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 their integrity.
“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.