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Zimbabwe: Writing on the Wall

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Mar 31, 2008 (080331)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"Mugabe: The Writing is on the Wall," headlined Daniel Howden in a report from Bulawayo today in the UK Independent (http://www.independent.co.uk). He was perhaps making a risky prediction, as official results continued to be delayed. But he was also referring to the fact that a late change in the electoral law had resulted in the public posting of results in constituencies around the country, and that this had made it possible for unofficial counts to speed around the country by text message, email, and mobile phones.

First reports being released today by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission showed tied results in the assembly races, and no result as yet in the presidential contest. But a wide variety of informal reports indicated a possible landslide victory by the opposition. The reaction by the authorities was still unpredictable, and suspicion was high that delayed official results were to give time for more extensive rigging.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin provides, first of all, links to several sites providing regularly updated coverage of the election results, including both the official and parallel counts. It also includes several recent articles and blog posts reporting on the election, from AllAfrica.com and Briggs Bomba's JustZimbabwe blog, and background articles from SW Radio Africa and Pambazuka News.

Key Sites for Election Updates and Commentary

Sokwanele Civic Action Support Group
http://www.sokwanele.com

Has detailed updates both from Zimbabwe Election Commission (official) and Parallel Voting Tabulation (unofficial)

AllAfrica
http://allafrica.com/zimbabwe

Kubatana
http://www.kubatana.net

SW Radio Africa
http://www.swradioafrica.com

Google Maps Mashup on Election Rigging Reports
http://www.sokwanele.com/thisiszimbabwe/archives/767

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

Zimbabwe Elections: and the Winner Is ...

March 30, 2008 by justzimbabwe

Briggs Bomba

http://justzimbabwe.wordpress.com

Today's state run 'Sunday Mail' led with a headline that claims that Zimbabwe is gripped with anxiety as people await the results of yesterday's election. The reality on the streets however is that there is jubilation - 'the people' have already declared themselves winners, if the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission issues a different verdict it will be seen as a clear case of political daylight robbery. Unofficial tallies coming in from across the country show the opposition Movement for Democratic Change led by Tsvangirai in a clean lead over Zanu PF and Simba Makoni. Confirmed reports are that Zanu PF's heavy weights were trounced by the MDC, these include, Joyce Mujuru (Mugabe's Vice President), Elliot Manyika (ZANU PF's political commissar and Minister without portfolio), and Patrick Chinamasa (Minister of Justice). The election has turned out to be a slaughter house for the Arthur Mutambara formation of the MDC who lost everything and won only one Senate seat (David Coltart) in Bulawayo - which was supposed to be their stronghold. It is the reported MDC victories in traditional Zanu PF strongholds that has become a cause for celebration for the long suffering Zimbabwe in anticipation of CHANGE! The MDC is holding a series of press conferences and the party officials officials have said despite the seriously flawed electoral environment, they are certain of victory.

A major concern that is on everyone's mind is whether Mugabe and his regime will gracefully accept defeat and hand over power to Morgan Tsvangirai. Considering what ZANU PF henchman stand to lose if the regime is ousted it is not clear what the regime will do. Most of the regime's people have dirty hands, have outrightly stolen wealth, some have gross human rights cases hanging over their heads. My thinking is that Zanu PF is in no opposition to carry out coup and or war threats as has been variously claimed by regime functionaries. The regime is broke; the junior ranking officers in the army and police force are demoralised and suffering like everyone else - Zanu is just in no shape to fight a war now and they know that it's a losing option. The threat were just supposed to intimidate and instill fear in the electorate. From my travels in the rural areas of Matebeland - this strategy worked with some people but significant numbers of villagers, previously intimidated by such tactics were firmly resolved to vote the opposition! Unlike the previously election where the Zimbabwe Electoral commission announced results live on TV as they came in, this time around ZEC is not clear on what they want to do! The announcement of results is shrouded in secret creating a potentially chaotic environment.

As I head now to listen to the SADC delegation's briefing, there is still a blackout on official results. however, unofficial tallies show the MDC as having won about 60% of the vote. If this is confirmed there will be no need for a run off as had been widely predicted by many commentators!

Whilst the quietness that marked voting yesterday still prevails today, I shudder to think what will happen if people are denied what is clearly a victory for the forces of democracy!

More updates on results as they come in

Dare to Invent the Future!

Briggs


Reporters Fill Gaps in Polls Coverage

http://allAfrica.com

AllAfrica Blog

31 March 2008

By John Allen

Media seeking to provide comprehensive coverage of the Zimbabwean elections face a dilemma: how to report the official results from the electoral commission in Harare - which began to trickle out on Monday morning, Central African Time - against a backdrop of deep suspicion among many observers of the process which produced them.

The nature of the challenge facing not only journalists but election observers who seek to maintain credibility was outlined in an interview our Verna Rainers conducted with an experienced Southern African election observer as voters prepared to head for the polls.

Denis Kadima, executive director of the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA), told us:

"People can campaign wherever they want... and it does not seem like there is any attempt to harass people.... Even the opposition parties and candidates recognize that there is a great improvement"

But, he added:

"It's not easy to come to a conclusion. People can come [to Zimbabwe] and see the peacefulness and get briefings from... parties and see long queues and they will be satisfied and say it was free and fair. But it may be a superficial assessment. There are many grey areas in these elections."

Our story outlines those grey areas and illustrates them with items from our previous election coverage.

So the question we're asking right now is: assuming that voting went well in most of the country on polling day, and that people cast their ballots the way they wanted to, do the figures being announced in Harare reflect how the voters marked their ballot papers?

The long delay between the closing of polling stations on Saturday evening and the announcement of results has, as we have reported in some detail from a wide variety of our partner publishers, led many to suspect the answer to that question might be: No.

Some reporters clearly decided early that Harare wasn't the best place to find those answers.

One was Craig Timberg of the Washington Post, who didn't have to go far to find his story. He went to the rural Chinoyi constitutuency, north-west of Harare on the way to Lake Kariba.

In a piece headlined "Tallies Show Mugabe Vulnerable" he reported that Chinoyi was one of the areas in the past where President Robert Mugabe's "outsize victories helped balance out his eroding support in [the] cities."

What he found there was a notice on a community hall showing that the opposition's Morgan Tsvangirai had beaten Mugabe, not by a narrow margin but with twice Mugabe's votes. With supplementary reporting fleshing out his picture, Timberg wrote:

"The growing mosaic of information, though informally collected, suggested Mugabe was decisively trailing Tsvangirai... It remained far from clear whether Mugabe, 84, would step down or whether the results officially announced by an electoral commission controlled by his cronies would show anything but a Mugabe victory. But any rigging mechanisms have been undermined by the decision, for the first time in Zimbabwe, to post the results at polling stations."

But particularly intriguing was a report from the Associated Press. It was not bylined (could it have come from AP's experienced correspondent Angus Shaw?) but it reported on a visit to Mugabe's birthplace.

There, the reporter found:

"The doors of polling stations... are bare. No election results have been posted here, hours after most votes around the country were counted and displayed... Independent monitors said that could be because Mugabe's ruling party has lost at least one parliamentary seat in the district."

At the district vote-counting centre, an official told AP they were short of paper - in "one of the more prosperous rural areas of Zimbabwe thanks to Mugabe's patronage." And ballot boxes were arriving there 22 hours after voting ended.

The last words of the story came from an elderly voter who stiffened and whose eyes darted to armed police as he spoke:

"We need change," he whispered.


Ballots to be counted and displayed publicly in each ward

By Tererai Karimakwenda

28 March, 2008

SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe News
http://www.swradioafrica.com

The Tsvangirai MDC on Thursday won a major victory over the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. The ZEC agreed to provide them with a complete copy of the voters' roll, and conceded to demands that all ballots be counted and displayed publicly in each ward and constituency. The MDC had filed a High Court application that was to be heard by Justice Tendayi Uchena, but he never got the opportunity to make a ruling.

Lawyer Alex Muchadehama said the ZEC claimed that they had never denied the MDC a copy of the voters roll and had never held back information on the counting of ballots in the election on Saturday. Muchadehama said this was not true. The MDC had letters and documents as evidence showing that they had written to ZEC officials requesting the full roll, but had never received a response.

The MDC also wanted the ZEC to disclose the composition of the national command centre where presidential ballots were to be counted, and the number of polling agents allowed inside each polling station. It had been feared votes would be tampered with and rigging would take place without any observers present.

The ZEC said there was no need for a ruling on these two issues because they had established a national collation centre that would replace the command centre, where the Presidential ballots only would be totaled. They will still be counted at each individual polling station. All contesting parties would be invited to send polling agents and each party will also be allowed 4 polling agents at every polling station. There will be over 8,000 polling stations so this would require 32,000 people from each contesting party. The Tsvangirai MDC have said that they have recruited 80,000 polling agents.

Muchadehama said the fact that ballots would not be counted secretly as was done in the past is good news, but he added that there were still some very worrying issues that had not been resolved.

The most worrying issue is the voters roll. As an example, the lawyer said there was one address in Hatcliffe that had 8,000 people registered to vote. There are also too many extra ballots printed for reasons still not explained by the ZEC. They printed 8,800,000 ballots for a total number of 5,9 million registered voters.

There has also been no clarity regarding the number of postal ballots that were printed and exactly who was allowed to use them.

Muchadehama said there is no way the elections can be deemed free and fair under such circumstances. He believes the concessions made by the ZEC on Thursday came too late and that it had been a calculated delay to frustrate the efforts of the opposition parties.


Mugabe could be history

Mary Ndlovu* (2008-03-24)

Pambazuka News
http://www.pambazuka.org

*Mary Ndlovu is a Zimbabwean human rights activist.

Excerpts only. For full text visit Pambazuka. Also read more of Mary Ndlovu's Zimbabwe analysis.

Blowing Away the Rhetorical Smokescreeens in Zimbabwe
http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/43971

Zimbabwe: Change is coming: the first step in a long journey
http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/40499


Anyone trying to predict the outcome of the Zimbabwean election must be either bold or foolhardy or both. No sooner has a prophesy gone to press than a new factor slips into the equation and everything has to be re-calculated. Commentators are reduced to scenarios - and the number of scenarios required to cover all eventualities and twists of fate multiplies by the day.

And yet six short weeks ago it all looked sealed and delivered to Robert Mugabe. Morgan Tsvangirai's formation of the MDC had refused, against their own party's and President's apparent interests, to form a coalition with the Mutambara faction. Without a united opposition, ZANU PF could not fail to win. Nothing would change, our downward rush to disaster would not be halted.

If a week is a long time in politics, six weeks is an eon. Enter Simba Makoni, and it all looked different. For the first time, the long talked-of split in ZANU PF would make a difference at the polling stations. For the first time, there would be a three-way contest for the top position. For the first time, Mugabe might not know who would do his bidding and who would subvert it. For the first time, there could be a run-off vote.

As campaigning has picked up to full steam, several further factors have come into play. The economy deteriorates at a faster pace than ever, with the value of the Zimbabwe dollar dropping by mid March to one tenth of its value in the middle of January. Food is either unavailable or unaffordable, and ZANU PF seems to be short of supplies to give out to their loyal supporters (if they can identify them). The civil service goes on strike and has to be enticed back by massive salary increases, which in fact, it seems will mostly not be paid before the election. Even the army have yet to be paid the amounts promised. The salary increases will further increase the pace of the downward plunge in standards of living as inflation spirals upward.

Even more important, as opposition candidates move into the rural areas, a miracle seems to be happening - the rural voters are awakening from the trance which made them believe that ZANU PF was their party and Robert Mugabe their man.

But the questions only multiply. Who will the rural voters support in place of Mugabe - Makoni or Tsvangirai? And who will they vote for in the parliamentary elections, where instead of the straight ZANU PF-MDC choice of the last three elections, there are sometimes two ZANU PF candidates and two or even three MDC candidates, plus several others, including independents supporting Makoni.

What kind of chaos will result as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission attempts to stage a highly complex election composed of four ballots being cast and counted in 11,000 polling stations? What will Mugabe do if he realizes that he has lost any possibility of winning the vote and at the same time can't rely on a dedicated rigging system? Will he rely on the military brass, who insist they will not allow anyone else to win? And will they be able to rely on their troops, reportedly supporting opposition candidates, and even said to be short of ammunition? All or at least some of these questions will be answered very soon, but to try to predict them requires a high level of audacity.

Are there any certainties regarding this election? Two very important ones.

The first is that there is no minutest possibility of a "free and fair" election. Those observers from SADC who boast that it can still be so are only destroying their own credibility. The government has totally ignored amendments to the Electoral Act, to POSA and AIPPA. There is no independent electronic media, there is blatant campaigning for the ruling party in the state media, there is bias in the behaviour of the police, the arrangements for the electoral process are shambolic, with ZEC even having to withdraw some of their own information pamphlets, no meaningful voter education has been allowed, not to mention the chaos of the voters' roll, the partisan nature of the delimitation which went before and the uneven allocation of polling stations. ...

The second certainty is that this election presents the electorate with two tasks: getting rid of the incumbent President in spite of the unevenness of the playing field, and replacing his government with one which can unite Zimbabweans to renew and rebuild the Zimbabwean nation in all its aspects.

Are Zimbabweans capable of using the seriously flawed electoral process to remove Mugabe, or will he manage to hang on once again? ...
There is no doubt that there is a loosening of the hold of state security over the people, even in Mugabe strongholds. The fear factor and the patronage factor are still there, but their influence will not be as great this time in securing ZANU PF votes. The rigging factor is impossible to calculate. It will surely play some role, but if people vote in large numbers, as it seems they may do, it will be more difficult, it may have to take place at the very top, and the loyalty of the riggers is in any case in doubt.

...

Political goals cannot be reached in a single leap. This election will not bring social justice in Zimbabwe. But there are critical achievements that can be made through this election:

  • Remove Robert Mugabe from power and end his catastrophic rule.
  • Put into power a government that can unite the people to embark on the tasks of restoring rule of law, rebuilding the economy, bringing justice not revenge, healing and dignity to Zimbabweans.

We would dream for the achievement of both, but even if only the first is attained we will have taken at least one step forward.

There is of course the possibility that even the first task will fail. But it is clear that there is a seismic shift in the Zimbabwean political scene which has to produce significant change. If it is prevented from coming through the ballot box, then we surely will face some very dark days in Zimbabwe. Many dangers lurk in the coming weeks, whoever is declared the winner. But progressive Zimbabweans must not give way to despair and assume that the election is already pre-determined against us. If we want change through the vote we must hope and believe and work to reach our goals. In spite of all the odds, if Zimbabweans are prepared to overcome fear, to cast aside emotional loyalties, to think and vote strategically, and to keep their eyes on the goals of peace and social justice, much is possible.


AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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