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Mail & Guardian Online reporter and Sapa, Sapa-AFP31 Mar 2008 17:00
President Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF party were to announce victory on Monday in the country’s parliamentary and presidential elections, according to unofficial results leaked from the Zanu-PF and Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) command centres.
According to a report by the United Kingdom-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), sources within the ZEC centre said Mugabe had clearly lost the election to his opposition rival Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), polling only 20% of the vote. Mugabe was also said to trail Simba Makoni, a former Zanu-PF finance minister, who had garnered 28%.
The IWPR promotes free and fair media and has offices in London, South Africa and the United States.
According to Zanu-PF sources at the collation centre as well as government sources, the ZEC was to announce that the ruling party had won by 111 seats, or 52%, with some rural constituencies recording huge victories for Mugabe.
The first official results emerged about 36 hours after polls closed and no details were given on the presidential vote.
The MDC said on Monday that unofficial tallies showed Tsvangirai had 60% of the presidential vote, twice the total for Mugabe, with more than half the results counted.
The latest official results showed the opposition MDC and Mugabe’s Zanu-PF running neck-and-neck, with 19 seats each from a total Parliament of 210 constituencies.
The MDC said its tally showed it had won 96 parliamentary constituencies out of 128 counted. Makoni had 10% of the unofficial presidential vote count.
The ZEC sources said that in Mugabe’s traditional strongholds, such as Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe, he won with huge margins of more than 30 000 votes, with Tsvangirai getting as few as 2 000 votes.
But commentators said it would be something of a miracle if Mugabe and his party had secured the victory, given more than 85% unemployment, serious food shortages and a collapsed healthcare system.
The IWPR could not provide the exact percentage by which Mugabe would “win”, but its sources said there would not be a run-off, as Zanu-PF would claim Mugabe had clinched more than 50% of the total number of votes cast.
Among the ruling-party heavyweights that have fallen are 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.
Riot police appeared on the streets of the capital overnight and the state-run Herald newspaper accused the MDC of “preparing its supporters to engage in violence by pre-empting results, claiming they had won”. On Sunday, the government said any early victory claim would be an attempted coup.
The supposed election results, if the 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.
Reports coming from the United States have said that sanctions currently targeted at Mugabe and his close associates would be intensified if the ballot were not free and fair. The same reaction is likely from Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other Western countries.
But what is more worrying is how Zimbabweans will react to such a result, especially as the MDC says 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. 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% of voters registered in Harare North live on a piece of land that used to belong to the Ernest Kadungure housing cooperative.
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 Saturday, raised its concerns with ZEC chairperson George Chiweshe.
In a letter to Chiweshe, PAP election observer Mission leader Marwick Khumalo said the PAP team saw no evidence that there were any residents in ward 42, which is deserted land with a few wooden sheds, despite voters from that ward being listed on the voters’ roll.
The Crisis Coalition of Zimbabwe (CCZ) has said that 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 spokesperson McDonald Lewanika said civil society in Zimbabwe deplored recent comments by service chiefs saying that they would not accept the election of any presidential candidate but Mugabe.
Army commander Constantine Chiwenga and retired Major General Paradzai Zimondi, head of the prison services, said 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.
Once-prosperous Zimbabwe is suffering from the world’s highest inflation rate of more than 100 000%, chronic shortages of food and fuel, and an HIV/Aids epidemic.
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