As mayhem gripped several polling stations in Zimbabwe on Wednesday in presidential and parliamentary elections, voting was extended for a day. President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his Zanu-PF party seem determined to cling to power, while the opposition denounces “fraud” and “obstructing” the vote.
Zimbabweans voted Wednesday, August 23 in relative calm but without illusions while the opposition denounces “fraud” and “obstructs” that have marred the presidential and legislative elections.
“We are clearly dealing with hindrances leading to the suppression of voters, a classic case of archaic cheating dating from the Stone Age,” denounced Nelson Chamisa, a 45-year-old lawyer and pastor, to the press.
In the capital Harare, a stronghold of the opposition, the mess took hold of several offices, which were slow to open due to “logistical delays”. And the president had to announce in the evening that the ballot would be extended by one day, to allow the 6.6 million voters to vote. The Electoral Commission (ZEC) acknowledged that less than a quarter of the offices in the capital were able to open at seven o’clock as planned.
In the Kambuzuma district, Linda Phiri, 53, who arrived at dawn, was in the throes of exasperation in the afternoon, when no ballot had yet been cast. “I sleep there if necessary. I’m not going home,” she enraged to AFP. “We were told that the ballots were being printed, it’s a bad joke,” sighs Boasz, a 37-year-old nurse who does not want to give his name. “They are trying to defraud,” hisses Chrispen Marambakuwanda, a 45-year-old unemployed man.
At a time when most polling stations were closing, and even beginning to count, at least one of them, in a disadvantaged area of Harare, was just starting to vote, AFP found.
The opposition united within the Coalition of Citizens for Change (CCC), strongly established in the cities, was counting on a protest vote anchored in a growing discontent linked to a stricken economy, between record unemployment and hyperinflation.
The electoral campaign had already been marked by an indiscriminate repression of the opposition and serious irregularities in the electoral lists, observed by NGOs. President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his Zanu-PF party, in power since independence in 1980 of this landlocked southern African country, seem determined to cling to power.
Fears on the counting
Nelson Chamisa denounced a deliberate desire by the ruling party to “create confusion in order to confuse the issue”. The Zanu-PF “is in despair, these are the last kicks of a dying horse. It’s not a political party, it’s a mafia”, struck this slender man with a thin mustache, at the end of daytime. “We want peace but there is a limit,” he added, warning that he would not allow a rerun of the 2018 elections, the result of which he had contested, without success.
In Kwekwe (center), the outgoing president, 80, dyed hair and scarf in the colors of the country, voted surrounded by supporters. “With my vote, I hope that the town hall will give me a good job”, commented Freddy Kondowe, unemployed in his forties. The results must be published within five days of the ballot.
The CCC hailed a “very strong turnout”. But his spokeswoman Fadzayi Mahere reported maneuvers by Zanu-PF supporters – who arrived in some offices under the guise of exit polls – to sow fear and incite people to vote for power. “The regime is panicking,” she claimed. False posters were also distributed but “citizens will not be fooled”.
The day before, government spokesman Nick Mangwana told AFP that he wanted “every Zimbabwean to accept the people’s choice”. As if the chips were down. The president has tirelessly promised a fair election. But “Zanu-PF is unstoppable. Victory is certain,” he repeated again on Saturday.
After months of campaigning biased against the opposition, few believe in the chances of “young man” Nelson Chamisa. Human Rights Watch predicted a “seriously flawed electoral process”. And opposition as observers now fear fraud when counting the ballots. These concerns are “the fruit of an overflowing imagination”, had swept Tuesday with AFP Rodney Kiwa, vice-president of the ZEC.
Source: France 24