Watershed Zimbabwe election fails litmus test


Seeking second term, ZANU-PF presidential candidate, Emmerson Mnangagwa casts ballot in Midlands, Kwekwe, Zimbabwe

from MARCUS MUSHONGA in Harare, Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe Bureau
HARARE, (CAJ News) – THE time bomb that Zimbabwe has degenerated into in recent weeks ticked on as vote counting started in one of the darkest days in the Southern African country’s history.

Dark, literary, as a shambolic electoral exercise, the worst conducted in the country’s history, wobbled into the night and the following day.

Wednesday was a mess, especially in the capital city Harare, and the second largest city of Bulawayo. That these are strongholds of the opposition raised fears this was not merely glitches on the part of the beleaguered Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), but a deliberate move to disenfranchise the urban voter.

Some polling stations failed to conduct voting because there were no ballot papers. These papers ran out in other polling sites. Some registered voters were turned away after their names were missing on the voters’ lists.

This electoral disgrace unfolded right under the nose of international observers, here on a mission to witness Zimbabwe’s effort to shed its pariah state and enhance its prospects of inception back into the comity of nations.

While some election observers were leaving after monitoring the chaotic exercise, incumbent in the presidential race, Emmerson Mnangagwa, announced voting would be extended to Thursday.

It remains to be seen what the verdict will be from the observers, particularly those from the continent, who have endorsed previous elections whose conduct was not as severely mismanaged as Wednesday’s flop exercise.

The chaos is self-inflicted. So much for a country that has for over two decades blamed its internal problems on sanctions by western nations and the regime change agenda by detractors.

At the official close of polling, voters braved the wintry night waiting for ballot papers to be delivered. Some individuals had waited from early Wednesday, hours before polling officially began at 07h00. Polls were scheduled to close at 19h00 but that would be unfeasible as by close of business, polling had not begun at some polls.

Some impatient voters gave up. Most remained resilient and spent the entire night outside polling stations amid hope ballot papers would be delivered.

At some polling stations where voting was underway in the evening, power outages disrupted voting and in some instances, it had to be conducted under mobile phone flashlight.

Blessing Kasiyamhuru, president of the smaller opposition Zimbabwe Partnership for Prosperity (ZIPP) cast his vote around 16h00 in Glenview South, Harare and felt for those that were not as lucky.

“People are just in queues. Some are tired, others giving up. How can we be ready for elections when the situation is like this?” he asked.

“This is so sad. The current way ZEC is configured cannot deliver a free and fair election. These cannot be. ZEC is not fit for purpose,” Kasiyamhuru said.

Some voters defied the chilly night and the ZEC’s incompetence, or rigging, depending on which side of the fence in the political divide.

“We are not going anywhere, we have waited for this moment for years. A single night out sleeping in the open doesn’t compare to that,” said a registered voter in the Mabelreign suburb of Harare.

Nelson Chamisa, the main opposition leader, praised these citizens for their resolve.

“Your sacrifice and patriotism is exceptional. For a long time, I just have never seen this level of tenacity and persistence,” said the leader of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC).

Chamisa (45) and his party formed last year are the biggest threat to Mnangagwa (80) and the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), in power since independence in 1980 and celebrating years of existence.

Zimbabweans have been criticised as generally docile in the face of repression by the ZANU-PF led government accused of election rigging and unleashing an iron feast against descent but the mood has been defiant among some citizens.

“ZANU-PF has always declared war but we are always running away from it. Until when?” quipped activist Bryan Jobe.

“If they want war, we must give them war. Surely a new flag has to be born after this dark phase. What ZEC did today was a straight declaration of war. This is a clear provocation.”

Hannah Tarindwa was equally defiant.

“I am pissed at what I was seeing but highly impressed at the tenacity of my people to share reality. The people have refused to be muzzled. It’s incredible to behold,” she said.

Thabi Ndhlovu, human rights activist, said despite the resilience by some citizens, lamented the impact of the crisis on the underprivileged, who had to spend the night in queues.

“The election is being unjustly taken away from marginalised communities such as women, persons with disabilities, and the elderly. Some, if not most, are unable to be (out) at this (late) hour – this is criminal from ZEC.” she said.

In the midst of all this mayhem, counting at some polling stations got underway.

Typically, in the age of social media, unofficial results trickled in, raising more apprehension.

A lot is at stake in this election, not only for the political players, but the country as it seeks to resolve its long running impasse with creditors and the international community.

This was the second poll held since the ouster of longtime leader, Robert Mugabe (deceased), in a military coup in 2017.

The 2018 outcome favouring Mnangagwa ahead of Chamisa resulted in the military shooting dead six people during protests, and a court battle Chamisa lost.

– CAJ News


scroll to top