The Devil that just will not die

Who said change was easy? Here we are, 14 days after the election and a complete stalemate exists. Tonight Mugabe has announced that he will not attend the SADC summit on Saturday and this completes his admission that the election has gone against him and he is now acting completely outside the law and violating his own constitution. He has illegally reappointed his cabinet and continues in office as if he was still President. The military have deployed and today they banned all political activity. In effect they have staged a military coup.

The action started on Sunday two weeks ago, when just after lunch, the CIO and the National Command Centre told the President that he had lost the election. At that stage the results were 58 percent, Tsvangirai, 27 percent Mugabe and 15 percent Makoni. This resulted in a hurriedly convened Politburo meeting and a decision to simply falsify the election results to give Mugabe a victory. When confronted by the security chiefs and his own staff and ZEC he eventually backed down and agreed to allow a result that showed Tsvangirai at slightly less than 50 per cent and a much improved position for himself - a face saving formula.

Then came an effort to get him to step down, this was blocked by Mugabe and on the Thursday after the election, the Zanu PF leadership, working with the heads of the armed forces in the JOC, decided to hardball the situation. They decided to force a re-run, extend the period before the re-run to 90 days instead of the 21 days laid down in the Constitution and to militarize the run off, intimidate the population and the MDC and to threaten that they would 'go back to the bush if Mugabe was defeated'.

Regional leaders intervened and Zanu PF backed down - or appeared to back down. They held another politburo meeting and announced that they would allow an audit of the V11 forms (requested by the MDC on Tuesday) and if the final count showed that Tsvangirai had less than 50 per cent of the vote, would insist on a re-run and allow the ZEC to run this on their own. They did not say what they would do if the vote were more than 50 per cent in favor of Tsvangirai.

ZEC then proceeded to bring all the V11 forms into town and a recount of the Presidential ballot was undertaken. This was completed by mid morning on Monday. Still no declaration of the result. Instead, Zanu PF produced a list of 25 constituencies where they alleged there were irregularities. To support this they arrested 7 ZEC officials and charged them with 'under counting the ballots for Mugabe'. They demanded a recount of the vote in those constituencies. This of course is a huge undertaking and illegal. While this was going on, on Thursday they suddenly moved the whole of the ZEC office to a secret location. Denying the Chief Election Agents for the 4 Presidential candidates access to the ZEC process. Even Simba Makoni - one of the candidates, was denied access. The Chief Executive of the ZEC, a Zanu PF functionary took over and even the Commissioners and the Chairman of ZEC seemed to have little influence over what happened.

On Friday (today) ZEC held a number of recounts. We (MDC) decided not to attend as the process was unlawful and unconstitutional and we had had no control of the ballot boxes since the election. In addition we heard that they were going to interfere with the ballots themselves. So instead of the MDC attending - we sent lawyers to protest the recounts as being unlawful and saying we would not witness the recounts and would not accept the results.

What outsiders need to understand is just what happened during the election and why we can say with conviction that we won.

When each polling station closed its doors to the voters on Saturday night (over 9000 of them) the polling station staff from ZEC took a short break and then started the count. This was done in meticulous way. Each of the four boxes were opened, one by one and their contents poured onto a table in front of perhaps 10 to 20 polling agents (each candidate was allowed one polling agent - in my case that was 3 for the local government candidates, 5 for the parliamentary candidates, 4 for the senate and 4 for the presidential candidates - 16 in all). Each ballot was held up and verified and then the candidate voted for was noted and the ballot placed in that pile. When this was completed the piles of ballots were counted and recounted and only after all were satisfied were the results recorded.

When this process was completed for each election and each candidate, the results were tallied and agreed - then the V11 form was completed by the Returning Officer (ZEC) and this was then signed - by each political Party representative and the Returning Officer as the official result. A copy was then posted on the door of the polling station.

The V11 forms were then taken to a Command Centre for each electoral district. This meant there were command centers for the local government candidates, for the parliamentary candidates and for the senate. Only the presidential ballot returns were sent to Harare for collating at the National Command Center. In the case of all the other candidates we knew who had been elected before lunch on Sunday - I knew I had been elected by 6.30 on Sunday morning and was declared the winner by ZEC in my electoral district.

So the critical thing to note is that the V11 forms are a legally binding document - signed by all parties to the election and verified at the polling stations. I had 48 hours to appeal the election and if I did not - it was taken that I accepted the results. After that, if I had wanted to appeal the result I would have had to go to the Courts and argue my case - but the ballot itself could not be the basis of this appeal. That was final.

When they were counting the presidential results (over 9 000 V11 forms) it was the MDC team to saw the very high ballot figures for some of the Mashonaland constituencies and stopped the count - we then demanded to see the original forms and this took nearly 3 days to bring them into Harare. But already our own tabulations based on 90 per cent of the results from the polling stations (we did not have 100 per cent coverage) had given us 50,3 percent vote for Tsvangirai - even with the funnies in Mashonaland that we still have to investigate. It was this figure we then took to the media.

We guessed that this would not change much in the remaining 10 per cent of the ballot and announced we had won the election. We were certain of that from leaks in the CIO and the ZEC itself. Now we understand the final count of the presidential ballot has been completed - without our observers watching the process as laid down in the Electoral Act and we understand that Morgan Tsvangirai is in the lead by a comfortable margin of well over 50 per cent - in fact much better than we had originally expected.

But the devil just will not lie down and die. They have staged recounts of the ballots (all illegal and having no force or effect) and are clearly trying to do everything they can to get a re-run. In expectation that they will succeed, they have deployed senior officers to all electoral districts and have issued weapons to militia and the so-called 'war veterans'. The war was 28 years ago so most of the real vets are old or deceased. We are seeing a wave of violence against our activists and MDC structures. Clearly they think they can win a re-run using the tactics that served them so well in the past.

MDC will just not accept this state of affairs - we have said we won the election and when the ZEC finally gives us the result of their count, this will be proved, even after all this nonsense. We are saying we will not condone a rerun as we won the election by more than 50 per cent. The behavior of the State since the election pretty much declares as much.

We have been very patient and tolerant of Zanu PF behavior - as have the whole region and Africa as a whole. But now its time to stand up and say no more! If the election results are not announced soon or the crisis resolved by SADC leaders, we have said we will call on the country to basically shut down until they do, from next Tuesday.

SADC meets in the morning and bears a heavy burden in that they have to defend constitutional government and legitimacy in the region. An election has been held - it was neither free nor fair and it was managed in a totally partisan manner. Even so, the MDC beat Zanu PF and it is time to tell Mugabe to leave office and allow his beleaguered country to start its long road back to sanity and recovery.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 11th April 2008