South Africa’s International Relations and Cooperation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu says the recent deadly bomb attack in Zimbabwe is reflective of the serious challenges the SADC region faces.
“We have condemned the bomb blast in Bulawayo as it is vital that the political and security situation in Zimbabwe remains stable in the run-up to the general elections to be held on 30 July 2018. There is no place for violence in any of the countries preparing for elections,” Sisulu said on Wednesday at her monthly media engagement.
On 23 June, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa survived a blast during an election campaigning rally, which left two people dead and many others injured.
The Zimbabwean authorities said the explosion in the southern city of Bulawayo was an assassination attempt on President Mnangagwa.
Zimbabwe is preparing for harmonised general elections set for the end of this month. It is estimated that close to six million Zimbabwean voters have registered to vote.
And despite the bomb blast, there have been no reports of inter-party violence so far, with political parties holding campaign rallies and meetings peacefully.
Minister Sisulu said President Mnangagwa has also committed that the country will uphold the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections. Adopted in 2004 and revised in 2014, the guidelines are an important initiative that commits regional governments to credible, democratic and peaceful elections.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, as chair of SADC, has said Zimbabwe is ready for elections and SADC will provide all necessary support.
“Zimbabwe has assured us that they have the necessary resources to conduct a peaceful, free and fair elections,” Sisulu said.
South Africa also takes comfort that Zimbabwe has extended invitations to over 40 countries to be observers at the upcoming elections.
These include invitations to member states of SADC countries, the European Union and the United States, a milestone especially since Zimbabwe has not invited international observers in over 10 years.
In turning to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sisulu said they are monitoring the situation there.
The DRC is scheduled to go to the polls for general elections on 23 December.
Initially marked for 31 December 2017, the DRC elections were rescheduled after the opposition demanded the departure of Joseph Kabila, whose presidential mandate expired in 2016.
Constitutionally, Kabila is barred from running for another presidential term. However, the former President has said he would comply with the electoral calendar.
According to media reports, dozens were killed in recent demonstrations in the capital Kinshasa to stop Kabila from running for a third term.
The South African Government has over the years assisted the DRC to deal with persistent issues of security and instability. This has led to the South African government deploying its members from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to form part of the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and specifically of the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB).
Minister Sisulu said South Africa will continue to support peacebuilding and efforts to promote security and democracy in the DRC.
With regards to the SADC Troika meeting, Sisulu reported that they have confirmed the state of readiness and support for all countries going into elections.
The Minister, who returned from the 31st Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union Heads of State and Government in Nouakchott, Mauritania, also shared some of the highlights from the summit. This includes the developments towards the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which saw President Ramaphosa signing the agreement.
The agreement is the initiative between three regional economic communities — Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, East African Community and Southern African Development Community — to liberalise services. It aims to tackle so-called “non-tariff barriers”, which hamper trade between African countries, such as long delays at the border.
The AfCFTA is aimed at deepening African economic integration by promoting agricultural development, food security, industrialisation and structural economic transformation through a single-air continental transport market with free movement of persons, capital, goods and services.
The agreement will now be tabled before South African Parliament for ratification.
On the international front, South Africa is serving as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for the period 2019 to 2020.
This is South Africa’s third term on the UNSC, having served in 2007-2008 and 2011-2012.
Minister Sisulu conveyed gratitude to the member states of the United Nations General Assembly, particularly the African Union, who entrusted Pretoria with serving the world at the UNSC.
She said South Africa’s tenure in the hot seat will be dedicated to the legacy of former President Nelson Mandela and his commitment to peace.
“We will be responsible members of the UNSC. That is why we lobbied so hard for the Non-Permanent Seat. We also want to ensure that we uphold the legacy of the late Nelson Mandela.”
She committed that Pretoria will do everything in its power to live up to the promises made leading up to the UNSC elections, such as the strengthening of cooperation between the United Nations and regional and sub-regional organisations, specifically between the United Nations and the African Union, as well as focusing on conflict resolution and peace-building through inclusive dialogue.