Paidamoyo Chipunza Senior Reporter
The International Election Observer Missions to Zimbabwe have condemned post-election violence that rocked Harare on Wednesday and extended their sympathies to all those affected during the skirmishes. MDC-T supporters acting on the reckless statements of their leaders ran amok in Harare city centre destroying property, torching vehicles, looting and robbing vendors and pedestrians culminating in the death of six people.
The International Observer Missions comprise of representatives of the African Union, Commonwealth, SADC, SADC Parliamentary Forum, Electoral Commissions Forum of SADC, COMESA, European Union, Carter Centre, and the delegation of International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute observer missions.
In a joint statement released yesterday, the observers said while people have a right to peaceful protests, they should also observe the law.
“While recognising the right to peaceful protest, we condemn vandalism and destruction of property and call on political party supporters to abide by the law,” reads a statement by the observers.
The observers also denounced the use of force in controlling violent protests.
ZEC, the observers said, should release full and detailed results expeditiously in a transparent and accountable manner.
“We call on the leadership of all political parties and their supporters, in particular the two main parties, Zanu-PF and the MDC Alliance, civil society, faith based organisations, and all other stakeholders to safeguard the integrity of the political and electoral process,” said the observers.
The observers said political leaders must also show magnanimity in victory and graciousness in defeat.
They said those with grievances must pursue them peacefully through established legal channels.
“On 30 July, the people of Zimbabwe went to vote in high numbers, aspiring for a new beginning. We stand in solidarity with them as they look up to their leaders, and all stakeholders to complete this process peacefully and credibly and to ensure their votes truly count,” they said.
All observer missions conceded that this year’s pre-electoral environment as well as the polling day were generally peaceful characterised by opening of political space including freedoms for civil society.
Meanwhile, Commonwealth Observer Mission chairperson Mr John Dramani Mahama said at a press conference yesterday that Zimbabwe’s general elections had been largely peaceful and well organised.
He said the observer mission was saddened by the violence that rocked Harare on Wednesday.
“We urge all stakeholders to allow ZEC to perform its role without interference,” said Mr Mahama. “Our experiences across the Commonwealth show that every election management body, no matter how mature, can improve. What matters is that it listens and improves in subsequent elections.
“We express profound sadness at the outbreak of violence by supporters of the opposition and the excessive use of force by the security services in the last 24 hours. We extend our sympathies to the families and loved ones of all those affected by these deeply troubling incidents.”
Mr Mahama said all parties should exercise patience and restraint as the nation waits for announcement of full results.
“The progress achieved so far could be undermined if all parties and their supporters do not remain peaceful and tolerant and respect the rule of law,” he said.
“The greatest test of leadership is called for now. Grievances must be pursued through due process, with the use of all available conflict resolution mechanisms. Political parties should be magnanimous in victory and gracious in defeat.”
Mr Mahama said the Commonwealth was impressed by the commitment to democracy shown by Zimbabweans, which was evidenced by the long queues and early turnout on the election day.
The Carter Centre also expressed concern over the post-election violence fuelled by the MDC-Alliance.
In a statement yesterday, former US president Jimmy Carter said: “The Centre calls on Zimbabwe’s political leaders to set an example by refraining from inflammatory rhetoric, which could incite further violence.
“Security forces should protect citizens and avoid disproportionate use of force. The Carter Centre stands with Zimbabwe in its commitment to peace and democracy.
“Until official results for the presidential contest and remaining parliamentary races are announced, it is critical for everyone to demonstrate patience and to avoid making premature declarations about the results.
“This election marks a critical juncture in Zimbabwe’s history, as it seeks greater democracy, freedom and prosperity. The Centre shares the Zimbabwean people’s commitment to these ideals.”
The Muslim community in Zimbabwe also condemned violence caused by MDC-Alliance supporters.
“We call upon political leaders to be responsible in their utterances by desisting from inciting people to acts of violence,” said Sheikh Ismail Duwa, the president of the Muslim community in Zimbabwe.
“Leadership comes with responsibility. The loss of innocent lives should be regretted. We also applaud the mature stance taken by the President (Mnangagwa) to preach peace.”
Zanu-PF has since won 145 National Assembly seats to the MDC Alliance’s 63.
The National Patriotic Front only managed one seat while Mr Temba Mliswa was the only indepemndent candidate to make into the august House by retaining his Norton seat.
The elections were very peaceful.
The new administration of President Mnangagwa also opened up democratic space in a manner never witnessed since independence in 1980.