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Zimbabwe falters on first post-Mugabe election

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Emmerson Mnangagwa / AFP PHOTO / Jekesai NJIKIZANA

It can simply be deduced that Zimbabweans got tired of the strong man, Robert Mugabe, 94 and decided to depose him in 2017. There were chains of interesting events that culminated in the exit of Mugabe, which paved the way for his vice, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was already on exile to return and emerged as Zimbabwe’s leader.

On November 14, 2017, armed military personnel from the Zimbabwe Defence Forces invaded the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation studios in Harare before Major General Sibusiso Moyo came out on a live television broadcast declaring that the army had activated an operation that would later be known as “Operation Restore Legacy.”

Moyo stated that President Mugabe and his family would be safe and their security would be guaranteed, as the operation was only ‘targeting criminals’ around him.

The dramatic shift came a week after Mugabe fired longtime Vice President (and military veteran) Mnangagwa, accusing him of disloyalty. The allegation was that all those were in a bid to pave way for his wife, Grace to succeed him. That seemed to be the last straw for the military, which sent armored vehicles and soldiers on street patrols in the capital.

Veterans and Zimbabweans lost confidence in Mugabe because the country’s economy crumbled drastically under him. Zimbabwe was once one of Africa’s most promising economies but under Mugabe’s rule, it became tainted by corruption, mismanagement and diplomatic isolation. Its population of 13 million is struggling amid shortages of foreign currency, unemployment above 80 per cent and lack of foreign investment.

Mugabe became Zimbabwe’s prime minister in 1980 and assumed the president’s office in 1987, after the exit of Zimbabwe’s first president, Canaan Banana.

On November 21, 2017, facing an impeachment vote from a combined session of the House of Assembly and Senate, Mugabe resigned as president. Mnangagwa was sworn in as the acting president on 24 November 2017. Mugabe’s removal extinguished Grace’s ambition to succeed him as she was made to go into exile. The nonagenarian’s five-year tenure was meant to run into 2018, when new election was expected to hold in summer.

Determined to uphold that timeline, Mnangagwa packaged presidential election in which he is the candidate of the ruling ZANU-PF. Therefore, on July 30, the Zimbabweans went to polls to elect who will pilot the affairs of the country for a period of five years as the constitution provides.

For the first post-Mugabe election, Mnangagwa invited African and International observers, including the European Union, who have been monitoring the elections for the first time since 2002 in an effort to restore transparency and credibility to the election process.

Mnangagwa’s major challenger was the candidate of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Nelson Chamisa, a 40-year-old lawyer and pastor who took over leadership of the party after its founder, Morgan Tsvangirai, died in February.

The contest between the two was full of dramatic moments, including an explosion at an Mnangagwa campaign rally in June, which he said was an attempt by Mugabe loyalists to kill him.

Nelson Chamisa / AFP PHOTO / Zinyange AUNTONY

Chamisa had his share of controversy too; including a string of gaffes which saw him apparently fabricate a meeting with Donald Trump, which he claimed could lead to a $15 billion investment in Zimbabwe if he won.

Before the polls, Mugabe called Chamisa the only viable candidate and rejected Mnangagwa and the ruling party, saying, “I cannot vote for those who have tormented me.”

The historic elections in Zimbabwe ended with Mnangagwa, the ally turned enemy of Robert Mugabe, declared the winner by a narrow margin. The opposition leader did not accept the outcome of the election. Mnangagwa passed the threshold for a first round victory of 50 per cent by 0.8 per cent while his main rival, Chamisa got 44.3 per cent, winning most urban centres where he had majority support.

The opposition leader, who had declared himself the winner before, during and after the voting refused to accept the result and accused the country’s election commission ZEC of being in collusion with the ruling Zanu-PF party. He claimed ZANU-PF rigged the election.

MDC chairman, Morgan Komichi went to the ZEC office during the announcement of the result to claim that the figures being presented were false. Opposition supporters protested when result showed that ZANU-PF has won majority of seats in the parliament. The protest left six dead, 14 wounded and several others arrested as security forces tried to halt it.

The measure taken to halt the protest got the attention of diplomats. The United States and European Union ambassadors in Zimbabwe called it “serious human rights violation.”

UN urged president Mnangagwa to handle the country’s security forces and asked the opposition to challenge the election result through legal means, which they have already done and Chamisa is very optimistic the court would restore his ‘victory’.

Meanwhile, ZANU-PF won a two-thirds majority in the parliament with 144 seats. The MDC Alliance, which is made up of seven parties, won 64 seats, and one seat went to the National Patriotic Front, formed by Mugabe loyalists.

The result means incumbent president Mnangagwa’s party will be empowered to make changes to the constitution at will. Although ZANU-PF won by a landslide, its majority has shrunk since the 2013 election when it obtained 160 seats and the MDC 49.

Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF yesterday, filed its opposing papers to the court challenge to the presidential election results brought by the opposition MDC alliance last week.

MDCs court challenge has resulted in the cancellation of the inauguration ceremony for President-elect, Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Paul Mangwana‚ the ZANU-PF secretary for legal affairs and head of the party’s legal team‚ yesterday said the petition filed by the MDC Alliance “lacked merit”.

“It is based on some theoretical calculations by some statistician whose qualification we doubt a lot. The elections are not won in court but in the ballot. They have not even asked for the ballot boxes to be re-opened and recounted.

“The election material is there for everyone to see. Nelson Chamisa was beaten thoroughly and effectively‚ so there is no basis or any grounds for challenging the victory of President Mnangagwa. Broadly‚ that is the thrust we are taking in opposing the application,” Mangwana.


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