Mar 31, 2008 (080331)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"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.
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!
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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