It is worrying that President Cyril Ramaphosa could leap in and congratulate Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa on winning this week’s election in that country. It’s worrying because there are still some doubts about skullduggery in the poll itself or in the counting process.
Although Ramaphosa did urge the disgruntled opposition to take the legal route to challenge the results if they were not happy, it was apparent that the ANC, which he heads, has already decided to cheer on their erstwhile comrade in the liberation struggle.
Coming on the back of reports that the South African government had not responded to opposition leader Nelson Chamisa when he claimed his MDC Alliance was being illegally squeezed out of contention, the attitude of Ramaphosa shows bias towards Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF.
So, not much has really changed since the days of Thabo Mbeki, when the then SA president’s softly-softly diplomacy allowed the culture of stealing elections to embed itself in Zimbabwe.
And, as the former head of our own Independent Electoral Commission, retired judge Johann Kriegler, tells us today, it is that embedded undemocratic system – rather than any illegalities on polling day – which may have allowed Zanu-PF to, yet again, subvert the will of the people of Zimbabwe.
However, the MDC is not blameless either – and Chamisa was arrogant in predicting, even before a ballot had been cast, that he would win.
Mnangagwa has said all the right, reconciliatory, things in the wake of his victory, but these must not be empty words covering for a Zanu-PF which is just going to slide back into looting the country, as happened in the time of Robert Mugabe.
Mnangagwa has the chance to burnish his own questionable legacy by becoming the man who makes his country great again.
He needs to seize the moment. The world is watching…