|Phandu Skelemani-We need an Audit|
BOTSWANA on Monday said it will lobby southern African leaders for an audit of Zimbabwe's disputed elections, calling into question the fairness of President Robert Mugabe's victory.
Mugabe’s main rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, is challenging the result as a fraud.
In a statement, Foreign affairs minister Phandu Skelemani said Botswana was concerned that Wednesday's vote had not measured up to Southern African Development Community (SADC) guidelines.
He said although the election day itself had been "free of overt intimidation and violence", there was evidence that the electoral process was undermined by a number of irregularities.
"Various incidents and circumstances were revealed that call into question whether the entire electoral process, and thus its final result, can be recognised as having been fair, transparent and credible," Skelemani said in rare African criticism of the vote.
"There is no doubt that what has been revealed so far by our observers cannot be considered as an acceptable standard for free and fair elections in SADC.”
The statement contrasted sharply with the unqualified endorsement given by South Africa's president, Jacob Zuma. The leaders of Kenya, Namibia and Tanzania have also congratulated Mugabe on his victory.
Gaborone's assessment appeared to suggest differing views within the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) grouping. Observers from Botswana were part of a SADC team which monitored the last week’s presidential and parliamentary polls.
Western nations have voiced serious doubts about Zimbabwe's election - slammed as "fraudulent" by the opposition - after it extended 89-year-old Mugabe's 33 years in power.
SADC said it was "free and peaceful" but stopped short at saying it was fair.
A dossier of irregularities witnessed by Botswana's 80 member observer team will be shared with SADC, the African Union and the international community.
The 15-member regional SADC will then be lobbied to approve an independent audit of the vote during its heads of state meeting later this month in Malawi.
"We need an audit to enable us to pronounce as to whether the elections meet the SADC guidelines," Skelemani told journalists.
Botswana's observers had spotted various incidents prior to the elections though the voting day was "free and peaceful", he said.
President Ian Khama is one of the few African leaders to openly criticise Mugabe.
In 2008, Harare's diamond rich neighbour refused to accept the veteran leader's re-election in chaotic polls.