Zimbabwe has dodged a bullet after opposition leader Nelson Chamisa — who has been feuding with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) — yesterday committed anew to facing President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Monday’s crunch polls, albeit under protest.
And in yet more good news, Chamisa also announced yesterday that the MDC Alliance would not be holding any more protests against the under-fire national elections management body, saying he was now focused solely on drumming up support and winning the watershed elections.
However, the youthful presidential hopeful was emphatic that he would not accept “a fake result” of the eagerly-anticipated plebiscite — suggesting that the country is not yet completely out of the woods, until well after the elections.
This comes after the MDC Alliance had cast serious doubts on Tuesday about its participation in the July 30 harmonised elections.
In ominous statements, the country’s main opposition announced then that it was considering its options following a surprise police ban on its planned demonstration against Zec yesterday, as well as the national elections management body’s decision to close dialogue with the opposition on electoral reforms.
As a planned press conference in Harare by Chamisa was shifted to later in the day yesterday, as he and his lieutenants met at an emergency meeting in the capital, fears grew that Monday’s polls could be in jeopardy.
But all was relatively well in the end.
“We have resolved to defeat both Zec and ED (Mnangagwa) … therefore, we are going to vote in large numbers and make sure they don’t cheat on the 30th of July.
“We are going to make sure that we the people stop the cheating, stop the deception and also stop the shenanigans that we have seen instituted by Zec.
“We can’t boycott our victory, we can’t boycott our mandate that we have been given by the people. We can’t boycott because we are the winners of this election,” Chamisa told journalists after his meeting with MDC structures.
He also said the MDC Alliance was neither going to resort to violence nor other unconstitutional methods to register its disapproval with Zec.
The election run-up has been characterised by multiple court challenges and protests against the national elections management body — which stands accused of frustrating the oppositions’ demands for conditions which would lead to a non-disputed poll.
The ensuing political tension has seen the MDC Alliance insisting that it will announce the results of the keenly-anticipated plebiscite before Zec does so.
Chamisa and the MDC Alliance have also twice held successful demonstrations against Zec, as they pressed for a raft of electoral reforms which include demands to witness the printing of ballot papers and being told how these would be transported.
But on Tuesday, during a meeting with political parties, Zec dashed the opposition’s hopes of making ground on these demands.
The national elections management body said it had done what it could to accommodate the opposition, and was now solely focused on Monday’s election.
Zec commissioner Qhubani Moyo also stirred controversy when he dismissed a proposal by opposition parties to randomly sample ballot papers before the elections.
“Zec rejected a request for random testing of ballot papers on polling day to see if the mark X placed for one candidate migrates to another, because it saw it as without substance or justification and will be an administrative nightmare and potential source of conflict.
“The commission conceded to a request to keep voting booths as they have been placed traditionally. It also agreed as per the requirements of the law that the numbers of ballot papers printed be published,” Moyo said.
Upon this, some leaders of some parties threatened to pull out of Monday’s crucial elections, with MDC secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora saying that the MDC Alliance’s principals would deliberate on Zec’s position.
Both opposition parties and rights groups have warned authorities that the eagerly-anticipated elections were now at the risk of losing their credibility altogether, unless Zec acted on all the serious flaws that contesting parties have cited.
Chamisa said yesterday that despite participating in an “unlevel playing field”, he was still confident of beating Mnangagwa.
“Mnangagwa knows he is staring defeat but we want to assure him he has nothing to fear. He must be there to accept defeat and we are ready to embrace him as we go forward, and embrace him as our liberation icon,” he said.
This year’s elections, which have generated a lot of interest among both ordinary people and ambitious politicians alike, will be the first since Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain in 1980 not to feature former president Robert Mugabe — who resigned from office last November after Parliament had started damaging proceedings to impeach him.
The elections will also, for the first time in two decades, not include the popular MDC founding president Morgan Tsvangirai — who lost his valiant battle against colon cancer earlier this year.
In Monday’s plebiscite Mnangagwa, 75, is seeking a substantive term in a congested race in which he will face Chamisa and 20 other presidential aspirants — after a fringe participant said on Tuesday that he would no longer be a contestant.
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.