Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his ruling Zanu PF party were on Saturday night declared winners of the country’s chaotic general elections held on 23 August but results are disputed by the main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change party led by Nelson Chamisa.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa polled 52.6 percent of the total votes cast while his main challenger Nelson Chamisa of the Citizens Coalition for Change party came second with 44 percent amid opposition claims of vote-rigging and heavy criticism by international observers. The remainder of the vote was split between other smaller parties.
The chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, Priscilla Chigumba, announced that Mnangagwa polled 2,350,711 votes to Chamisa’s 1,967,343. Mnangagwa’s party also won a two-thirds parliamentary majority after bagging 136 seats in the National Assembly while CCC took 73. The election in the Gutu West constituency was cancelled after one of the candidates, Christopher Rwodzi, died in a car crash during the campaign period.
Chamisa’s defeat to Mnangagwa is his second after the opposition also claimed that he was cheated in elections held in 2018 that left at least six people dead in post-election violence.
CCC spokesperson Promise Mkwananzi said his party would be announcing its way forward after accusing Mnangagwa and his party of manipulating the democratic will of the Zimbabwean people in the 23 August polls that were boycotted by Movement for Democratic Change leader Douglas Mwonzora who described participation in the polls as “foolish bravery” given an uneven electoral playing field.
“We don’t recognize those results, our agents did not sign for them because they do not represent the will of the people,” said Mkwananzi.
The opposition claimed most of its supporters in its strongholds failed to vote when the ZEC failed to timeously distribute voting material resulting in many potential voters returning home without voting.
Prior to the announcement of the final tally, international observers, including the regional Southern African Development Community and the African Union, criticized polls with the SADC saying the voting process fell short of the requirements of Zimbabwe’s constitution and the country’s electoral laws.
Given the uneven playing field prior to the 23 August elections, Mnangagwa was widely expected to secure re-election as the contest was heavily skewed in favour of his Zanu PF party that allegedly unleashed a reign of terror targeting opposition members and supporters in the countryside.
“Despite the overwhelming odds, the resilient Zimbabwean people came forward in vast numbers, casting their votes in the hope of a brighter and better future. However tonight (Saturday), ZEC declared their results, and discrepancies have become glaringly apparent,” Mkwananzi said.
The opposition said its concerns are similar to those raised by observer missions and wants the polls to be declared illegal claiming many Zimbabweans were disenfranchised of their right to vote by ZEC when it failed to carry out the process in an orderly manner.
Following its criticism of the manner in which polls were conducted, the SADC observer mission led by former Zambian deputy president Nevers Mumba came under attack from Zanu PF who accused the regional bloc, especially Mumba, of bias towards the opposition.
The SADC secretariat came out guns-blazing against the attack on Mumba saying his report was a shared vision of the bloc.
Before announcing the results of the polls, ZEC deputy chairperson, Rodney Kiwa, said the polls had numerous challenges but the commission managed to deliver an election that he said was successful.
“We tried our best. We overcame many challenges,” said Kiwa.
President Mnangagwa’s chief election agent, Ziyambi Ziyambi, said the outcome of the polls reflects the democratic will of the Zimbabwean people adding that Mnangagwa’s win would enable him to complete developmental projects he began during his first term of office.
“You will recall that when he became president in 2018, he brought a lot of development to the country. His mantra was, “As Zimbabweans let’s build our country” and for the first time since independence, he told us that let’s forget about written manifestos, our work will be our manifesto and we believe that this is a very happy day where the people of Zimbabwe voted wisely,” Ziyambi said.
Turning to the diplomatic tiff that has ensued between Harare and the SADC bloc over their report, Ziyambi said he hoped it would be overturned.
“We hope that the chair of that team (Mumba) will have some reason and cause the report to be overturned because it lacked reason. It’s outside his mandate,” Ziyambi said.
While Zanu PF members were in a celebratory mood over the victory, analysts said Mnangagwa’s victory was a bad omen for the country—given how he performed during the first term.
“Regrettably, CCC stumbled into a flawed exercise and witnessed the entire sham, the worst in the history of elections in Zimbabwe. Back to the future, a most depressing, if not cynical, feature about elections in Zimbabwe is the extent to which elections are so brazenly stolen and the voters rendered mere useless statistics. Deplorable! Depressing. What a damn disgrace! All that prancing and yet a combination of incompetence and clumsy rigging by an administration bereft of both intellect and integrity,” said Ibbo Mandaza, the head of a local think tank Sapes Trust.
Before the announcement of the polls, Mnangagwa had met with former Mozambique leader Joachim Chissano for a brief on his observation of the elections. Chissano said he told Mnangagwa of complaints that were raised against his administration in the build-up to elections, adding that Mnangagwa assured him that he would attend to them.
“When I met the president today I told him about what people told me, which may sound as criticism, what people want demanding for improvements, and the president took note of everything,” Chissano said.
Chissano said he found it weird that SADC would issue such a damning report on Zimbabwe as this was not phenomenal during his time in office.
“We never experienced this. I never said this to anyone during my time,” Chissano said.