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

  • ‘Kingdom one of safest to visit in Covid-19 era’

    The Ministry of Tourism on January 12 proclaimed Cambodia as one of the safest countries to visit in light of the Kingdom having been ranked number one in the world by the Senegalese Economic Prospective Bureau for its success in handling the Covid-19 pandemic. In rankings

  • Kingdom accepts Chinese vaccine, PM first to get jab

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said China would offer Cambodia an immediate donation of one million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by the Sinopharm company. In an audio message addressing the public on the night of January 15, he said Cambodia has accepted the offer and

  • Reeling in Cambodia’s real estate sector

    A new norm sets the scene but risks continue to play out in the background A cold wind sweeps through the streets of Boeung Trabek on an early January morning as buyers and traders engage in commerce under bright blue skies. From a distance, the

  • PM asks India for vaccine help

    Prime Minister Hun Sen is seeking assistance from India for the provision of Covid-19 vaccines as the country has produced its own vaccine which is scheduled to be rolled out to more than 300 million Indians this year. The request was made during his meeting with

  • Cambodia, India agree to start direct flights, tourism exchanges

    Cambodia and India have agreed to start direct flight connections and promote closer tourism exchanges and cooperation in all areas after the Covid-19 saga comes to a close. The agreement was reached during a meeting between Cambodian Minister of Tourism Thong Khon and newly-minted Indian

  • Hun Sen: Lakes filled in for national developments

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced continued operations to fill some lakes in Phnom Penh to create land for developments, though he is against the unrelated practice of damming rivers or blocking waterways. Speaking at the inauguration of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport