Concerns, but Zim is calm

2013-07-31 00:00

ZIMBABWE’S President Robert Mugabe seemed confident of an outright win ahead of his country’s elections today, but vowed that he would step down if he lost to rival MDC-T leader Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

“If you lose you must surrender,” he told a contingent of journalists at a rare press conference at State House in Harare yesterday on the eve of Zimbabwe’s first elections after he had been forced to share power with the opposition MDC-T following the 2008 polls.

Asked whether Zanu-PF could continue in such a government, Mugabe said: “That circumstance is not envisaged this time.” He added, though, that it was difficult to say before “we are told the facts by the voters”.

Mugabe denied claims that Zanu-PF was involved in attempts to rig the vote: “I comply with and obey the electoral law and I move in accordance with the electoral process,” he said. “We are not lawbreakers.”

Polls have put Mugabe in the lead, but it is expected to be a close race.

Allegations of attempted vote-rigging and irregularities on the voters’ roll from opposition parties have marred the run-up to what has so far been a peaceful election.

Media24 understands observers from the African Union and Southern African Development Community (SADC) missions were concerned about claims reported in ZimEye that an analysis of the voters’ roll showed that as many as 2,3 million names were duplications with minor alterations to details. These are all in areas set to favour Zanu-PF.

The MDC-T yesterday handed what they claimed was proof of duplicate voters to SADC observers. The party also asked supporters at its rally in Harare to use their cellphones to report irregularities on voting day.

The reluctance by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to release electronic versions of the voters’ roll has fuelled suspicions that they are complicit or at least tolerant of rigging.

The commission said on Monday that “logistics” prevented them from releasing the roll electronically, but said print-outs would be available at polling stations.

SADC chief observer to Zimbabwe, Bernard Membe, told the BBC that he was concerned that a voters’ roll had not been released. Observers told Media24, however, that they were cautiously optimistic that the poll would be without violence.

Another observer from Botswana, however, said claims by both Tsvangirai and Mugabe that they would win the polls could cause problems. “These can flare up tempers and breed violence.”

Mugabe confirmed he had briefly met former Nigerian president Olesegun Obasanjo yesterday morning.

“We reminisced a bit. He wasn’t long and he said so far so good and he hopes the climate remains as he found it. When he arrived there were reports that it was calm,” he said.

Asked about Zimbabwe’s relations with South Africa following the elections should he win, Mugabe intimated that it would be business as usual.

Earlier this month he had harsh words for President Jacob Zuma’s envoy, Lindiwe Zulu, who expressed SADC concerns that Zimbabwe wasn’t ready for the elections. Zuma then silenced her.

Mugabe said Zulu was “a woman who opened her mouth in an irregular way” and this had nothing to do with bilateral relations between the countries.

He added: “I am glad that it was corrected, and I am glad that she has learnt to zip her mouth.”

The ANC yesterday released a statement in which it wished Zimbabweans a government based on the free will of the people”.

Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters last night also put out a statement on the Zimbabwean elections, saying the people of Zimbabwe should “defend the Zimbabwean revolution by voting for Zanu-PF”.

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