SW Radio Africa (London)

Zimbabwe: Battle Lines Drawn Ahead of Wednesday Polls

The stage is set for a battle as the country gears up for Wednesday's historic elections between ZANU PF's long time ruler Robert Mugabe and his rival Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the MDC-T.

The harmonized elections will be the first to be held under the new constitutional dispensation, that limits the President's time in office to two terms of five years.

On Tuesday, Mugabe told a live televised press conference that he will accept defeat and stand down if he loses the election.

'If you lose you must serrender to those who would have won. We will do so to comply with the rules. If you go into the process where there are only two outcomes, you either win or lose,' he said.

It remains to be seen if he will abide by this statement.

Apart from voting in a new president and members of parliament Zimbabweans, hoping for change, will go to the polls to elect senators and councillors.

But preparations for what promises to be the toughest presidential race in the country's history have been blighted by what has been described as the gross incompetence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, (ZEC).

The electoral body, described as a toothless dog by the MDC-T spokesman Douglas Mwonzora, is yet to provide the political parties with an electronic copies of the voters roll, so that they can audit it.

Mwonzora said ZEC's bungling of the electoral process has escalated to unprecedented levels. He said their sources had also informed them that before announcing the results, ZEC will first brief the country's Joint Operations Command (JOC), made up of military commanders fiercely loyal to Mugabe.

He claimed the party has discovered that ZEC wants to slow down the voting process in urban centers, particularly in Harare, by reducing the number of voting areas in each polling station. The number of polling stations in Harare have also been reduced.

Mwonzora added: 'We are told that some of the polling officers will deliberately embark on a go slow just as they did during the voter registration exercise. This will definitely disenfranchise millions of voters."

In rural areas there are reports ZANU PF is forcing traditional leaders to hold meetings with villagers, instructing them to vote for the party.

In Masvingo, retired Brigadier-General Livingstone Chineka on Monday threatened post-election war if ZANU PF loses in the harmonised polls.

The Newsday newspaper reported that Chineka said former liberation war fighters would take up arms against the MDC-T if it wins.

In an address at Charumbira shopping centre, Chineka told the visibly frightened villagers that the former fighters were "never too old" to dislodge MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai from power if he beats arch-rival President Robert Mugabe.

Tendai Biti the secretary-general of the MDC-T has also blasted ZEC for not providing a full list of polling centres.

SADC's chief observer to Zimbabwe, Bernard Membe, said they were gravely concerned that a voters' roll has not been released before the elections.

He said this is despite the fact that it is the most important document for the poll. In a damning assessment of ZEC blunders Membe, who is Tanzania's foreign minister, said the voters roll was not a 'top secret' document and its release was overdue.

'It has to be made available for the people to see; for the people to verify their names; for the people to know where they're going to vote,' Membe added.

Itai Dzamara, a journalist and political analyst, told SW Radio Africa's Election Watch program on Tuesday that the way ZANU PF planned to rig was to delete names of voters who reside mainly in MDC-T strongholds, mostly urban areas.

There is speculation that the registrar-general's office, which compiled the roll, is working with Nikuv, an Israeli company with offices in Harare, to manipulate the register, but so far there is no proof of this.

No proper explanation has been given as to why ZEC printed 8.7 million ballots for 6.4 million voters on the roll. There were also attempts by some officials within the ZEC secretariat to change the procedure for the counting of votes.

The electoral law requires that votes be counted and results tabulated at each polling station, but there were attempts to change this and transport the ballots to be counted at ward level.

The move would have created opportunities to tamper with the ballot boxes. ZEC has since stated that votes will be counted at polling stations.

But sources within the MDC-T told us they are confident Tsvangirai will get more than 1.5 million votes, making it extremely difficult for ZANU PF to stuff the ballots and outpoll him.

We want to hear your thoughts and opinions, so leave us your comments on [email protected]Facebook. You can also join the conversation on Twitter by tweeting us using #Zim2013 .

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