Felix Tshisekedi, leader of the Congolese main opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), and a presidential candidate, casts his ballot at a polling station in Kinshasa. Picture: Reuters/Olivia Acland

Johannesburg - South Africa has thrown its support behind the SADC call for a recount of the votes cast in the DRC elections, and the call for political leaders to consider a government of national unity as an option to ensure an all-inclusive government. “It is important that the people of the DRC must decide what is best for them, as the final decision lies with them, we cannot prescribe to them,” the Department of International Relations has said.

Minister for International Relations Lindiwe Sisulu addressed the media in Johannesburg on Sunday on the electoral outcome in both the DRC and Madagascar. Sisulu was clear that South Africa does not want to pre-empt developments in the DRC. She acknowledged that opposition presidential candidate Martin Fayulu is contesting the election results as he does not believe they are a true reflection and he is going through the courts. “We applaud that,” Sisulu said.

Fayulu has filed an appeal with the Constitutional Court to contest the results of the December 30th poll. Fayulu claims that he won by a landslide and the official winner, Felix Tshisekedi struck a deal with Kabila to be declared the victor. Alain Shekomba, a popular presidential candidate particularly with the youth of the DRC, who withdrew from the electoral race two days before the poll claiming the vote was rigged, claims the deal between Kabila and Tshisekedi was struck long before the elections.

The poll in the DRC may have been dubbed the most problematic election in Africa, but the fact that the election process was generally peaceful and that those disputing the results have taken their complaints to the courts has been hailed by South Africa.

“Given the sheer size of the DRC, the fact that there were more than 600 political candidates, and 12 000 candidates for parliamentary elections, and despite the violence of the past, this is the first comprehensive election in the DRC since independence. CENI needs to be congratulated,” Sisulu said.

Sisulu has said that SADC’s final report on the DRC election will only be ready on February 2nd as the regional grouping is still observing developments in the DRC.

With increasing allegations from the opposition and civil society of electoral fraud, SADC finally issued a statement on Sunday calling for more decisive action to settle the confusion and distrust surrounding the poll.

“SADC has taken note of the strong doubts casts on the poll outcome by the Roman Catholic Church in the DRC which had deployed more than 40 000 monitors and other observers, and feels a recount would provide the necessary re-assurance to both winners and losers,” Zambian President Edgar Lungu in his capacity as chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security said.

The Catholic Church in the DRC has asked the UN Security Council to call on the country's election commission to publish data from the polling and counting stations.

Having spoken to the leaders of SADC as well as the proclaimed winner Felix Tshisekedi, Lungu said, “SADC draws the attention of the Congolese politicians to similar arrangements that were very successful in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Kenya where governments of national unity created the necessary stability for durable peace.” The concern now is to ensure that tensions do not escalate further in the DRC and there is no threat to peace and stability in the country.

Since South Africa took up its seat as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council at the beginning of the year, it has played an influential role in ensuring that the discussion on the DRC in the UN Security Council included a briefing from SADC as well as that of the Congolese churches. “Since the time that South Africa asked for a discussion in the UN Security Council on the DRC, those working in my office didn’t sleep,” Sisulu has said.

Sisulu outlined South Africa's long involvement in promoting peace and security as well as democracy in the DRC as far back as the Inter-Congolese Dialogue held in Sun City in 2002, which brought all the political stakeholders in the DRC together to find a political solution to the challenges facing the country. “It is in our interest to support them all the way,” she said.

* Shannon Ebrahim is the Group Foreign Editor.