Tuesday April 1 2008
Rigging the result of Zimbabwe's presidential poll finally got under way
yesterday, after due deliberations of Robert Mugabe's kitchen cabinet. The
Joint Operations Command (JOC) consists of Mr Mugabe's closest military and
intelligence advisers. It was reportedly "in shock" after seeing the scale
of Mr Mugabe's defeat, according to diplomatic and Zimbabwean sources who
received first-hand accounts of the meeting on Sunday night. The JOC
discussed three options: to recognise the result and admit defeat; to annul
the election by declaring a military coup; or to fix the results. The first
was unthinkable and dismissed out of hand. Mr Mugabe favoured the military
coup option by declaring himself president, but was prevailed upon to use
the election commission to keep the opposition from power.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) now has a difficult task: to find a
set of figures which would give Mr Mugabe more than 50% of the vote,
avoiding a run-off. This is difficult, because the opposition Movement for
Democratic Reform (MDC) has photographed the declarations pinned to the
doors of more than 8,000 individual polling stations. But it is not
impossible. The results have to be official before the MDC can establish and
reveal where and how they were altered. It is a question of which player
shows his hand first. The commission will play for time. Slowing down the
count will make it harder for the opposition to keep up the momentum. The
ZEC has laid the groundwork for a close result by awarding roughly equal
shares to Zanu-PF and the MDC for the first 52 parliamentary seats. The
parliamentary results are no guide to the presidential race, but if more
votes come later from rural areas tilting the balance in favour of Mr
Mugabe, it could be made to look like a genuine result.
This constitutes business as usual for a man who has already stolen one
election in 2002. And the JOC makes two vital assumptions: that the MDC will
fail once again to mobilise the people, and that foreign states will sit on
their hands and look the other way. If, on the other hand, senior figures
inside Zanu-PF understand that nothing less than a political earthquake has
occurred, then the consequences of trying to fix the result are less
certain. The opposition's own table of results, collected from returns
posted at nearly two-thirds of polling stations, gives Mr Tsvangirai 60%,
double that of Mr Mugabe. If this is the true picture, then nothing can be
the same again. It means Mr Mugabe's image as the father of the nation will
be shattered in the eyes of his supporters. It means that large numbers of
Zanu-PF supporters in the rural villages and the military have deserted him.
It means that Zanu-PF can not go on as before with the "old man" in charge.
What happens in Zimbabwe hinges on two factors. The MDC is holding its
breath, keeping Mr Tsvangirai off the public stage but also keeping its
powder dry. If and when the moment comes to call for mass demonstrations,
the MDC must be sure it can get people out on to the streets. Forever
labelled passive, the long-suffering people of Zimbabwe have to take their
country's fate into their hands. This will require considerable bravery
because everyone knows how bodies like the JOC will react. If Zimbabweans
have already shown their faith in the democratic process by trying to vote
out a despotic regime, they have to stick to their cause in the coming
weeks, and not abandon it.
But the outcome also depends on Zimbabwe's neighbours, particularly South
Africa. Are they prepared to allow Mr Mugabe to carry on business as usual,
knowing that he has flouted the will of his people, and knowing that he is
dragging the region down with him? The coalition government formed in Kenya
after so much bloodshed was a triumph of African diplomacy. But the image of
the continent now faces an even greater test. It must not shirk it.
. Zimbabwe president persuaded not to declare victory
· Trickle of results raises fears of rigged election
Chris McGreal in Harare
Tuesday April 1 2008
A crisis meeting of Robert Mugabe's security cabinet decided to block the
opposition from taking power after what appears to have been a comprehensive
victory in Zimbabwe's elections but was divided between using a military
takeover to annul the vote and falsifying the results.
Diplomatic and Zimbabwean sources who heard first-hand accounts of the Joint
Operations Command meeting of senior military and intelligence officers and
top party officials on Sunday night said Mugabe favoured immediately
declaring himself president again but was persuaded to use the country's
electoral commission to keep the opposition from power.
The commission began releasing a trickle of results yesterday, more than 36
hours after the polls closed, but the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change said it believed the count was being manipulated.
Nonetheless, the first results, for 52 seats in the lower house of
parliament, cost Mugabe one of his closest allies with the defeat of the
justice minister, Patrick Chinamasa, whom the MDC has accused of abusing the
law to persecute the ruling Zanu-PF party's opponents. Other cabinet
ministers are also believed to have lost their seats.
However, the few parliamentary results offered no guide to the outcome of
the presidential race. Independent monitors collating the count from polling
booth returns say the MDC presidential candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, won
about 55% of the vote and Mugabe 38%. The MDC also gained control of both
houses of parliament, according to the monitors.
The MDC said the slow pace of releasing vote tallies - likely to take days
at the present rate - was further reason to suspect they were being tampered
Sources with knowledge of the JOC meeting said the Zanu-PF leadership was
"in shock" after it was informed of the scale of the victory of the MDC's
presidential candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai.
A senior diplomatic source who received accounts from two people privy to
the JOC meeting said it discussed shutting down the count and Mugabe
declaring himself re-elected or the army stepping in to declare martial law
on the pretext of defending the country from instability caused by the
opposition claiming victory.
"In the JOC meeting there were two options for Mugabe: to declare victory on
Sunday or declare martial law," said the diplomat. "They did not consider
conceding. We understand Mugabe nearly decided to declare victory. Cooler
heads prevailed. It was decided to use the [election commission] process of
drip, drip where you release results over a long period, giving the
opposition gains at first but as time wears on Zanu-PF pulls ahead."
Another source said that some JOC members favoured a less hardline approach
by reaching out to the opposition but were overruled.
If the government does attempt to fix the result it will not go
unchallenged. The election commission will have to substantially alter a
large number of polling booth returns in order to overturn Tsvangirai's
significant lead. But the MDC has photographed results declarations pinned
to the doors of more than 8,000 polling stations. If the numbers announced
by the election commission are different, the party says it will have
indisputable evidence of fraud.
"Unlike previous elections no one can privatise the result as it is posted
outside the stations," said the MDC's secretary general, Tendai Biti. "This
country stands on a precipice. We still express our great misgivings about
[the election commission's] failure to announce the results. It raises
tension among the people that is fertilising an atmosphere of suspicion."
The opposition is attempting to reach out to the military. A senior MDC
source said Tsvangirai has approached the former army chief, Solomon Mujuru,
to reassure the military that it has nothing to fear from a transition of
power and to ask what its concerns are so they can be addressed.
Mujuru is widely respected in the military but is treated with suspicion by
Mugabe and other Zanu-PF hardliners after being tied to the presidential
campaign of Simba Makoni, the Zanu-PF dissident who has done poorly in the
election. Mujuru has yet to respond to Tsvangirai.
International pressure on Mugabe to respect the result is growing. Britain
has little influence over Zimbabwe but the foreign secretary, David
Miliband, said he and Gordon Brown will be speaking to other African leaders
about the situation. They can be expected to urge South Africa's president,
Thabo Mbeki, in particular to pressure Mugabe to recognise defeat.
Robert Mugabe is still claiming election victory, although preliminary
results of the election show defeat
By Daniel Howden in Harare
Tuesday, 1 April 2008
Senior figures in Zimbabwe's opposition were in hiding last night as a
tremendous power struggle played out in the wake of weekend elections in
which President Robert Mugabe's government appeared to have been defeated.
Official results from the state-appointed electoral commission were issued
yesterday, with almost theatrical slowness, as factions within the ruling
party and the security apparatus scrambled for any alternative to conceding
In the absence of official confirmation, the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change claimed to have won a landslide and declared its leader
Morgan Tsvangirai an outright winner in the presidential contest.
MDC spokesman Tendai Biti warned Mr Mugabe's government against stealing the
election, saying: "Zimbabwe is on the edge of a precipice."
He said the people would not accept a faked outcome and vowed "peaceful
protests" if his party was denied the win. A cabal of Mr Mugabe's top aides,
including six cabinet ministers, the Vice-President and a former
intelligence chief, have lost their "safe" seats already, prompting talk of
an opposition landslide.
Mr Tsvangirai, along with his fellow presidential challenger Simba Makoni,
met security chiefs in Harare late on Sunday night, according to unnamed
officials close to the meeting. Despite optimism that a deal would be
reached involving immunity for Mr Mugabe and a lengthy transition period in
which government chiefs would hold on to their jobs, there was no agreement.
The leaders of the armed forces, police and prison service warned prior to
the elections that they would refuse to recognise an opposition victory.
With neither Mr Tsvangirai nor Mr Mugabe seen in public since Saturday, the
country has been gripped by fear and uncertainty.
Mr Mugabe had, according to one rumour, left the country, but there has been
no independent confirmation of this.
Yesterday, tension swept the capital, where phone lines were largely jammed,
forcing people to communicate by text. It was then that threats began to be
issued. One senior MDC official, a former shadow minister, said: "We were
warned by an insider that they were getting the guns out. We've been through
this before, but every time you get a dry taste in the back of your throat."
Several opposition officials have moved to safe houses.
Last year the ruling party unleashed hit squads to administer punishment
beatings to scores of MDC officials in the wake of a public protest by Mr
Tsvangirai, who was himself badly assaulted in police custody. At least four
MDC activists were killed and many more seriously injured.
Early yesterday morning the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission finally relented
under pressure from rights groups, opposition parties and foreign observers
to begin releasing election results. But in a crudely stage-managed affair,
only a trickle of results were announced – with lengthy breaks – in such a
way as to maintain parity between Zanu-PF and the MDC.
With fewer than 40 of the 210 constituencies announced there were already
serious problems emerging. Two constituencies awarded to Zanu-PF contradict
results taken from the actual polling stations in those areas and seen by
For the first time this year all results have been published at individual
polling stations, so any poll numbers announced centrally that don't add up
will be identifiable. The Mugabe regime insisted on tallying presidential
votes at one central location in a bid to circumvent this problem, but
photographs of results at individual polling stations have been collected by
independent observers and the MDC in case of fraud.
The Pan-African Parliament labelled the election process "problematic",
while African Union observers have called for all results to be released
immediately. One of its own members walked out in protest after SADC
observers decided to declare the polls "credible".
The head of the electoral commission is alleged to have attempted to flee
the country on Sunday after being given contradictory instructions from the
government and generals.
Gordon Brown held emergency talks with the South African President Thabo
Mbeki and former UN secretary general Kofi Annan yesterday.
Downing Street said Mr Brown remained in touch with international leaders,
as David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, demanded that the results of the
elections be released in full.
Mr Miliband said: "On Saturday, the Zimbabwean people turned out to vote in
their millions. Their voice must now be heard without delay. It is vital
that this election should chart a course for Zimbabwe chosen by the people
"As part of that expression of the popular will, civil society activists in
Zimbabwe have been monitoring the elections and we look forward to their
Zimbabwe's total economic collapse, which has seen millions flee into
neighbouring states, appears to have spurred an emphatic rejection of the
ruling party and Mr Mugabe. Although riot police were able to prevent
widespread opposition celebrations over the weekend, by last night hundreds
of excited text message circulars were promising a new beginning after three
decades under Mr Mugabe.
Mugabe's fallen allies
The highest-profile Mugabe crony to fall, the Justice Minister lost his seat
in the opposition stronghold of Manicaland. The 61-year-old has been accused
of persecuting Zanu-PF opponents, and several judges have resigned during
his tenure, complaining of political interference. He stood trial in 2006,
accused of perverting the course of justice, but was cleared.
As a commander in the liberation army, she went by the nom de guerre "Spill
Blood" and earned fame for shooting down a Rhodesian army helicopter. Joined
Mugabe's first post-independence cabinet in 1980 aged 25, and after holding
portfolios such as sport and rural development, rose to the vice-presidency
in 2004. She was touted as a possible successor to Mugabe.
Appointed Minister of National Security and Land Affairs in 2005, Mr Mutasa
became arguably the second most powerful man in Zimbabwe with oversight of
the Central Intelligence Organisation. One of his most controversial moves
was Operation Drive Out The Filth, when soldiers and police bulldozed the
homes of hundreds of thousands of poor people.
Another Mugabe crony who has served in the cabinet since independence, Mr
Sekeramayu's most recent incarnation was as Defence Minister. Studied in
Czechoslovakia and spent much of the liberation struggle in Sweden. Has
considerable influence, given that the armed forces have been one of the key
planks of the regime, and used in the past to rig elections.
By Cris Chinaka
HARARE (Reuters) - Riot police in armored carriers deployed in two of
Harare's opposition strongholds on Monday night as suspicions grew that
President Robert Mugabe was trying to rig Zimbabwe's most important election
A resident of one of the townships said a convoy of riot police in about 20
vehicles moved through the vast area. "There are a lot of patrols here,"
said the resident, adding people had been told to stay off the normally
More than 48 hours after polls closed, only 66 of 210 parliamentary
constituencies had been declared, showing the ruling ZANU-PF one seat ahead
of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Two of
President Robert Mugabe's ministers lost their seats.
No results have been announced for the presidential vote, in which Mugabe
faces the most formidable political challenge of his 28 years in power.
The opposition has accused the veteran leader of delaying the issuing of the
results in a bid to steal the election, which Zimbabweans hoped would help
rescue a country ravaged by an economic crisis.
"It is now clear that there is something fishy. The whole thing is
suspicious and totally unacceptable," MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said.
An independent Zimbabwean election monitoring group forecast Morgan
Tsvangirai, leader of the largest faction of the MDC, would win the most
votes in the presidential poll but not by a big enough margin to avoid a
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) said its projections giving him
49.4 percent were based on a random sample of 435 polling stations across
the country's 10 provinces.
It predicted Mugabe would win 41.8 percent and ruling ZANU-PF party defector
Simba Makoni would get 8.2 percent.
Seven European countries and the United States expressed concern over the
delay, and called on Zimbabwe's Electoral Commission to quickly release the
results, especially for the presidential election.
Electoral Commission chairman George Chiweshe said the slow pace was due to
the complexity of holding presidential, parliamentary and local polls
together for the first time.
"FAIR AND CREDIBLE"
Mugabe, 84, is under unprecedented pressure from a two-pronged attack by
veteran MDC rival Tsvangirai and Makoni, who both blame him for Zimbabwe's
Zimbabweans are suffering the world's highest inflation of more than 100,000
percent, chronic shortages of food and fuel, and an HIV/AIDS epidemic that
has contributed to a steep decline in life expectancy.
And although the odds seemed stacked against Mugabe, in power since
independence in 1980, analysts believe his iron grip on the country and
solid backing from the armed forces could enable him to ignore the results
and declare victory.
He rejects vote-rigging allegations.
The U.S. State Department called on Zimbabwe's electoral commission to put
aside "partisan sympathies" and "follow the letter and spirit of the law."
Marwick Khumalo, head of an observer group from the Pan-African parliament,
said the elections themselves were free, fair and credible overall.
But he added: "The mission is concerned that two days after the closure of
the polls, the overall outcome of the elections remains unknown."
Official results so far showed ZANU-PF with 31 seats, MDC with 30 and a
breakaway MDC faction with five.
The MDC said its tally showed it had won 96 parliamentary constituencies out
of 128 counted. Makoni had 10 percent of the unofficial presidential vote
The MDC said unofficial tallies showed Tsvangirai had 60 percent of the
presidential vote, twice the total for Mugabe, with more than half the
results counted. Private polling organizations also put Tsvangirai well
"In our view, as we stated before, we cannot see the national trend
changing. This means the people have spoken, they've spoken against the
dictatorship," MDC Secretary-General Tendai Biti said.
In his first public comments since the vote, Makoni criticized the way
results were being announced. "We are very worried by the manner in which
things are unfolding," he said.
Tsvangirai and some international observers accused Mugabe of stealing the
last presidential election in 2002.
Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Public Affairs Minister Chen
Chimutengwende both lost their seats.
The government has warned that any early victory claim would be regarded as
an attempted coup.
(Additional reporting by Stella Mapenzauswa, Nelson Banya and Muchena
Zigomo, Paul Taylor in Brussels, by Tabassum Zakaria in Washington and
Adrian Croft in London; James Mackenzie in Paris; editing by Michael Georgy
and Mary Gabriel)
By David Blair
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 01/04/2008
By far the most impressive building in central Harare is the
headquarters of the organisation most responsible for eviscerating
Zimbabwe's economy. Inside its spotless tower block of plate glass, the
Reserve Bank's sole function is to cause hyperinflation by printing the
money that keeps Robert Mugabe's bankrupt regime afloat.
If, however, the weekend's election defies all expectations and causes
Mr Mugabe's departure, the world will be left to pick up the pieces of a
ruined state. For a moment, set aside all scepticism and assume that today
is the morning after Mr Mugabe's resignation.
What must be done to revive Zimbabwe?
First, bear in mind the monumental scale of the task. In the past
eight years, the economy has endured the devastation normally inflicted only
by war or natural disaster. Today, the country's gross national product is
about 40 per cent smaller than it was in 2000. To place this in context,
America during the Depression lost 30 per cent of its GNP.
Moreover, Mr Mugabe has inflicted a depression on a country that was
pretty poor to begin with. If they are to reduce poverty, African states
must achieve annual GNP growth of at least seven per cent and sustain it for
decades. Zimbabwe has been going in reverse for most of the past 10 years,
digging a deeper and deeper hole.
Grasping why this happened - and its wider consequences - is crucial
to identifying the steps needed for recovery. Zimbabwe's economy rests on
three pillars: commercial agriculture, tourism and mining.
By seizing white-owned farms and handing them out to his cronies,
without troubling to provide them with finance, farming equipment, training
or even title deeds, Mr Mugabe wrecked commercial agriculture.
By unleashing violence against his political opponents, he frightened
away tourists. And by passing a law allowing the seizure of 51 per cent of
their shares, he forced mining companies to abandon all exploration and
So Zimbabwe's economic collapse came about as a result of government
policy. Consequently, Mr Mugabe's tax revenues have been wiped out and he
cannot pay his bills.
The response? The Reserve Bank simply prints money to keep him afloat.
The entirely predictable consequence of churning out trillions of Zimbabwe
dollars is that inflation has soared to 100,580 per cent and the currency's
value has plunged.
The first step that must be taken is to stabilise the economy and curb
hyperinflation. The Africa department of the International Monetary Fund,
led by Abdoulaye Bio-Tchané, will take charge of this effort.
Reducing inflation means the government must stop printing money. This
can only happen if someone else pays its bills. So the IMF will probably
agree an immediate injection of funds to keep Zimbabwe going while the
Reserve Bank turns off its printing presses.
This should curb inflation in a matter of months. But a full
stabilisation package will have to go much further.
Under Mr Mugabe, Zimbabwe's government grew ever larger and made no
effort to curb its spending. His successor will have to reduce the size of
the civil service and privatise the publicly owned companies, which are
little more than shells. In particular, he will have to slash military
spending, which presently exceeds the health budget.
Mr Mugabe promised to do all this in 1999, in exchange for an IMF
balance of payments facility of US$193 million. Few were surprised when he
broke his promise and the IMF responded by ending its support.
Zimbabwe's next president should look at the letter of intent that Mr
Mugabe signed with the IMF nine years ago. In return for funds going beyond
immediate stabilisation, these promises will have to be kept.
Economic recovery will also require a new currency. The best
illustration of the Zimbabwe dollar's headlong collapse is that eight years
ago, Z$14 million would have bought a mansion in Harare. Three weeks ago, it
was enough to buy one can of Diet Coke.
By yesterday, however, a can of Diet Coke cost Z$56 million.
With inflation under control and a new currency introduced, Zimbabwe's
new government can look to longer term recovery. Commercial agriculture will
be the key.
Some white farmers must be allowed to return and Mr Mugabe's
disastrous land ownership laws, which make all agricultural land the
property of the state, must be repealed.
With private title deeds restored, farmers will able to raise finance
and resume production. If Zimbabwe can shake off its reputation for
violence, tourists might return in large numbers to a country that boasts
teeming wildlife and the Victoria Falls.
With inflation under control and predatory ownership laws repealed,
the mines might also revive.
Outside donors, notably the British government and the World Bank,
will have to provide the cash to restore Zimbabwe's tattered infrastructure.
The inexpressible tragedy is that even if all this takes place - and it
could take years - Zimbabwe will only return to the position it enjoyed a
Mr Mugabe's legacy could scarcely be more pitiful.
Tuesday, 1 April 2008
The silence from the ruling party in Zimbabwe could mean one of two things.
It might mean that a massive rigging operation is taking place at the
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to turn around what looks like a resounding
electoral defeat for President Robert Mugabe – and make it look like he has
just scraped past the 51 per cent of the vote needed to avoid a second round
of voting, and give his party a majority in parliament. Or it might be that
the ruling elite is engaged in a frantic process of negotiation over who
will tell the ageing despot that the time has come when he really does have
to step down. We can be hopeful it is the latter since the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has said privately that its leaders
have put out feelers to the faction of Zanu-PF which is least sympathetic to
its boss to try to arrange a peaceful transfer of power.
Mr Mugabe has fiddled the result in at least two previous elections, in 2002
and 2005. But things are different this time. On previous occasions the
majority of the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, was narrow and the
vote-rigging required was possible to disguise or deny, at least to the
extent that a good percentage of the electorate remained in a state of
doubt. This time his defeat has been so thundering that vote-rigging would
be seen to be blatant. The Mugabe regime can stay in power only with a heavy
show of force from the army and police, whose chiefs were, as recently as
Sunday evening, publicly declaring that they would not allow a victory by Mr
Opposition politicians have been canny this time in getting the results
published in individual constituencies as soon as the counts were complete.
It will be much harder for the Electoral Commission to cook the books in the
final reckoning. The MDC has claimed, on the results declared in 128 of the
country's 210 parliamentary districts, that Mr Tsvangirai has around 60 per
cent of the votes, almost double what Mr Mugabe has mustered. Observers
inside Zimbabwe say privately that almost 80 per cent of the result is known
and that six Cabinet ministers, including several of Mr Mugabe's closest
cronies, have lost their parliamentary seats.
Even Mugabe strongholds which in the past bought his rhetoric about the
endless war of liberation, and his constant attacks on the British
Government, have turned away from him. They clearly would have preferred it
had he stepped aside last October when his Zanu-PF colleagues urged him to
stand down while he was still the revered liberation hero and allow another
of their gang to take over. Mr Mugabe gambled and he has lost.
The leader of neighbouring African countries must now make clear that the
will of the Zimbabwean people must be upheld. The opposition must not be
persuaded to go to the courts, a strategy they tried last time without
success. Nor is there now a case of international mediation of the kind that
Kofi Annan conducted in Kenya, where so many ballot boxes were destroyed
that it was impossible to know the outcome of the poll. The vote in Zimbabwe
has already been recorded locally.
The key may lie with the army chiefs whom Mr Mugabe consulted on Sunday
night, fearful of their possible reaction to a defeat. They pledged their
loyalty then. But now that the people have spoken so decisively they should
change their minds and force the change that the voters require, if
necessary initially through a government of national unity pending properly
free elections. For one thing is clear, whatever happens in the days ahead,
things can never go back to how they were a week ago. A turning point has
been reached in Zimbabwe. And not before time.
By JANE FIELDS
ZIMBABWE is poised for political upheaval in the wake of a disputed election
result, according to opposition leaders who say the troubled country "stands
on a precipice".
Only a trickle of official results from Saturday's ballot emerged yesterday,
prompting fears that Robert Mugabe, the president, was planning a massive
fraud in the face of overwhelming defeat.
Amid widespread rumours that Mr Mugabe is preparing to flee the country, it
is understood South Africa has been called upon by foreign leaders to
persuade him to accept defeat.
Results showed Mr Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party was neck-and-neck with the
opposition MDC, led by Morgan Tsvangirai, in the constituency votes.
However, the MDC issued its own figures claiming it had 60 per cent of the
ballot, compared to 30 per cent for Mr Mugabe.
Only a limited number of observers have been allowed to monitor the
election, but the voting process itself appears to have been relatively free
of fraud. It is the announcement of the results which has prompted
The United States and Britain were among those yesterday calling on Mr
Mugabe to announce the full election results as quickly as possible.
David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, said there should be "no unnecessary
delay" in releasing the full results and described the next few days as
"critical for the future of Zimbabwe".
The elections presented Mr Mugabe, 84, with the toughest challenge yet to
his 28-year rule. Voting was generally peaceful after a campaign which
focused on the ruined economy, with inflation soaring beyond 100,000 per
Tendai Biti, the general-secretary of the MDC, claimed vote-rigging was
under way which was aimed at giving Mr Mugabe a 52 per cent victory in the
presidential race and his party 111 of the 210 House of Assembly seats. A
presidential candidate needs at least 50 per cent plus one to avoid a second
Mr Biti said the slow official reporting "raises tension among the people".
He added: "This country stands on a precipice."
Mr Tsvangirai narrowly lost disputed 2002 elections, and questions have been
raised as to whether Mr Mugabe would accept defeat this time.
Mr Tsvangirai could declare himself the official winner this morning, ending
the suspense of Harare residents who spent yesterday glued to phones, radios
and foreign news stations, desperate for news. Networks jammed, making it
impossible to make phone calls. In bread queues, people shouted out: "How
are the elections?"
The first results were not announced on state radio until yesterday
morning – 36 hours after polls ended. There was excitement when the first
seat went to the MDC. "We're going to celebrate," said a waiter in Newlands,
Harare. "Does Mugabe think he can pull up his socks now? Change is coming."
Another man told queueing customers in a supermarket in Kensington suburb
that Mr Mugabe had fled "to Malaysia" and that Gideon Gono, the governor of
the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe who printed trillions of dollars to allow Mr
Mugabe to purchase cars, farm machinery and fuel for election handouts, had
also left the country.
These rumours were unconfirmed. Mr Mugabe is believed to have arranged ahead
of the elections for his helicopter to be permanently ready at State House,
his heavily guarded official residence near the city centre.
Excitement turned to despondency as it soon became clear that the release of
the results was being carefully choreographed. They were announced
apparently randomly, not in alphabetical order nor by province.
Each announcement of an MDC win was followed by a ZANU-PF win, so that by
last night it appeared the opposition and the ruling party were running
neck-and-neck, each with 26 parliamentary seats.
There was no word on presidential results.
Residents expressed disbelief at the size of the ruling party victory in
some constituencies, fuelling fears the MDC might not have scooped the
overwhelming victory it initially claimed.
Joyce Mujuru, the vice-president, held her Mount Darwin West seat with
14,000 votes to just over 1,000 for the MDC.
Official results showed several other ruling party heavyweights – including
David Parirenyatwa, the health minister, Saviour Kasukuwere, the deputy
youth minister, Nicholas Goche, the labour minister and Webster Shamu, the
minister for policy implementation – were also re-elected with large
In a tin-roofed shack in Avondale suburb, Cephas, a secondhand book dealer,
said: "We are sick of all this waiting. We want change. Our lives are so
Q & A: BALLOT-BOX BASICS
Why are delays significant?
In past elections, results emerged quickly. Further delays would stoke
opposition suspicions of rigging to ensure the continued rule of Mugabe,
blamed by opponents for an economic crisis that has ruined Zimbabwe.
How did voting go?
There were no major reports of violence in Saturday's vote but the
opposition and one African observer group reported irregularities –
including rolls with many non-existent or dead voters. Most international
observers were banned.
Who will win?
Morgan Tsvangirai's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says it
won based on local vote counts pinned up outside polling stations. The
government has warned such premature declarations could amount to "a coup".
Many analysts expect the result to be manipulated and said Mugabe would
declare victory even if he lost. Security service chiefs have said they
would not accept an opposition win. Tsvangirai and some international
observers said Mugabe lost the last presidential election in 2002 but he
stayed in power.
If no candidate gets over half the votes in the first round of the
presidential election, there would be a run-off.
What if Mugabe wins?
If Mugabe wins the presidential poll outright, this is certain to be
rejected by the opposition MDC and some of its supporters could take to the
streets. But a scenario of prolonged protests and bloodshed seems unlikely.
What if Tsvangirai wins?
If Tsvangirai wins, ZANU-PF militants and security forces are likely to
reject his victory, leading to a violent crackdown against the MDC.
Tsvangirai has said he would form a national unity government, bringing in
moderate elements of ZANU-PF.
What if there is a run-off?
A second round could unite the opposition. The campaign of Simba Makoni,
whose split from the ruling ZANU-PF party showed up its internal divisions,
has already said he would swing his support behind Tsvangirai. Makoni
appears to have done badly in the vote, falling into a distant third place.
If there is a run-off, Mugabe would be expected to deploy ZANU-PF militants
and independence-war veterans to ensure victory, raising the prospect of
violent clashes with defiant MDC supporters in the three-week hiatus between
A run-off is likely to end with Mugabe being declared victor, leaving
political tension and no prospect of saving the economy.
What do the results show?
Not much so far. Only a few parliamentary results have been issued by the
electoral commission. First parliamentary constituency results were evenly
split between Mugabe's ZANU-PF and the opposition MDC. However the
opposition says its own unofficial count shows it has 60 per cent of the
presidential vote and a similar proportion of the 210 parliamentary
Analysts say early counting tends to come from the opposition's urban
strongholds whereas later results will include rural areas that are Mugabe's
Last Updated: 31 March 2008 9:30 PM
April 1, 2008
Bronwen Maddox: World Briefing
When the results of Zimbabwe’s elections come in, Britain will have a chance
to help the shattered country more actively than it has done so far – and it
will have no excuse for not doing so.
If, by some scarcely believable feat, the opposition party has managed – for
all the intimidation and vote-rigging – to prise President Mugabe from his
28-year rule, then Britain will be able to pour in millions of pounds of
aid. That decision is easy.
But if Mugabe has clung on by rigging the vote, despite reports that the
opposition had won by a long way, then it will be time for Britain to speak
up much more noisily than it has done, shaking off the inhibitions that it
has felt perhaps too keenly because of its colonial past.
Britain has chosen to keep quieter than it might have done as Mugabe took
Zimbabwe from stability and prosperity into poverty and violence, with the
lowest life expectancy in the world and one of the highest rates of Aids
infection. It has been inhibited by its past role as the colonial ruler of
Zimbabwe, then Rhodesia, until 1980, and Mugabe’s success since then in
portraying Britain as the would-be oppressor. When Britain criticised him,
he could use the “evidence” of British colonialism to stir up his supporters
at home, and to rally other African leaders to his cause.
Tom Porteous, the UK director of Human Rights Watch, the research and lobby
group, argues that Britain “made the right decision, for once” in not being
more confrontational, because it would have been counter-productive. He
added that Human Rights Watch was “all for people speaking out about human
rights abuses. But Britain made its position [on Mugabe] very clear, and it’s
also clear that when it did raise its voice, that was presented as a
colonial voice by Mugabe.”
Raising Britain’s voice, in this case, might mean trying to drum up support
against Mugabe in the United Nations, and shutting the British High
Commission in Zimbabwe. But Britain has wanted to keep a lower profile
partly, officials say, to protect those with British connections living in
Zimbabwe. The careful line of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has been
that it supports “effective and well-managed land reform”, although Mugabe’s
compulsory seizure of white-owned farms has taken the country into violence
and near-starvation, as the output from the farms of this once hugely
productive country collapsed.
Instead, Britain has tried to work quietly through the United Nations, and
has lobbied South Africa in a near-futile bid to persuade President Mbeki to
put pressure on Mugabe. Yesterday Gordon Brown telephoned Kofi Annan, the
former UN Secretary-General, and Mbeki.
For all the careful restraint of this policy down the years, there must be a
sense that Britain could have done more at least in expressing its outrage
in the past few years as Zimbabwe’s economic crisis accelerated. There
surely comes a time when the disaster is so huge and so inescapable that it
punctures the claims that any criticism is merely a ghostly echo of the
spirit of 30 years ago.
These elections are surely that turning point. Even Mugabe’s supporters –
even Mbeki – have to acknowledge the straits the country is in. If there are
signs that Mugabe has rigged the election result, then no sense of colonial
past should inhibit Britain from calling loudly for other countries to club
together against him.
The Times, SA
Werner Swart Published:Apr 01, 2008
Security forces’ first loyalty is to party
President Robert Mugabe faces the possibility of being purged from his own
party, political analysts said yesterday.
This is due to the strong showing by the main opposition in Zimbabwe, which
has made this the most difficult election ever for Mugabe to steal.
The seemingly overwhelming support for the Movement for Democratic Change
might be too much of a hurdle for him to overcome, even if the elderly
president “tries to cheat” his way to victory.
Political analyst Daniel Silke said the future of the 84-year-old looks
bleak. He said that, with the results showing a tighter race than ever
before, it would be more difficult for Zanu-PF to massage the results.
“It might happen that Mugabe’s own people decide ‘enough is enough’, that he’s
had his day and it’s time to move on. I am sure the rest of the Zanu-PF’s
leadership would want to continue in one form or another. For this to
happen, Mugabe has to be removed internally,” Silke said.
He said Zimbabwe’s security forces, which pledged their unequivocal support
to Zanu-PF before the elections, were in a situation similar to that in
which the ruling party finds itself.
“The atmosphere is no doubt extremely tense and, if the tide turns, the
military might also turn. Its role is to make sure that Zanu- PF is in
power — which does not necessarily mean that Mugabe has to be.”
According to Silke, Zanu-PF might be buying time to plan its exit strategy
by delaying the announcement of the final results. He said the government
probably realises that it can no longer rig the poll.
“This will lead to further unrest … [ it] could lead to protests and
violence,” Silke warned.
Independent analyst Harald Pakendorf said it was to be expected that the MDC
would lead at first because vote counting in rural areas tends to take
Pakendorf said: “It’s in those areas that we will see the fraud. This is
where Mugabe will try to steal the election. Whether he gets it right this
time is another thing.”
Pakendorf agreed that Zanu-PF might turn against Mugabe.
“The time is right for the other leaders to stand up and say they are better
off without him. It is a strong possibility.”
By Jonga Kandemiiri, Patience Rusere and Netsai Mlilo
31 March 2008
The slow pace at which the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has been working
its way through the compilation of results from an election that ended
Saturday at 7 p.m. has frustrated Zimbabweans and provoked widespread
concern and suspicion as to the reasons for the delay and what may be taking
place behind the scenes.
Chairman Lovemore Madhuku of the National Constitutional Assembly offered a
worst-case scenario, saying the delay in processing results is intended to
prepare Zimbabwe for a decision handing victory to President Mugabe and his
Nonetheless, Madhuku told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for
Zimbabwe that the opposition should allow ZEC to finish giving results
before issuing their own to avoid setting a precedent for parties to set up
their own compilation processes.
Elsewhere, the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa expressed its concern
at the slow progress in tabulation by the Zimbabwean electoral authority.
The institute said the slow drip of results has heightened fears that
rigging is going on behind the scenes. The institute, which sent 25 election
observers to Zimbabwe, said the elections were only partly free, lacked
transparency, and had not been fair.
Institute Executive Director Denis Kadima, who returned to Johannesburg from
Harare on Monday, told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for
Zimbabwe that regional observers have also chosen not to speak up about the
A spokesman for the Southern African Development Community’s observer
mission to Zimbabwe, Charles Mubita, said his body cannot comment on the
counting process as that falls outside its mandate, which is restricted to
the voting process itself.
Bulawayo was on edge Monday as residents waited impatiently for official
election results. Anxiety turned to confusion and disbelief when the
Electoral Commission eventually started to issue tallies. Correspondent
Netsai Mlilo reported.
18:12 GMT, Monday, 31 March 2008
The BBC is banned from operating in Zimbabwe, but our correspondent Ian
Pannell has entered the country. We cannot disclose his location for
Zimbabwe and its people are in a state of suspense, waiting for election
results that will decide the fate of this blighted country.
The air is thick with expectation and with rumour. The parts of the country
we have seen are very calm and, in some cases, unusually quiet.
For security reasons, I cannot reveal our location but the people we have
come across have been friendly and ready to speak out.
They do not seem tense, that surprised me. When you talk to them, they are
overwhelmingly confident, it is a triumph of optimism over circumstance that
people feel that really that this time will be the time for change.
In most cases they have volunteered an opinion - and, invariably, it has
been the same one: that Robert Mugabe and his party have been roundly beaten
in the polls and now the president must leave office.
There are also plenty of rumours - that perhaps he has fled, what the police
and the army will do next - but all uninformed rumour that seems to be
swirling around in essentially what is a vacuum in the country because all
media sources are controlled by the government.
Only people who have access to satellite television or sporadic facilities
with the internet are able to access sources outside the country.
Hope for change
Travelling across the country, you get a sense of what it is that has driven
people into the arms of the opposition.
It is fields without crops, shops without goods, petrol stations that are
low or empty, women at the side of the road begging for food and traders
desperate for customers and hard currency.
Two words crop up in conversation again and again - hope and change.
People say they have voted for change, now they hope the president will
stand to one side.
But they also know he is a man who does not like to lose and there have been
false dawns before now in Zimbabwe.
When you put it to them "What happens if the president does not go?", this
seems an idea they do not seem willing to entertain.
There is also a concern that the longer the results are delayed, the greater
the chances are of violence.
By Daniel Howden
Tuesday, 1 April 2008
The abandoned brick kilns outside Bulawayo are a fitting backdrop to begin a
journey through a ruined country. The derelict ovens and chimneys have been
picked apart for anything that could be salvaged or sold. The blackened
rubble that remains stretches for half a mile along the road to the capital,
Harare, offering some shelter or a place to sleep for those who begin
waiting for a lift from first light.
The lay-bys are like campsites, with crowds of arms beseeching the few
passing vehicles to pull over and load up. Women carry babies strapped to
their backs and crushing sacks of maize, children play in the dirt and the
men sit and wait.
Nelson is the first to join me on the road outside Gweru. He's on his way to
work as a security guard at a bank and as one of the few people in the
country to still have a job he might have been expected to vote for the
ruling party. But he hasn't. Like everyone else you can find he voted for
Morgan Tsvangirai and he's getting worried at the long wait. "I heard on the
radio that they announced five seats. After two days they announce five
seats. Last time they told us after three hours." What does Nelson want to
hear? I ask. "I want a new president. We need a new president. It has to be
All along the road I hear echoes of that same sentiment from voters. And as
the pink permanent ink fades from their fingers, the impatience for a result
is growing. Even a toothless grandmother who speaks only Shona manages to
make her feelings clear. She gestures at a defaced poster of the 28-year
President and lets out a hateful hiss. We have understood each other.
There are police everywhere along the highway. Aside from the roadblocks
that welcome you in and out of the larger towns, there are officers in green
fatigues and soft hats waiting by the roadside. The decision to man every
one of the 9,000 polling stations in the country with uniformed police –
against electoral law – has stretched the force and they too must make their
way home now.
Heavy rains in December have restored some of the lustre to Zimbabwe's
landscape but their legacy, like everything else here, is complicated. The
heavy rains flooded the winter cereal crop and washed away topsoil, so while
the bush is green and the dams are filled, stomachs and pockets will stay
On the outskirts of Harare there are two sets of roadblocks within half a
kilometre of each other. The questions are perfunctory: Where are you going?
Where is your licence? And the vehicle search is routine rather than tense.
A stone's throw from the second roadblock, posters of the Liberator stare
down from the lampposts. Even with his fist raised he struggles to impress.
Someone has spent hours going to each of the posters and painting over
Mugabe's famous, ageless features with lurid yellow paint.