Khampepe Report

Media freedom exposes SA cover-up of Zim election cheating

Mbeki cheated Zimbabweans

The release of the Khampepe Report after years of legal wrangling not only confirms former president Thabo Mbeki’s role in bringing Zimbabwe to the brink of disaster but has also inflicted serious damage to South Africa’s credibility.

After more than six years of deliberate stalling and delaying tactics by the South African Government (SAG), one of the most controversial legacies of the Mbeki administration came to a satisfactory conclusion on 14 November 2014, courtesy of media freedom.

After a long and drawn-out legal battle the Constitutional Court rejected the SAG’s objections and ruled in favour of the Mail & Guardian newspaper, ordering it to release the Khampepe Report.

So resolute was the SAG to keep the Khampepe Report secret that it sought a Constitutional Court ruling to reject an Appeal Court judgment that found the Khampepe Report should be made public.

The Constitutional Court dismissed the SAG’s appeal on the grounds that it “bears no prospects of success”.


In 2002 the then South African president Mbeki tasked judges Sisi Khampepe and Dikgang Moseneke (the latter later appointed Deputy Chief Justice) to monitor and report on that year’s Zimbabwean presidential election.

The election promised to be a fiercely contested affair with Morgan Tsvangirai of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) for the first time posing a real threat to President Robert Mugabe.

Ruling since independence in 1980, the Mugabe presidency was showing all the symptoms of an ailing government that has been in power for too long.

There were strong indications that the Zimbabwean people were longing and ready for change if allowed to vote freely and fairly.

In the parliamentary election of 2 000 the ruling ZANU-PF’s support dropped to 48, 6% from the 81, 4% received in the 1995 election.

Predictions that President Mugabe could suffer defeat at the hands of a popular Morgan Tsvangirai were taken seriously. With panic setting in, Mugabe set in motion a deceitful and brutal policy of vote rigging and voter intimidation.

The Khampepe Report

The contents of the Khampepe Report confirmed what the world already knew for 12 years – the 2002 presidential election was rigged big time and there was a massive cover-up involving the SAG.

The findings of the Khampepe Report, which corresponded largely with the conclusions of the Commonwealth Observer Mission, did not suit President Mbeki. For reasons not yet satisfactorily explained, he decided it would never be made public.

Mbeki’s dilemma was that the Khampepe Report contradicted the finding of the 50 person-strong South African Observer Mission (SAOM), which announced, “...that the outcome of the 2002 Zimbabwe presidential elections should be considered ‘legitimate’”.

Mbeki decided to discard the Khampepe Report.

In its editorial of 21 November 2014 the Mail & Guardian concludes: “The Khampepe report underscores Mbeki’s betrayal of our Constitution’s values. It shows that he condoned the theft of the election and lied to the people of Zimbabwe, to South Africans and to the wider world by actively promoting the idea that the poll was the legitimate expression of the will of Zimbabweans.

“Here was a leader who had fought and sacrificed for South Africa’s freedom, yet who connived in the subversion of democracy in a neighbouring state. He publicly denounced calls for regime change in Zimbabwe, but defended a fraudulent solution that kept Mugabe’s despotic government in power. And his successors, Kgalema Motlanthe and Jacob Zuma, were party to his cover-up...”

For as long as former president Mbeki remains silent or evasive on his motives for preventing the contents of the Khampepe Report to be published he will stand accused of being complicit to an indefensible cover–up.

Whatever the reason(s) for Mbeki and subsequently the Motlanthe and Zuma administrations to try and prevent the publication of the Khampepe Report it is inexcusable. Not only is it a travesty of justice, it is fraud of the highest order to ‘legitimise’ an election when there was undeniable proof that the people of Zimbabwe were denied the freedom to elect a government of their choice.

The official argument raised in the legal battle to keep the Khampepe Report secret, namely that the report’s release would raise diplomatic issues while President Mbeki only commissioned it for policy formulation does not wash.

Also, if Mbeki’s decision to shelve the Khampepe Report was influenced by his conviction that it could serve him well in his ‘quiet diplomacy approach’ with President Mugabe it failed spectacularly. As subsequent developments have shown, President Mugabe scoffed at the ‘quiet diplomacy approach’.

Since 2002, the Mugabe regime has brought Zimbabwe to the precipice with an economy that has nose-dived to unprecedented levels, with 85% of Zimbabweans now surviving on less than a dollar per day while millions have crossed into neighbouring countries, particularly South Africa.

With an ailing Mugabe now clearly losing his grip and the succession battle in full cry, Grace Mugabe’s destabilising role in conditions which can be likened to George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the scene is set for the further deterioration of an already overheated situation.

Another inconvenient truth

The Khampepe Report laid bare another inconvenient truth.

The credibility of the SAG as a trustworthy and impartial participant in international affairs is once again under suspicion. Gone is the moral high ground and the esteem the country experienced during the Mandela era.

The deplorable role the SAG played in concealing the underhand tactics of Mugabe to steal the 2002 presidential election, is not the only transgression of its kind.

There is strong evidence that President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) intervened in the 2011 presidential election to keep himself in office. The election result was discredited by most international observers but once again a South Africa-led SADC observer condoned the outcome.

Disclosures like these raise the question whether anyone should trust or recognise South African participation in future election monitoring missions.

This is a sombre indictment for a country that prides itself as a leader on the African continent and a serious player in the international arena.

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by Garth Cilliers

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