While the release of the Khampepe Report after years of a legal battle between the Presidency, initially the Mbeki administration, and the Mail & Guardian may be a victory for the values of openness and transparency it also serves as a warning that when government officials are not held to account our democratic rights can easily be subverted in the name of political expediency.
The year 2000 was a seminal moment in the politics of Zimbabwe as the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was confirmed the official opposition. The ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) getting only 51.7% of the votes in the 2000 elections demonstrated its drastic political decline when compared with its 93% win in 1996. ZANU-PF’s campaign was essentially centred on land redistribution and continuing to right the wrongs of Zimbabwe’s colonial past. The MDC ran on the ‘Time for Change’ ticket, promising a less corrupt, more open and transparent government.
The report that has become known as “the Khampepe Report” was commissioned by former President Thabo Mbeki who tasked former high court judges Dikgang Moseneke and Sisi Khampepe with leading the Judicial Observer Mission (JOM). The JOM was tasked with observing the 2002 Zimbabwean elections and reporting to the Presidency on their observations. We would later learn that this report informed the South African government that the 2002 Zimbabwean elections were not ‘free and fair’.
What the Khampepe Report revealed
The mandate of the JOM was to observe whether the legal framework under which the elections took place qualified them to be considered free and fair. According to the Khampepe Report ‘freeness’ relates to individuals, and the freedom of movement and assembly and freedom from fear of individuals, while ‘fairness’ relates to the election environment and includes the impartial treatment of electoral candidates, their equal access to public media and the impartial allotment of funds for campaigning. These conditions were used to gauge the ‘freeness’ and ‘fairness’ of the 2002 Zimbabwean elections.
The Khampepe Report found that prior to the elections, residents holding dual citizenship or not being citizens of Zimbabwe would not qualify for permanent residency and would subsequently be disenfranchised. This is estimated to have affected anything from 4000 up to 86000 people.
It was also decreed that a voter shall cease to be on the voters roll if they cannot provide proof of residence in the constituency in which they registered continuously for a period of 12 months. It was estimated that this would have affected 500 000 to 2 000 000 had it not been overturned.
Many people had been registered for voting after the official closing date of the voters roll and a subsequent decree was issued to order that these persons would be eligible to vote.
While monitors of the voting process in the 2002 elections were appointed from various sections of Zimbabwe’s citizenry an amendment to the law in 2002 meant that monitors of that election had to be members of the public service.
Only the Electoral Services Commission and persons authorised by them were allowed to provide voter education. The pre-election period was characterised by partisanship, intimidation and violence.
As President-cum-contender, Robert Mugabe had access to state resources such as helicopters and the state-owned media while the MDC relied on funding from its members and international donors. The report documents allegations that ZANU-PF established youth militias and in the ensuing violence 107 MDC supporters were killed. It was also alleged that these youth militia blocked entry into the rural areas, impeding the MDC’s ability to campaign in these areas. ZANU-PF claimed that their supporters in urban areas were being terrorised by the MDC, while this view was supported by the state owned media in Zimbabwe reports by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and independent newspapers in Zimbabwe placed the blame for violence in those areas squarely on the shoulders of ZANU-PF. Another allegation levelled against the MDC was that they were plotting to ‘eliminate’ President Mugabe. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was arrested and charged with treason, but was later released and acquitted of this charge.
A week before voting commenced, the Registrar General announced that the number of polling stations in urban areas would be reduced and those in rural areas would be increased in order to reduce the distances people have to walk to get to polling stations. This however was seen as by many as a strategic move, as most ZANU-PF supporters are found in the rural areas.
Despite the Khampepe Report informing the South African government that the 2002 Zimbabwean elections were not free and fair, Mbeki continued to endorse the Zimbabwean elections and support the view held by the South African Observer Mission (SAOM) that the elections were legitimate.
Read the Khampepe Report
Read the Khampepe Report judgment