Day of action

HARARE - Zimbabwe will today go to polls for a general election its citizens are hoping will produce a credible outcome to allow the country to move forward after it came unstuck for over two decades owing to allegations of electoral fraud.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, who succeeded Robert Mugabe as president and leader of Zanu PF, is seeking a substantive term in the elections, in which he is facing Nelson Chamisa, aged 40, as his main rival.

There are 21 other presidential aspirants.

Credible poll surveys have predicted a close contest between Chamisa and Mnangagwa, which could be decided by a run-off.

Both leading candidates are promising a break with a heritage of economic vandalism, underlined by cash shortages, poverty and corruption in a country where most citizens have no reliable electricity or clean drinking water.

They are both bidding to succeed Mugabe in the first vote after the November de-facto coup.

These historic elections have generated a lot of interest among both ordinary people and ambitious politicians alike.

They are the first since Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain in 1980 not to feature Mugabe — who resigned from office last November after Parliament had started damaging proceedings to impeach him.

The elections will also, for the first time in two decades, not include Chamisa’s predecessor Morgan Tsvangirai, who lost his valiant battle against cancer in February.

The run-up to the election has been largely peaceful, with scant reports of violence but increasing intimidation of villagers by Zanu PF apparatchiks in the rural hinterland, according to rights groups.

Voting will open under sunny skies in the capital Harare, according to the forecast by the Meteorological Services Department, with polling stations opening at 0700 GMT and closing at 1900 GMT.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has said it is “all systems go”.

“Everyone at Zec is raring to go,” deputy Zec chairperson Emmanuel Magade told the Daily News yesterday.

“We are absolutely certain that we will have a successful election. And our message to the good people of Zimbabwe, in as much as they responded very positively to our pleas for them to register under the BVR (biometric voter registration) system, once more we are pleading with them to come in their millions and vote.

“Those who don’t bother to vote should not complain when (they) find themselves being bound by the decisions of those who would have registered to vote. Since tomorrow is a public holiday, there is absolutely no reason why people should not come in their millions.”

Magade said Zec has made provisions for both able-bodied and the physically-challenged people to vote with minimum inconvenience.

“Our young democracy can only prosper and flourish when the citizens of this country nurture it by actively participating in the governance of this beautiful country,” Magade said.

Zec has already said the final results of the vote are expected within five days after the close of today’s poll.

Today’s poll follows a month of political tensions, fuelled by opposition claims of serious problems with the electronic voters’ roll, concerns over the ballot papers, an allegedly biased election commission and systematic intimidation of voters in rural areas.

The opposition also complained about the bias in the dominant state-run media.

For the first time in over a decade, Mnangagwa’s government lifted the long-standing ban on Western observers, inviting the European Union and United States to monitor this year’s crucial general election, with missions from over 40 countries.

George Shire, a United Kingdom-based scholar, said the country needs a period of stability for the next five years and “we should take advantage of the positive mood of change towards our country internationally’.

Stephen Chan, a professor of world politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, told the Daily News yesterday that today’s election poses a clear choice for Zimbabweans: either to walk step by step, carefully, away from the Mugabe era; or to take, with risks, a giant stride away from the Mugabe era.

“Walking away with care and stability meant voting for Mnangagwa.

Striding away meant voting for Chamisa. But if Mugabe is seen in any way as endorsing Chamisa, then people may wonder whether they are really striding away from the old man,” Chan said.

“I myself doubt whether Mugabe’s statement (yesterday) was anything other than spite against his successors in Zanu PF. It would have been statesmanlike if he had just kept quiet. There are other former African presidents in Zimbabwe observing the election, and they did not behave in this manner. I believe that, by Sunday, most people had made up their minds. Even so, the Mugabe statement is undignified.”

Political analyst and civil rights activist Gladys Hlatywayo urged fellow Zimbabweans to go out in their millions and exercise their democratic and constitutional right.

“Remember bad leaders are chosen by people who do not vote. I am aware that you are all worried by reports of electoral malpractices and therefore think your vote will not count.

“Turning up in our millions is in-fact an effective anti-rigging strategy. Let us be vigilant and stand ready to defend our vote. Attempts to subvert the people’s will must not be tolerated,” she told the Daily News.

Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said Zimbabweans must vote for candidates based not on parties but content and what the candidates offer, their character and background.

“He said his message was to accept whatever results come and give a chance for whoever is elected to run the country, but be vigilant; to start from day one if the new government to ask for electoral reforms and not wait for 2023 to demand such reforms; to live together as one cohesive people and refuse to be used by politicians for their selfish ends after results are announced,” he said.


Comments (1)


g40 - 31 July 2018

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