31 March 2008

Zimbabwe: Mugabe Set to Claim Victory

Harare — In what can best be described as a shock result, President Robert Mugabe and his ruling ZANU-PF party are about to announce victory for Mugabe in the parliamentary and presidential elections, according to unofficial results leaked from the ZANU-PF and Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, ZEC, command centres.

But sources within the ZEC centre - newly christened the National Collation Centre - say Mugabe clearly lost the election to his opposition rival Morgan Tsvangirai, polling only 20 per cent of the vote. He is also said to trail Simba Makoni who garnered 28 per cent.

Tsvangirai is said to be leading but just failed to get the requisite 50 per cent plus one vote. According to ZANU-PF sources at the collation centre, ZEC is about to announce that the ruling party won by 111 seats, with some rural constituencies recording huge victories for Mugabe.

The sources said in Mugabe’s traditional strongholds, such as Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe, he won with huge margins of more than 30,000 votes, with Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, president Tsvangirai getting as few as 2,000 votes.

But commentators say it would be something of a miracle if Mugabe and his party had secured the victory, given more than 85 per cent unemployment, serious food shortages and a collapsed health delivery system.

IWPR could not get the exact percentage by which Mugabe will be said to have won but the sources said there would not be a run-off, as ZANU-PF will claim Mugabe has clinched more than 50 per cent of the total number of voters cast.

Some of the ruling party’s heavyweights that have fallen include Minister of Women Affairs Oppah Muchunguri, Agriculture Minister Joseph Made, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa, Minister of Energy and Power Development Mike Nyambuya, and Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu.

The supposed election results, if ZEC goes ahead to announce them, are likely to be condemned locally and internationally. The election will be viewed as stolen because of voter intimidation and allegations of vote rigging.

There are already reports coming from the United States saying sanctions, currently targeted at Mugabe and his close associates, would be intensified if the ballot were not free and fair. The same is likely to come from Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other western countries.

But what is more worrying now is how Zimbabweans are going to receive the result, especially after the MDC has been saying it “has won this election beyond any reasonable doubt”.

Zimbabweans cast their votes at the weekend amid indications the poll was already stolen, with reports of stuffed ballot boxes being discovered in Mashonaland Central and Masvingo provinces. The opposition parties and independent candidates had already alleged that Mugabe was going to rig this election to avoid a humiliating loss.

The MDC last week uncovered gross irregularities in the voters’ roll, showing thousands of voters supposedly living on what turned out to be open ground. According to the voters’ roll, 65 per cent of voters registered in Harare North live on a piece of land that used to belong to the Ernest Kadungure housing co-operative.

However, upon visiting the area, the MDC found that it was one of the areas where shacks were demolished during Operation Murambatsvina, when the government destroyed homes in areas that were perceived to be MDC strongholds.

The Pan-African Parliament, PAP, at the close of voting on March 29, raised concerns with ZEC chairman George Chiweshe.

In a letter to Chiweshe, PAP Election Observer Mission leader Marwick Khumalo said it saw no evidence that there were any residents in Ward 42, which is deserted land with a few wooden sheds, despite voters from that deserted ward being listed on the voters’ roll. The Crisis Coalition of Zimbabwe, CCZ, has said whatever the outcome of the results of the general elections, the process will not be a true and legitimate expression of the democratic will of the people of Zimbabwe.

CCZ spokesman McDonald Lewanika said civil society in Zimbabwe deplored the recent comments by service chiefs saying that they would not accept the election of any presidential candidate but Mugabe.

Army commander Constantine Chiwenga and head of the prison services retired Major-General Paradzai Zimondi announced they would not salute anyone but Mugabe, while police chief Augustine Chihuri said he would not accept an opposition victory.

Lewanika also condemned statements by Mugabe, who has been using threatening and intimidating language in speeches to the electorate.

In Bulawayo, Mugabe told a rally that voting for the MDC would be a waste of time and that he would not allow the opposition party to rule Zimbabwe. Tsvangirai said in an interview recently that if Mugabe won the election, “it’s dead end for the country”.

Once-prosperous Zimbabwe is suffering from the world's highest inflation rate of more than 100,000 per cent, chronic shortages of food and fuel, and an HIV/AIDS epidemic that has contributed to a steep decline in life expectancy.

Joseph Sithole is the pseudonym of an IWPR-trained journalist in Zimbabwe.

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