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.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 6th May 2008