Zim elections peaceful

01 August 2013 Author  

front zim win 02 augDEPUTY Minister of Foreign Affairs Peya Mushelenga says democracy in Zimbabwe has matured and the atmosphere of Wednesday’s elections was calm and tolerant. Speaking from Harare on Thursday morning, Mushelenga said that since his arrival in Zimbabwe on 18 July he had visited five provinces and observed peaceful campaigns, where all citizens were free to attend rallies. He added that there were not really any incidents of violence and that the voting process was fast and smooth.

However, soon after the interview, opposition party MDC claimed that “monumental fraud” had taken place.

The leader of the party Tsvangirai called the election ‘a huge farce’ and said he considered the election as ‘null and void’, citing intimidation and ballot rigging by the rival Zanu-PF party.

This followed after a senior Zanu-PF source allegedly told international media that there was never any doubt the party would win and that they had ‘buried’ the MDC.

An unnamed source also told international media that the early results were looking disastrous for Tsvangirai; MDC was due to conduct an emergency meeting and political sources were claiming that key MDC members had lost their seats.

Zimbabwean police on Thursday vowed to deal with anyone who attempted to leak early results, which complicated the plans of some civic groups to pre-empt official announcements by the ZEC, international media reported.

Mushelenga said that he had met with SADC officials a week ago, and they were also satisfied with the general atmosphere of the elections.

“There was a high voter turnout; as with any other democracy, people will want to exercise their voting rights,” the minister said.

Oswald Binha, President of the Association of SADC Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASCCI), also speaking from Harare, observed that despite differences of opinion the process had largely been peaceful.

He concurred that if any violence had taken place, it was nothing to write home about, unlike the previous elections.

“There are allegations such as the delay of the voters roll, the matrix of the polling stations and people going to the wrong polling stations, but these are still allegations and no official statement has been released,” he said.

He added that polling stations had even extended their operating times by five hours in order to accommodate all voters.

However, there are complaints that not only was the voters roll delayed, but it is in ‘shambles,’ and observers have noted that the peaceful nature of the polls does not necessarily indicate credibility.

Mushelenga says the roll should be available two weeks before voting takes place, and that the delay was a general complaint not just by opposition but also by the ruling party.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) only released the roll of registered voters on the eve of the polls.

Mushelenga also acknowledged that thousands of voters of voters had been turned back.

“Some people were sent back because their names did not appear on the voters roll. It’s difficult because they don’t have voting cards like we do in Namibia. Some did not have IDs and came with drivers licenses.

“There also appear to be more voters registered than people who are actually around. I spoke to [leader of political party Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn (MKD)] Simba Makoni and he understands that there were people who registered but are in the diaspora,” Mushelenga said.

Earlier this week, reports stated that the MDC had accused Zanu-PF of tampering with the voting rolls, which it said contained the names of two million dead people.

While Zanu-PF denied the claims, MDC expressed concerns about the number of people being turned away because their names were not found on the rolls.

The ZEC confirmed that the voters roll was in a mess, acknowledging issues such as dead voters, but that it was too late to amend such anomalies.

Allegations were rife that that Zanu-PF was in cahoots with the ZEC to steal the polls by frustrating people in urban areas, which are perceived to be MDC strongholds, according to reports.

Aged 89, Zimbabwean president and Zanu-PF leader Robert Mugabe is still seeking to maintain control after serving as president for 33 years.

Mugabe has said he will step down if his party loses. Tsvangirai is making his third attempt at the presidency.

The elections in 2008 were also initially described as peaceful before violence broke out after it emerged that Tsvangirai had gained more votes than Mugabe had.

Supporters of rival party MDC led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai allege that there is no transparency in this year’s voters roll, a lack of media access and police harassment.

Western media was banned from observing Wednesday elections, with the Zimbabwean authorities only granting accreditation to SADC and the AU.

The poll brings to an end the uneasy and fractious coalition government shared by Zanu-PF and MDC since 2009, an agreement that came about because of the violence that erupted after the disputed elections of 2008.

Other candidates competing for the presidency are leader of the breakaway MDC-Mutambara, Welshman Ncube, Kisinoti Munodei Mukwazhe of the small Zimbabwe Development Party (ZDP) and Dumiso Dabengwa of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (Zapu).

The results are due early next week.

WINDHOEK OBSERVER

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