Tension rises as MDC leader vows to stop elections
Harare — Political tension is rising in the run-up to Zimbabwe’s elections on July 30, with the main opposition led by the MDC Alliance due to take to the streets on Wednesday to protest against the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) over its alleged poor preparations for the polls.
Should the outcome of the election favour the incumbent, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the tension playing out is likely to provide cannon fodder for the MDC Alliance to challenge the outcome. A disputed result is likely to plunge the country into more uncertainty and cripple the economy.
Fuelling the latest rift are claims by the MDC Alliance that the electoral commission had blocked its access to the voters’ roll and refused to let it see the ballot paper.
On Tuesday it claimed there had been a data breach after Zanu-PF sent messages to thousands of registered voters on Monday imploring them to vote for its candidates. The ZEC has put the final tally of registered voters at 5.6-million.
Speculation intensified after the messages, with accusations that mobile operators were coerced to give out subscriber details. But Econet Wireless, the country’s largest mobile operator, in a statement issued on Monday, denied giving "subscriber details to third parties".
Nelson Chamisa, leader of the MDC Alliance, said it would not boycott the election but would not allow it to proceed. He dismissed speculation that the alliance was planning to use violence to stop the polls.
"The MDC Alliance will not boycott the elections, it will in fact not allow the elections to go ahead; 2018 cannot afford to be yet another disputed election. We will win this election, but it has to be done with a credible ballot paper," Chamisa said.
The MDC Alliance has roped in its allies, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, vendors and students unions, for Wednesday’s protest.
Happymore Chidziva, the youth leader of the MDC-T, one of the seven member parties in the MDC Alliance, said they expected 20,000 people to turn up on the streets of Harare.
Meanwhile, reports by the privately owned NewsDay newspaper on Tuesday claimed that the voters’ roll had 250,000 ghost voters. Citing experts, it said several techniques were used to sift through the 5,683,936 registered voters.
However, Priscilla Chigumba, the ZEC chairwoman, said the commission had picked up just under 1,000 names on the voters’ roll and attributed the problem to mistakes made with the voters’ identity numbers.
"The reason why we keep having these disputes around these areas [ballot papers and printing] is that the law does not provide that members of the public or stakeholders be involved in this process.
"Our law says only the ZEC can do that. We respect the democratic right of each and every Zimbabwean to approach any fora that they feel will give them the relief that they seek," she said.
The ballot paper will have the list of 23 presidential hopefuls divided into two columns, with Mnangagwa’s name at the top of the second column.
Police spokeswoman Charity Charamba said the run-up to the July 30 polls had been the most peaceful in recent years.
But the police "are disturbed by tearing of rival political parties’ posters and forcing rival supporters to remove their party regalia", Charamba told journalists at the police headquarters in Harare on Tuesday.