Mugove Tafirenyika 16 July 2018
HARARE – There are growing fears that Zimbabwe is once again headed for a
disputed poll – with the country’s main opposition insisting that it will
announce the results of the keenly-anticipated plebiscite before the
under-fire national elections management body, the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission (Zec), does so.
MDC Alliance presidential candidate, Nelson Chamisa, was the first to warn
that he would announce the results of the polls before Zec on Wednesday
last week – a threat which was repeated by his key lieutenant, Tendai
Biti, during a rally in Mutare at the weekend.
“This time we are going to announce the election (results), not Zanu PF.
We have a system to have all the results from all the polling stations.
“So from voting, we will tell you where to go and wait in order to protect
your votes,” Chamisa said while addressing supporters after his party’s
massive demonstration against Zec in Harare last week.
Biti, who was arrested in 2008 and charged with treason for prematurely
announcing the results of that hotly-disputed poll, also vowed at the
weekend to repeat what he did a decade ago.
“I know I was arrested the last time I announced the results, but let me
tell you that I am going to do it again after the July 30 elections
because we have no confidence in Zec,” Biti told supporters at the MDC
Alliance’s weekend rally.
The treason charges against Biti in 2008 were only dropped when ousted
former president Robert Mugabe was forced into forming a government of
national unity with the late popular opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai,
as Zimbabwe crumbled under the weight of a worsening economic crisis that
was occasioned by the political mayhem.
In the meantime, analysts who spoke to the Daily News yesterday expressed
grave concerns that the country’s July 30 national elections could be
headed for irreconcilable disputes, due to claims by the opposition that
Zec is compromised and acting with partiality.
This comes as Zec has said it is now willing to address some of the
concerns of the MDC Alliance which has sent distress calls to both the
regional Sadc block and the African Union (AU) – to get more involvement
in the management of the forthcoming polls.
The crunch elections will for the first time in two decades not feature
both Mugabe and Tsvangirai, who lost his valiant battle against colon
cancer at the beginning of the year.
The opposition has cited a number of irregularities which it claims will
dent the freeness, fairness and credibility of the poll.
In 2008, Tsvangirai beat Mugabe hands down in that year’s hotly-disputed
elections. However, the results of those polls were withheld for six long
weeks by stunned authorities – amid widespread allegations of ballot
tampering and fraud, which were later revealed by former bigwigs of the
ruling Zanu PF.
In the ensuing sham presidential run-off, which authorities claimed was
needed to determine the winner, Zanu PF apparatchiks engaged in an orgy of
violence in which hundreds of Tsvangirai’s supporters were killed, forcing
the former prime minister in the inclusive government to withdraw from the
discredited race altogether.
Mugabe went on to stand in a widely-condemned one-man race in which he
declared himself the winner.
However, Sadc and the rest of the international community would have none
of it, forcing the nonagenarian to share power with Tsvangirai for five
years, to prevent the country from imploding completely.
Against this background, a senior consultant for the International Crisis
Group, Piers Pigou told the Daily News yesterday that it was
understandable that Biti was contemplating announcing the results of this
year’s poll ahead of Zec.
“There is nothing illegal about it when political parties or organisations
run a parallel tabulating system, where they collate results from polling
stations … it gives them an opportunity to compare what they will have
come out with to what the official Zec result will be.
“Ordinarily, it is not necessary to do that unless there are genuine fears
that Zec will not announce the correct results,” Pigou said.
But University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure
said while the opposition had problems with Zec, it was proper for them to
follow the law and allow the national elections management body to
announce the results.
“The MDC should have pushed for the amendment of the Electoral Act … For
the two (Chamisa and Biti), who are trained lawyers, to say that they will
announce the results, it does not bode well for the elections and their
(the two men’s) integrity.
“They can’t be unilateral in their approach as that will be going
overboard … and things could degenerate it anarchy,” he said.
Another political analyst, Maxwell Saungweme, also said it was wrong for
both Chamisa and Biti to make such threats, as this could cast doubt on
“That is just political banter and nothing else … Such recklessness
could plunge the country into instability,” he said.
This year’s elections have generated a lot of interest among both ordinary
Zimbabweans and ambitious politicians alike, with many people anticipating
a close contest between Zanu PF and the MDC Alliance.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, is seeking a substantive term in the
July 30 harmonised elections, in which he will face the youthful Chamisa
and 21 other presidential aspirants.
And for the first time in post-independent Zimbabwe there will also be
female presidential candidates – four of them – taking on their male
counterparts for the right to occupy the most powerful political office in
the country after the plebiscite.