework” relevant to the elections.
They were to report their findings to the president of South Africa.
They were also required to asses whether “the Zimbabwean legal framework can ensure credible or substantially free and fair elections, and whether the elections have been conducted in substantial compliance with the legislative framework”, he said.
Mbeki added that the findings of the other two missions revealed the elections were free and credible and their findings were similar to those of other organisations that observed the elections.
“It was on the basis of SAPOM, the SAOM, and the other African observer reports that the South African government accepted that the outcome of the elections represented the will of the people of Zimbabwe,” he said.