Although 10m ecu (£7.5m) was spent on sending 325 monitors to South Africa as well as 112 police observers, no copy of the 134-page report was given to the South African government. An official closely associated with it said publication was prevented after it was decided not to rake over the flawed details of an election that produced the result everyone wanted.
How that result was obtained after the announcement of results was halted on 3 May has always been a closely guarded secret. The European Union report appears to confirm that the results in some areas, including the highly volatile region of KwaZulu Natal, were simply fixed among the parties to produce the generally expected result in order to ensure that Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party secured enough votes for a place in the government of national unity.
The report, a copy of which has been obtained by the Independent, stresses that no international observer was present in the central results unit during the whole of the counting period or during the meetings between party leaders to discuss disputed ballots.
The report says that, according to officials of the Independent Electoral Commission, the party representatives negotiated disputed ballots. It concludes that since the number of spoiled votes was extremely low in relation to the chaos which surrounded several aspects of the election, "an agreement on disputed votes must have been concluded".
No detailed breakdown of results has ever been made available. European officials said yesterday that the report was not intended for publication and had been used in seminars for planning other election monitoring exercises. That was not the expectation when it was written, however, and the report itself stresses the need for transparency in the election process and says that the monitoring exercise was supposed to provide both international and domestic credibility for the election.
Ivo Dubois, the former director of the Sub-Saharan Africa section of the Department of Foreign Political Affairs in Brussels, said: "The reason why the report had not been published I am not able to tell you. I am going to take it up."
Stephan Stenberg-Jensen, his successor, said it was technically an internal report from the head of the monitoring unit, Jacob de Ruiter, to Hans van den Broek, then EU Commissioner for External Affairs.
The monitors made several recommendations for future voting in South Africa which might now be useful as the country gears up for local elections.
In contrast to the press release issued by the EU monitors at the time which referred to "administrative problems", the unpublished report says that the voting operation and the counting process suffered from "major problems" and adds that the resulting chaos was "an invitation to cheat or at least it leads to the assumption that cheating might have taken place".