Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean-hero-cum-tireless-dictator, is undoubtedly toasting the gods after claiming a 61 percent majority in last week's presidential elections. And the cherry on the top of his seventh consecutive win was that his Zanu-PF party also emerged victorious, winning 160 out of a possible 210 parliamentary seats.
The election process was deemed free and fair by observers from both the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Committee (SADC). But the main opposition party, MDC-T, are crying foul play, with leader Morgan Tsvangirai labeling the elections “a huge farce” and the results “null and void.”
Tsvangirai's party accuse Zanu-PF of rigging the votes and intimidating people into electing Mugabe for another five-year term. A large section of the public also believe this, a local domestic worker telling me, “My friends in Masvingo, they have said that they voted Zanu-PF. They were too scared of what might happen to them if they don’t. They don’t want the violence we saw last time.”
Now, anyone who wasn't too scared to vote against the 33-year regime of corruption and devastation is feeling robbed of their democratic rights. The list of rigging tactics seems to be endless, and Tsvangirai has compiled a pretty strong case, which he is preparing to take to court to fight for a re-election. His doubts about Mugabe's "win" are shared by many members of the international and domestic communities.
Below are just a few examples of the flaws and accusations being brought forward by the UK, the US, the MDC-T, anonymous Zimbabwean Facebook whistleblower Baba Jukwa and the people of Mugabe's country.
The main problem is that the scale of the results are completely off-balance. Mugabe’s 61 percent majority (up from 43 percent in 2008) is not only suspiciously huge, but also conveniently exempts him from a run-off election, like the one we saw in 2008. Zanu-PF’s victory also gives them a two-thirds majority, which is the amount needed to amend the constitution that was only voted in a few months shy of this election.
The individual area results are similarly dubious. The Manicaland and Matabeleland provinces are prominent MDC strongholds, yet both voted favorably for Zanu-PF. But who knows—maybe the Matabele people have just decided it's finally time to forgive Mugabe for slaughtering them by the thousands in the Gukurahundi massacres of the 1980s.
VIOLENCE AND INTIMIDATION
Intimidation strategies are Mugabe’s forte—and, considering he’s been working that angle since his first election in 1980, he’s had plenty of time to master the craft. This election was no different. Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have confirmed large-scale intimidation, contradicting the “free and peaceful” assessment put forward by the AU and SADC.
A website allowed Zimbabweans to report any discrepancies, which—with 710 entries, including "Man displaying gun to voters" and "War veterans forcing people to vote for Mugabe"—seems to suggest that intimidation isn't merely a figment of Tsvangirai's imagination. Not that Zanu-PF have been keeping their winning tactic much of a secret, displaying slogans like, “Zanu-PF can torture you anytime, the youths can beat you,” and, “If they oppose, we cut off their hands. If they oppose, we cut off their head.”
Speakers at rallies are even telling the people that supporting MDC is a one-way ticket to hell.
THE VOTERS’ ROLL DEBACLE
Firstly, a widespread rumour suggests that Zanu-PF brought in an Israeli company called NIKUV to help manipulate the voters’ roll. This was in order to increase the number of registered Zanu-PF supporters and involved duplications and the inclusion of plenty of dead people, with as many as 63 constituencies showing more registered voters than inhabitants.
Then the voters’ roll wasn’t released until the day before the elections, which breached the Electoral Act. Even then it was only available as a hard copy, making it basically impossible to get hold of. Consequently, as many as one million people ended up unable to find their names on the voters’ roll in the wards in which they had registered – also a result of an intentionally complicated registration process.
One voter told me, “I registered, but when I went to vote they told me my name was not there, that I couldn’t vote. So instead I went to the Zanu-PF headquarters and told them my problem. Because I went there, they thought I was wanting to vote for them, so they gave me a slip and told me to go back and that it was OK—that I could vote. So I did, but when I got inside, I voted MDC.”
DILUTING THE MDC VOTES
There is video evidence of Zanu-PF youths being bused in from undisclosed rural areas to dilute the vote in MDC strongholds. Tendai Biti, the MDC Secretary General, saw this happen and raised the alarm, but the bus driver refused to answer his questions. Biti then approached a member of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, who said he didn’t have the “authority” to do anything about it. Which kind of makes you wonder who exactly does have the authority to do anything about it.
ASSISTING THE ILLITERATE
Many people in Zimbabwe’s rural areas don’t know how to read or write, which makes handling a ballot paper a tricky business. These people are entitled to an objective assistant when entering the voting booth, but in Zimbabwe "objective" means something more along the lines of "devious", meaning voters are often duped by Zanu-PF assistants. This year, in one area of Mashonaland Central (an area notorious for violence in the 2008 elections), it’s estimated that 10,500 of 17,000 voters were “assisted.”
Understandably, Zimbabwe's citizens are a little confused by the election results. One member of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission even resigned over the way the elections were handled. And unlike 2008, when Zanu-PF supporters swarmed the streets to celebrate, there was not a single reveler to be found as I drove around Harare.
In a press conference this weekend, MDC-T threatened to take their feelings of injustice to the streets, which left Harare city centre crawling with police. Baba Jukwa has also been encouraging the people to stand up for themselves, suggesting that violence may be the only way to overthrow Zanu-PF.
He has called to “make Zimbabwe ungovernable” through a “people-driven revolution.” He’s also assured the masses that the security service will be on their side this time, and that he’s just “waiting for the call from Tsvangirai, Welshman [president of the Movement for Democratic Change] and Dabengwa [president of the Zimbabwe African People's Union] to go on the streets and show the world what we want."