Today is D-Day in Zimbabwe. Zimbabweans are voting for the election of the President of the Republic and the members of Parliament. The main dispute will be between Emmerson Mnangagwa and Nelson Chamisa, in a country plagued by corruption, poverty, inflation and unemployment. However, there are eight other presidential candidates in the presidential race.
According to statistics released by the Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC), 6.6 million people have registered to vote and at least 43% of voters are young people.
Mnangagwa, 80, and Chamisa, 45, face each other again at the polls after a pitched battle in 2018 in which the opposition leader, then representing the MDC Alliance, challenged the results in the Constitutional Court. Chamisa refused to recognize Mnangagwa as the legitimate leader of Zimbabwe.
Mnangagwa and Chamisa toured Zimbabwe begging for votes, while drawing large crowds at their rallies. However, Mnangagwa’s Zanu-PF was accused of transporting people to rallies while luring them with food, drinks and seeds.
Chamisa, however, spontaneously attracted Zimbabweans, with many observers saying they participated in the rallies of their own free will.
Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) leader Nelson Chamisa said last Monday that he will not allow the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to repeat what happened in 2018, increasing pressure on the electoral body over the impression of ballot papers to be used today, which he said was key to a free and fair referendum.
The country reached a feverish electoral level, with the opposition at war with the electoral body over the use of electoral registers based on polling stations and the printing of ballot papers. The ZEC has been embroiled in controversy in the run-up to this year’s elections, finding itself in battles with the opposition.
The young leader accused the ZEC of working in collusion with Zanu-PF, creating an uneven playing field. Observers see this scenario as a nod to another disputed election after the 2018 one that reached the constitutional court.
Chamisa, who announced that he was already forming his government, also said he would not devalue the dignity of current President Emmerson Mnangagwa if he wins Wednesday’s election.
“One of the gestures I will extend to the outgoing President, Mnangagwa, is to recognize his dignity. I’m not going to strip him of his perks as a former head of state. Let’s build the country together and advise where we can,” said Chamisa.
Meanwhile, Zanu-PF’s national security secretary, Lovemore Matuke, said the ruling party will not allow the Citizens’ Coalition for Change to govern Zimbabwe.
″We will not allow the Coalition to rule this country. The least we’re going to allow is that they can abuse municipal funds, but not all the money in this country. That will never happen,″ said Matuke.
In the presidential elections of 30 July 2018, the Electoral Commission of Zimbabwe announced Mnangagwa as the winner with 50.8% of the vote, against 44.3% for Nelson Chamisa. The results were contested by the MDC alliance and criticized internationally.
Zanu-PF defies the law and conducts an election campaign
In defiance of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s directive that all campaign activities should not extend beyond midnight on Monday, Zanu-PF took to the streets this Tuesday to ask voters to vote.
In a statement, the electoral commission determined that the last day of campaigning is August 21, 2023 at 11:59 pm, but this Tuesday, the ruling party called a meeting in the village of Gungauta, in western Chimanimani, chaired by the youth president of the Tinashe Nyabanga party. When asked for comment, Nyabanga confirmed the meeting and said he was referred by his superiors. ″It is true that the meeting in question took place, but I was sent by the president,″ he said.
ZEC denies accreditation to observers from the United States of America
With the country just hours away from voting in Wednesday’s general election, a team of observers from the Carter Center, a US-based non-governmental organization, accused Zimbabwe’s election commission of denying accreditation to most of its members.
In a statement, the Carter Center said most of its observers were not allowed to observe today’s election, despite the government’s initial invitation.
″Despite the invitation of the government of Zimbabwe to send an election observation mission for today’s elections, 30 of the 48 short-term observers of the Carter Center did not receive accreditation from the authorities of Zimbabwe,″ Maria Cartaya said in a statement.
According to the Zimbabwe Election Commission, election observation involves a process of gathering information or facts which aims to provide an informed judgment of the credibility, legitimacy and acceptability of the electoral process and its outcome.
It is recalled that a team from the European Union that observes the elections this Wednesday denied on Saturday a report from a state newspaper that alleged its involvement in a bribery scandal.
Citing unidentified sources, The Herald reported on Friday that a European Union communication team met with 18 journalists and distributed whiskey and shopping vouchers to influence journalists to produce reports that seek to smear the entire electoral process.
The Head of the EU Election Observer Mission, Fabio Massimo Castaldo, expressed surprise at state media allegations that his team is interested in interfering in Zimbabwe’s electoral process.
Internet service suffers outages in Zimbabwe
Netblocks, an internet watchdog, confirmed that internet service is experiencing fluctuations just hours before the general elections. The organization said it had noticed outages at internet service providers such as Netone, Econet, Telone and Liquid telecom.
The restrictions affect online platforms including Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram and Tik Tok. In the past, the watchdog has detected internet outages during opposition rallies and before demonstrations.
Mnangagwa, ″the Crocodile″
After being considered a potential successor to Mugabe, Mnangagwa faced a period of exile when Mugabe appeared to be preparing his wife for his succession in 2017.
Mnangagwa returned after a popular coup later that year, pledging to step away from Mugabe’s repressive and isolationist government. However, political analysts note that he is not so different from his predecessor.
“You have someone who was always a political replacement for Robert Mugabe, so Mnangagwa grew up with that system and now that he is in power and he has the military behind him, he uses these bad tactics to keep and stay in power,” said Edgar Githua, specialist in International Relations. “He will do anything to stay in power,” he added.
Nicknamed “the Crocodile”, Mnangagwa was previously associated with enforcing Mugabe’s tough actions. These actions included the massacre by the North Korean military brigade in the 1980s of an estimated 20,000 individuals from the Ndebele ethnic minorities in the Matabeleland region while Mnangagwa was Minister of Security. It is also linked to a violent crackdown on the opposition following Mugabe’s defeat by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in 2008.
Despite this history, Mnangagwa initiated discussions about these atrocities after becoming president and aimed to differentiate his administration from Mugabe’s. He has made promises to compensate white farmers, abolished a law that required ownership of foreign companies to be ceded to locals, and championed democracy. He further sought to restore relations with Western countries, even calling for Zimbabwe’s readmission into the Commonwealth and engaging with international forums such as the World Economic Forum.
Despite Mnangagwa’s appeals during campaigns, economic challenges and an active opposition have led him to adopt old strategies to stay in power, as suggested by human rights groups and analysts.
According to Alexander Rusero, a political analyst, the Zanu-PF political elite regard Zimbabwe as their private property and resort to violence whenever threatened.
Rusero says Mnangagwa is no newcomer to Zimbabwean politics as he has been on the scene for 55 years and this is just a continuation of Mugabe’s rule.
“The hard-line stance that existed under Mugabe is still there because it’s a system. It’s not a matter of personalities, but it’s a culture. So if Mnangagwa is without power today and Zanu-PF remains, this type of system will likely remain,” he said.
In the midst of economic crises and allegations of political oppression, as noted in reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Mnangagwa’s relationship with the West deteriorated. The US and European Union maintained sanctions, saying there had been no substantial changes to justify their lifting.
Seeking support from non-Western allies, Mnangagwa has cultivated relationships with leaders such as the presidents of Belarus and Iran, Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia. This approach mirrors Mugabe’s pivot to alternative alliances after Western isolation.
Despite these dynamics, analysts such as Rusero acknowledge that there have been some hints of changes that show some contrast to Mugabe’s rule, with the exception of his clinging to power.
“There are also certain things that have changed, especially a reconciling and less confrontational tone. Mugabe was known for his confrontational rhetoric ‘Keep your Britain, I will keep my Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe will never be a colony. So that kind of rhetoric is over,” Rusero said.
“Mnangagwa is minding his own business of consolidating power rather than fighting on the global political stage, as was the case with Mugabe,” he added.