A Bizarre Process
The BBC got it right the other day; in news broadcasts they described the
Zimbabwe elections and the aftermath as 'bizarre'. The elections took
place - after a vigorous campaign by all parties and voting was peaceful -
as it always is on polling day. Funny how violence is switched on and off in
this country! 2,4 million people went to vote - a high turnout by my
estimate and the results were determined in the polling stations by
thousands of returning officers watched by polling agents - in some polling
stations as many as 20 or 30 individuals representing the different parties.
By early morning on the following day (Sunday) nearly all stations had
recorded their final tally and declared the winners and losers. By midday an
early result for the whole country was known. The JOC and Mr. Mugabe were
given the news in the early afternoon and then the wheels came off the whole
process. Mr. Mugabe just refused to accept that he had been beaten.
An elaborate plan was then hatched and the team charged with running the
elections did everything they could to fudge the results. To gain time they
drew out the announcement of the result and then declared that 25
constituencies were to be 'recounted'. A messy and clumsy exercise then got
under way and eventually came up with a result that few expected - they were
simply not able, with any credibility, to alter the figures. Three weeks
went by, still no swearing in of new MP's, no inductions of new urban
councils and no presidential ballot results.
After the so-called 'recount' was concluded, finally ZEC announced that the
verification and count of the presidential ballot would take place - a month
had gone by and already the Zanu PF campaign for a run off was under way. On
May the 1st the Chief Election Agents for the four candidates were called in
at 14.00 hrs and told that the final result was 48 per cent Tsvangirai, 43
per cent Mugabe, 9 per cent Makoni and 0,6 per cent for the also ran. Mugabe
had finally conceded what he had known on the 30th March, he had been
beaten, fair and square by the despised MDC.
We immediately rejected the results and stated that they bore no resemblance
to any of the data at our disposal - and we had a great deal of data. We had
our own figures from poling agents, we had a comprehensive police report on
the results as supplied to the JOC and we had the results of ZESN and a
parallel vote count carried out by the same organisation. By all accounts,
Mugabe never got 43 per cent of the vote - they simply took votes from both
Makoni and Tsvangirai and crudely decided that that was the result they
would declare. It had taken them a month to do what had been decided
virtually on Sunday night after the poll on Saturday.
We then demanded a full verification of every polling station and every
district. We wanted to see where these mysterious votes had been recorded.
With the whole world watching they were nervous but agreed to allow
verification of the raw data on the following day. At 09.00 hrs our team
presented themselves at the venue and an hour later they were given access
to the original returns from the polling stations and constituencies. After
two hours the process was abruptly halted, the Agents of the parties
excluded from the room and they announced that they were going ahead with a
press conference at which they would announce the final results of the
elections. This took place in the early afternoon with a room full of
smiling Zanu PF leaders and a number of totally dissatisfied representatives
of the opposition.
The world was told, Mugabe had been beaten, both in the House of Assembly
and in the presidential contest but that a run off was now required as
neither of the two front runners had the required 50 per cent plus one vote.
What a travesty! There was no way they could hide the evidence of what was
so blatantly a case of simply announcing a false result - even if it gave
the MDC what everybody had known for a month, a victory.
Now, in keeping with the strategy they have followed for a month, they are
still creating space and time for the people running the Zanu PF 'Campaign'
to do their dirty business. They are delaying the announcement of the date
of the run off even though by law it must take place within 21 days of the
announcement of the results of the presidential ballot. For weeks we have
had intelligence that said that they wanted the poll on the 26th May - the
day after Africa Day, which is a Monday, and a public holiday.
The Zanu PF campaign? Quite a simple formula really, they have mounted a
nation wide campaign of violence and intimidation against the MDC and its
supporters. This campaign is designed to terrify the local population into
voting for Zanu PF 'or else'. MDC leaders and opinion makers in all
districts have been targeted and are being burnt out of the their villages,
beaten and driven into the towns where they will not be able to influence
rural voters or in fact vote themselves.
Remember these are the monsters who during a two month period, in front of
the whole world, destroyed the homes and livelihoods of 1,4 million people
during Murambatsvina in 2005, these are the same people who destroyed Zapu
in a savage campaign that lasted 6 years and might have taken 40 000 lives
in the 80's. We are dealing with hundreds of severely injured people, dozens
of deaths, thousands of displaced people. Every Church has become a place of
refuge and MDC offices are simply swamped every day by ordinary people
fleeing the violence.
They are revamping the actual voting process itself, trying the close the
loopholes that allowed an MDC victory in the first elections. They are
changing returning officers and replacing them with people who will be 'more
co-operative'. They will ban the ZESN and stop any parallel vote count. They
have banned rallies and meetings until the campaign actually gets under way
after the formal announcement of the run off. Threats against the lives of
key leaders have been made and a number have left the country and gone into
hiding. Virtually every member of the team that ran the successful elections
on the 29th March is in jail or in hiding and unable to function.
We are saying that unless the playing field is leveled and the violence
stopped we will not participate. Well we have little hope of the former.
South Africa and our neighbors have watched the whole farce in silence. Not
a word of condemnation. Our hospitals are full of the MDC injured and not
one UN official has been to see for themselves. At the UN South Africa and
China - to their shame, blocked a UN attempt to send someone to see what is
going on and to try and get Zanu PF to behave by some sort of
internationally recognised code.
So once again, as so often in the past 8 years, we are on our own, few
resources apart from our courageous and tenacious supporters, very little in
the way of equipment (I think we have 27 motor vehicles nation wide) and no
outside help to speak off. We are on the edge of the Jesse facing that mad
bull buffalo and waiting for him to stop shaking the trees and shrubs in the
thickets and come out and face his adversary again. Unequal as the contest
is, we are ready and even eager to get this over with. More determined than
ever with the violence being perpetrated against us and feeling that after
this, we will give Zanu PF no quarter, no amnesty, only justice for what the
have done to our country and its people.
Bulawayo, 6th May 2008