MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa says the opposition grouping plans to roll out more protests as the coalition ratchets up pressure on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to level the playing field ahead of this month’s harmonised elections.
A buoyant Chamisa — addressing a bumper crowd of thousands of party supporters who turned up for the second round of anti-Zec demonstrations in Harare yesterday — said the continued intransigence of the electoral body’s chairperson Priscilla Chigumba was only serving to politically galvanise long-suffering Zimbabweans.
In that light, Chamisa said he was planning to hold an even bigger march in Harare soon to force President Emmerson Mnangagwa to ensure a credible, free and fair election later this month.
“Mnangagwa’s only weapon is rigging but he must know that we are only targeting Chigumba now yet we know he is the problem and very soon we are going to take both of them head-on,” Chamisa said.
The MDC Alliance — which is arguably Mnangagwa’s biggest threat in the coming elections — has been demanding a raft of electoral reforms that Chamisa argues will guarantee a free and fair election.
The MDC Alliance includes the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) led by Tendai Biti; Welshman Ncube’s MDC; Jacob Ngarivhume’s Transform Zimbabwe; Zanu Ndonga headed by Denford Masiyarira; and the Multi-Racial Christian Democrats led by Mathias Guchutu.
The Alliance is demanding that Zec must avail an analysable electronic copy of the biometric voters’ roll for audit, access to observing the printing of the ballot papers, testing their chemical composition as well as monitoring their safe keeping and transportation to voting centres.
While Zec invited political parties to observe the printing of ballots, Chamisa’s election agent Jameson Timba said ballot printing had started three days before the scheduled date of observation by parties. He said the commission claimed it had started printing earlier because it was running out of time since it takes 30 days to print the ballots.
Zec, however, took 11 days to print the ballots, and announced yesterday that Fidelity Printers had finished inking the presidential and parliamentary poll ballot paper.
Chamisa told his supporters that Zanu PF was working hand in glove with Zec, and had engaged the services of Russian experts to tamper with the ballot papers and the voters’ roll.
“We know what they are doing and now they have brought in about 64 Russians who are tampering with the ballot papers and the voters’ roll.
“If they are helping Zanu PF, then we have an issue with them because we are a sovereign nation and foreigners must not interfere with our internal electoral processes,” he said.
He claimed that he was getting inside information of Mnangagwa’s shenanigans through military intelligence officials. He said the system was leaking like a sieve.
“Mnangagwa’s main undoing is the fact that he is leading a fractured party and has no support among those around him, so they are giving us information saying ‘Chamisa, go this way, look at that’, so I am aware of their game plan. So we are not going to repeat the 2013 mistake of going into an election without knowing what we will do if we are rigged.”
Chamisa also said yesterday’s demonstration was the last one where protestors would head back home. He said the forthcoming demos will be vigils at Zec offices until their demands are met.
He said initially, the MDC Alliance had 10 demands but have since agreed to drop others.
“What is not negotiable is the issue of the ballot paper printing and the voters’ roll. If we don’t agree on that one, then there is no election.
“They will not steal from us this time, so we will not go into an election that is predetermined and Mnangagwa must know that this is not a Zanu PF primary election where he can do as he pleases. This is a national election and there has to be consensus on the process. Without that, there will not be an election.
“This is the last demonstration we are going to do and go back home, the next round we will not go back home, we will sleep there, it is going to be a national demonstration. All villages will be closed,” he warned.
The former ICT minister in the inclusive government that lasted between 2009-13 said he had since escalated his grievances to regional, continental and international bodies such as Sadc, the African Union and the United Nations.
Chamisa said he warned Mnangagwa against creating fertile grounds for unrest in the country which could lead to instability, saying he and Zanu PF have more to lose than ordinary Zimbabweans.
“If they (Sadc, AU and UN) don’t give us a satisfactory response, we are going to be our own answer and I was telling the Zanu PF people that some of us do not own anything, we have no houses of our own, we have no businesses, we did not steal from anyone, so if there is unhappiness, those who looted national resources stand to lose. Do you know we have capacity to stop everything in the country because you the people are the owners of this country?
“Next week we will assess progress and if there is no movement, it means there is no more sleeping. We have nothing to lose in this country, we have lost everything but we are ready to defend our vote.
“Next week will be decisive and when I say come, then you must respond. If we don’t agree, we will go a gear up and it is not good for Mnangagwa. He will quit putting on that scarf. I warned Mnangagwa that he is authoring instability by stealing an election. It invites trouble if we don’t agree,” Chamisa warned.
Suspicions of alleged rigging plans by Mnangagwa were raised when exiled former Cabinet minister and Zanu PF politburo member Jonathan Moyo sensationally claimed last month that he had unearthed an elaborate plot, where the ruling party had colluded with Zec to rig the July 30 general elections using hired foreign cyber experts.
Chigumba, however, strenuously denied the allegations, insisting that the electoral body was as independent as it must be according to the law.
But Chamisa insisted yesterday that Chigumba, who counter-argues that his demands are not provided for by the law, was offside because “I am a lawyer as well and the fact that it is not provided for does not necessarily mean that it is prohibited, so she must not hide behind the law.”
“If you are not hiding anything, why are you afraid to be transparent? We have said we have our scientists who will do a forensic test of each and every ballot paper and we will not compromise,” he said.