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Zimbabwe set for a power sharing deal after 'rigged' election?

by Staff reporter
17 Sep 2023 at 07:58hrs | Views
Mildred Muchenje, a 26-year-old voter, had anticipated a straightforward experience as she approached her polling station in Warren Park, Harare, on August 23 to cast her vote in the Zimbabwean presidential elections, marking only her second time participating in such an event. However, she was confronted with a long queue and was informed that voting had not yet commenced due to a shortage of ballot papers. Little did she know that this would mark the beginning of a grueling 12-hour wait.

The elections were characterized by voter intimidation, allegations of rigging, and vote buying. Nonetheless, observers suggest that the main issue undermining their fairness was the delay in ballot distribution.

According to Nevers Mumba, the head of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM), the elections fell short of the requirements outlined in Zimbabwe's Constitution, the Electoral Act, and the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections (2021).

On August 26, 80-year-old incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa was declared the winner with 52.6% of the vote, while his main rival, Nelson Chamisa, received 44%. However, Chamisa and several opposition parties, including the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T), and United Zimbabwe Alliance, have labeled the election a "gigantic fraud."

Three weeks later, the controversy continues, with allegations of rigged elections, collusion between Mnangagwa's Zanu-PF and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), and the delay in ballot distribution being cited as evidence of election theft.

While Mnangagwa has denied fraud and called for those questioning the results to seek legal redress, calls for a fresh vote or a diplomatic resolution are growing.

Prior to the elections, Priscilla Chigumba, the chairperson of the ZEC, assured observers that the electoral body was well-prepared and had printed a sufficient number of ballot papers. However, on August 23, multiple electoral observer reports indicated that many polling stations in opposition strongholds such as Harare, Bulawayo, and Manicaland Province had no ballot papers.

Some polling stations, initially scheduled to open at 7 a.m., did not allow voters to cast their ballots until 10 p.m. Registered voters endured long queues under the scorching sun, expressing anger, fatigue, and frustration due to these delays.

While ZEC's Chief Election Officer, Utloile Silaigwana, stated during media interviews on election day that ballot papers were still being printed, contradicting Chigumba's earlier assurance, Zanu-PF Member of Parliament and PSL chairman Farai Jere defended the situation as a challenge in the pursuit of democracy.

Many voters left polling stations due to frustration and fatigue caused by the delay, unable to endure further. Lovemore Matikiti, a registered voter in Warren Park, returned the following morning only to learn that voting had ended the previous night, depriving him of his voting right.

The additional voting day was not a holiday, making it challenging for voters, particularly those in rural areas, to return to polling stations. As a result, out of 6.6 million registered voters, two million people (30.3%) did not vote, compared to 800,000 non-voters (14.2%) out of 5.6 million registered voters in the 2018 elections.

The CCC's Promise Mkwananzi calls for a fresh election that adheres to constitutional and SADC principles. However, given the certified results, the ZEC appears unwilling to address ballot delays or provide any relief to disenfranchised voters.

Opposition parties believe the judiciary is biased toward the ruling party, making legal redress unlikely. Instead, they advocate for a diplomatic solution through the African Union and SADC, a similar approach to the one taken in 2008 when a disputed election led to a power-sharing agreement brokered by then-South African President Thabo Mbeki.

Rawlings Magede of Heal Zimbabwe sees signs pointing toward a diplomatic solution, emphasizing the importance of SADC's stance in determining the fate of the Mnangagwa regime, as isolation from the regional bloc could have severe consequences.

Source - NewZimbabwe