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Zimbabwean polls riddled with irregularities, say monitors as anxious nation awaits results amid protest fears



Zimbabwean polls

International observers have declared that Zimbabwe’s general elections fell short of the requirements of the country’s constitution, while police locked down the capital Harare amid fears of protests after President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s party and the opposition both claimed victory in a tightly contested poll.

Announcing preliminary findings of the Southern African Development Community, the head of the regional bloc’s observer mission, former Zambian deputy president Nevers Mumba, said the polls were fraught with several irregularities.

The SADC report noted:

  • Delimitation of constituency boundaries before the poll was fundamentally flawed;
  • The country’s electoral management body, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), failed to timeously avail the voters’ roll for audit purposes by contesting parties in line with the country’s electoral laws; and
  • It raised concern about biased state media coverage of the elections, intimidation of voters, judicial capture and the delay in distributing ballot papers to voting centres on voting day.

“In conclusion, the mission observed that the pre-election and voting phases, on 23-24 August 2023 Harmonised Elections, were peaceful and calm. However, for reasons outlined above, the mission noted that some aspects of the Harmonised Elections fell short of the requirements of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the Electoral Act and the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections,” said Mumba.

The Commonwealth observer mission too said the credibility of the polls had been seriously undermined by the irregularities noted during the voting process.

“The Commonwealth noted that the election was held in a peaceful environment but the irregularities put the credibility of the process [in doubt],” said Anna Mohamed, a former minister in the Kenyan government, reading the mission’s preliminary findings.

The Commonwealth has previously asked Zimbabwe to demonstrate that it was ready to reform before it was readmitted to the Commonwealth grouping.

Before the 23 August elections the Nelson Chamisa-led opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) complained about an upsurge in violence and intimidation of its supporters.


The SADC said it would produce its final report after monitoring the post-election period, and urged any aggrieved parties to use peaceful means, such as approaching the courts, to address their concerns.

This comes as both the ruling Zanu-PF party and the CCC have claimed victory in the chaotic elections, amid fears of protests and an internet shutdown as voters anxiously await the official announcement of the results.

Zimbabwean police set up roadblocks in Harare on Friday as the nation waited.

Chamisa’s party has already claimed that the polls were fraught with several irregularities on voting day, including the run-up to Wednesday, which was marked by violence and intimidation of opposition members and supporters.

The elections – which were held to elect a new president as well as parliamentary and municipal representatives – had a rocky start, with the ZEC failing to provide adequate voting material at several voting stations in some parts of the country, mainly in perceived opposition strongholds, resulting in Mnangagwa extending voting in affected areas by a day.

Early results

Parliamentary results released by the ZEC so far show that Zanu-PF won several seats in its traditional rural strongholds, while the opposition bagged seats in most urban areas, making inroads in some rural constituencies that were previously under the control of Mnangagwa’s party.

Top Zanu-PF official, the finance secretary Patrick Chinamasa, told reporters his party was impressed by results being announced by the electoral body, adding that his party had achieved a two-thirds parliamentary majority, with Mnangagwa expected to win outright and avoid a run-off.


“We are on full target to achieve a two-thirds majority in the national assembly; already we are there. We are also on target to achieve our target of 60% to 65% for our president in this election. That’s what we set out to project, so I am very grateful to the electorate that this has been achieved.”

Chamisa told supporters he would not accept any result that put him behind Mnangagwa, while CCC spokesperson Promise Mkwananzi claimed the 45-year-old opposition leader had won the polls despite alleged attempts by the ruling party and the electoral commission to rig them in Mnangagwa’s favour and setting the stage for yet another disputed poll.

“We are winning, we have won this election against all odds, but we will not let Zanu-PF get away with theft again,” said Mkwananzi.

These competing statements have prompted the Zimbabwe Republic Police to deploy its members to ensure peace is maintained until the electoral process is complete.

“As the police we are ready to ensure that the election process is concluded in a peaceful environment. We deployed our members throughout the country to ensure that peace prevailed before, during and after the elections,” said national police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi.

Internet jitters

International human rights watchdog Amnesty International says there are growing fears that internet connectivity has been affected in Zimbabwe after NetBlocks reported that the quality of internet access had been degraded on 22 August 2023, affecting millions of people who rely on the internet for information.

As fears of protests loom, Amnesty called on the authorities to respect fundamental freedoms of the Zimbabwean people.

“Amnesty International calls on the authorities to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights to freedom of expression and access to information, which are enshrined in the Zimbabwean Constitution and human rights treaties including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to which Zimbabwe is a state party. Access to information is a human right. The Zimbabwean authorities must guarantee reliable and unrestricted access to the internet before, during and after the election,” said Amnesty’s deputy director for southern Africa, Khanyo Farisè.

The human rights watchdog also expressed concern about the arrest of dozens of election monitors in Harare on Thursday.

“Authorities must allow everyone to freely exercise their human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, association, and access to information before, during and after the elections. The growing crackdown on human rights and impunity of perpetrators must end.”

Zimbabwe has a history of violent and disputed elections, with opposition parties repeatedly accusing the Zanu-PF party of being behind the attacks.

In 2008, founding leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai, pulled out of a presidential runoff after more than 200 people were killed in violence associated with the elections. He then famously said: “I cannot go to State House walking over dead bodies.”

In 2018, at least six people died when the military opened fire on protesters following disputed elections won by Mnangagwa.

Update –

The European Union Election Observation Mission released a statement headlined ‘Curtailed rights and lack of level playing field compounded by intimidation; election day largely calm, but disorderly’. The mission noted the “climate of fear” and highlighted the arrest of observers, and also criticised the “lack of level playing field particularly regarding the freedom of assembly”.

“The EU EOM also deplores an extensive and sustained disinformation and defamation campaign in some media and social platforms against the EU EOM and other international observer organisations”.

It condemned the administrative failures on voting day. “The failure of ZEC {Electoral Commission} to provide critical electoral material such as paper ballots resulted in many polling stations opening with severe delays, leading to an increasingly tense atmosphere in some locations.”

The EU EOM also noted the “central role of the judiciary in the process, given the unprecedented high number of pre-election court challenges, pertaining to both: right to contest and validity of all key legal texts, some of which remain unresolved”.


The African Union also noted irregularities, concluding in a preliminary report that elections were conducted in a “generally peaceful and transparent manner despite logistical challenges with the availability and distribution of local authority ballot papers in some areas. The Mission continues to observe the tallying process and will issue a comprehensive report within two months.”

It said that the mission urged all stakeholders to remain committed to the rule of law and democratic principles util the conclusion of the process, encouraging any aggrieved party to use legally established channels to seek recourse.

The ZANU-PF was due to hold a press conference in response.


Zimbabwean polls

Zimbabwean polls

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