Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Zimbabwe goes to the polls in first post-Mugabe election



Zimbabwe goes to the polls in first post-Mugabe election

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A man casts his ballot in a polling station located in the suburb of Mbare in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare on Monday, during the first round of general elections. Luis TATO/afp

Zimbabwe goes to the polls in first post-Mugabe election

Zimbabweans cast their ballots on Monday in the country’s first election since authoritarian leader Robert Mugabe was ousted last year, with concerns over fraud and the likelihood of a disputed result clouding voting day.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s former ally in the ruling ZANU-PF party, faces opposition leader Nelson Chamisa of the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) in a historic vote for the southern African nation.

Long lines formed from early morning outside polling stations in the capital Harare.

“I just have to do this. I have to see a better Zimbabwe for my kids. Things have been tough,” Tawanda Petru, 28, an unemployed man voting in Mbare, a low-income district of Harare, said.

“I’m going to vote for Chamisa, for change. I am not afraid, I can tell you.”

Mugabe, 94, who was ousted by the military in November, made a surprise intervention on election eve, calling for voters to throw ZANU-PF out of office.

Zimbabwe’s generals shocked the world last year when they seized control and ushered Mnangagwa to power after Mugabe allegedly tried to position his wife Grace to be his successor.

Mnangagwa, 75, who has promised a fresh start despite being from the ZANU-PF elite, is the frontrunner with the advantage of covert military support, a loyal state media and a ruling party that controls government resources.

But Chamisa, 40, who has performed strongly on the campaign trail, hopes to tap into a young population that could vote for change.

“I have no doubt that by the end of the day today we should be very clear as to an emphatic voice for change, the new, and the young – I represent that,” Chamisa said as he voted in Harare.

He again raised fraud allegations, saying “in the rural areas . . . if the ballot is a genuine one, not a fake one, victory is certain.”

The election is Zimbabwe’s first without Mugabe, who led ZANU-PF to power in a vote when the country became independent from Britain in 1980 and ruled for 37 years.

Speaking at his mansion on Sunday, Mugabe said he hoped the election would “thrust away the military form of government.”

“I cannot vote for those who tormented me,” Mugabe said, hinting he may vote MDC.

A clean vote?
As Zimbabwe’s hectic politics reached fever pitch, Mnangagwa claimed late on Sunday that Mugabe’s remarks proved that Chamisa was in a secret alliance with Mugabe.

Polls under Mugabe were marred by fraud and often deadly violence, and this year’s campaign has been dogged by accusations it will be rigged.

The MDC has raised repeated allegations of a flawed electoral roll, ballot paper malpractice, voter intimidation, bias in the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and free food handed out by the ruling party.

But campaigning has been relatively unrestricted and peaceful.

“After years of stasis, the events of November 2017 gave Zimbabwe the chance to dream again,” Mnangagwa said Sunday in an address on state radio. “As we have always said, the elections will be free, non-violent and credible.”

A recent Afrobarometer survey of 2,400 people put Mnangagwa on 40 percent and Chamisa on 37 percent, with 20 percent undecided.

Mnangagwa, who is accused of involvement in election violence and fraud under Mugabe, invited international observers – including the previously-banned European Union team – to the poll.

The EU team will deliver a preliminary report later in the week.

Desperate for investment
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights warned of alleged intimidation and threats of violence in the run-up to polling day, but said it was encouraging to see open rallies and peaceful demonstrations.

The next government must tackle mass unemployment and an economy shattered by the Mugabe-backed seizure of white-owned farms, the collapse of agriculture, hyperinflation and an investment exodus.

Previously solid health and education services are in ruins and millions have fled abroad to seek work.

Life expectancy has only just recovered to its 1985 level of 61 years.

“The governing ZANU-PF party needs to maintain a semblance of free and fair elections in order to attract fresh foreign investment,” said the London-based EXX Africa business risk consultancy.

“However, there still remain serious concerns over vote credibility.”

With 5.6 million registered voters, the results of the presidential, parliamentary and local elections are due by August 4.

A run-off vote is scheduled for September 8 if no presidential candidate wins at least 50 percent in the first round.

MOST VIEWED

  • Omicron patients can stay home: PM

    The Ministry of Health has issued a directive on the treatment of people who have tested positive for the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant, following a suggestion from Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of January 21. The directive permits home quarantine for those who

  • Cambodia’s first ever anime festival kicks off Jan 22 at capital’s F3 centre

    Phnom Penh's first ever Anime Festival will bring together fans, artists, shops and other local businesses with ties to the Japanese animation style for cosplay competitions, online games, pop-up shops and more on January 22, with Friends Futures Factory (F3) hosting. F3 is a project that

  • Mr Pancake or M Crepe? Tasty by any title

    Crowds of people gather around a lone man with a mobile food cart every day at around 2pm in front of the Institut Francais du Cambodge to order what many say are the best crepes in Phnom Penh. To some – even to the man making

  • Phnom Penh condo market loses steam

    Just four new condominiums were launched for sale last year in the capital, down from 17 in 2020, according to research by CBRE Cambodia. The four developments comprised “more than 1,000” units, while the 17 in 2020 consisted of 10,866, the real estate firm reported. CBRE Cambodia categorises condos as “high-range”, “

  • Fourth dose Covid booster drive jabs 43K in two days

    In the first two days of the fourth-dose Covid-19 vaccination campaign, more than 43,000 people volunteered to get the jabs, while over 4.6 million people have received a third shot. Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said that fourth-dose vaccinations, which began on January 14 exclusively with the Pfizer

  • PM sets tourism reopening as centrepiece of ATF 2022

    Prime Minister Hun Sen urged ASEAN to reopen tourism and trade now that many of the bloc’s member countries have vaccinated their populations. Speaking at the 40th ASEAN Tourism Forum 2022 (ATF 2022) in Preah Sihanouk province on January 18, the premier also said ASEAN has a