A RECORD 75% of registered voters took part in Zimbabwe’s tightly-contested elections yesterday, where top presidential contenders — Emmerson Mnangagwa (Zanu PF) and Nelson Chamisa (MDC Alliance) — are reportedly in a neck-to-neck race, with the first batch of results expected this morning.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba (pictured) told a Press briefing late last night that the commission had received returns from four provinces and was now awaiting results from the remaining six.
“Average voter turnout was 75%, which we attribute to sound voter education conducted to a receptive electorate,” she said.
Chigumba said Zec had received returns from Masvingo (60,62% voter turn-out), Midlands (75%), Harare (70%) and Bulawayo 70%. She added that an average 1% of voters had been turned away for various reasons.
“The reasons ranged from defaced identity cards, invalid documents or wrong ones altogether.”
The Zec boss said most polling stations had closed at 7pm, adding the figures she had given were as at 6pm.
“Zec is pleased to announce that it managed to clear all queues by 7pm. However, all those people in the queues were allowed to vote because the law stipulates that they should be attended to,” she said.
Chigumba warned candidates and other stakeholders to desist from prematurely announcing the results.
“The commission would like to urge Zimbabweans to be patient as we wait for results. All stakeholders are reminded from announcing results as that is the prerogative of the commission,” she said, adding a female voter from Bulilima in Matabeleland South province collapsed and died at a polling station.
The anxiety over delays in announcing the results came as Zec indicated that Chamisa and Mnangagwa could be charged for violating electoral laws.
Chigumba told journalists in Harare that she had reported the two protagonists to the police for allegedly continuing with their campaigns after the cut-off time, in violation of the Electoral Act as well as Electoral Code of Conduct signed by political parties prior to the election.
“The Zec notes with concern continued violations of the Electoral Act by candidates contesting in the 2018 harmonised elections. On July 29, 2018, at least two of the presidential candidates gave statements published in the news media, which might be interpreted as campaigning.
These matters have been referred to the attention of the police for investigation as to whether or not the Electoral Act and/or the Electoral Code of Conduct might have been violated,” Chigumba said without naming the candidates.
This came after both Chamisa and Mnangagwa publicly slugged at each other on Sunday.
A visibly-angry Mnangagwa in a 40-second video posted on his Facebook page late on Sunday, accused Chamisa of throwing his lot with former President Robert Mugabe and warned the electorate against voting the youthful opposition leader.
“Now that it is clear to all that Chamisa has forged a deal with Mugabe, we can no longer believe that his intentions are to transform Zimbabwe and rebuild our nation. The choice is clear you either vote for Mugabe under the guise of Chamisa or vote for a new Zimbabwe under my leadership and Zanu PF. Real change is coming. We should all be part of it,” Mnangagwa said in the grim message.
Earlier, Chamisa had, through his lawyer Thabani Mpofu, declared that he would not accept any election result where he was not the winner.
“Any election outcome that will have Mnangagwa as a victor is not an election, but fiction. I have said it before and will say it again. We are very clear of the will of the people,” he said just minutes after Mugabe had thrown his weight behind him as the only presidential candidate with a realistic chance to unseat Mnangagwa. The 94-year-old former Zanu PF strongman told journalists at his private mansion in Harare that he would not vote for Mnangagwa.
“I have never met Chamisa. I wish to meet him if he wins. I can’t vote for those who’ve caused me to be in this situation. Mai (Joice) Mujuru (People’s Rainbow Coalition presidential candidate) and Mai (Thokozani) Khupe (MDC-T presidential candidate) have less to offer, so there’s just Chamisa. As for whom I will vote, there are 23 presidential candidates in this election. I will choose from the 22 (minus Mnangagwa). I cannot vote for those who have tormented me, no I can’t! We used to say politics directs the gun, but now the gun directs politics. I say no, no, no!” he said.
But, Zanu PF legal secretary Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana yesterday said he would only comment on Mnangagwa’s fate after Zec has specifically named the said candidates.
“The first thing is as you say they have not identified the two presidential candidates who might have violated the law. Secondly, as long as Zec has made a pronouncement on a matter which they indicate was not under investigation, then that becomes sub-judice and I cannot comment least my comments are used as a reference point,” he said.
Chamisa dismissed Zec’s threats as a legal nullity and meant to intimidate him.
“President Nelson Chamisa’s legal team would like to make it clear that no offence known at law was committed by addressing a Press conference today (Sunday). The fact that Zec has reported a non-offence at this crucial time is meant to intimidate the president and his team and this is an unacceptable demonstration of partiality and will not be lightly viewed,” he said in a statement.
He added that Mnangagwa had panicked by circulating a video in response to Mugabe’s utterances.
Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba was more emphatic, even dismissing Chamisa’s chances in the event there was a run-off.
“If none of the candidates secure +50% of vote, I can’t see Zec conducting a run-off if Chamisa is one of the two leading candidates. This is thanks to his breach of paragraph 7 of the 4th schedule of the Electoral Act [Chapter 2:13] which effectively renders him ineligible for a run-off.
“In terms of the electoral law, the breach of para(graph) 7 of the 4th schedule of the Electoral Act [Chapter 2:13] by Chamisa as he campaigned in front of the world media today (Sunday) clearly constitutes a violation that warrants disqualification. Zec is expected to take appropriate action,” Charamba said.
Yesterday, after voting in Kwekwe, Mnangagwa seemed a bit more relaxed and reached out to his predecessor.
“He (Mugabe) is a citizen of this country, I can engage him anytime and he can engage me anytime whether there is an election or not, if he has an issue to discuss or if I have an issue to discuss,” the President said.