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Fears of violence hover as Zimbabwe goes to the polls

2013-07-30 23:16

Harare - As millions of Zimbabweans headed to the polls in a crunch election on Wednesday which might see the end of Robert Mugabe’s 33-year rule, fears hovered of a lengthy post-poll dispute and possible extensive violence.

This despite the 89-year-old ruler saying he will "surrender" if he were to lose the fiercely-contested election that remains too close to call.

Polling stations open at 07:00 (05:00 GMT).

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Earlier in the week his main rival, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, hinted that Mugabe could be granted immunity if he relinquishes power.

"I want Mugabe to enjoy his retirement in peace and quiet," he told supporters.

At his rallies, supporters have directed a chant of "game over" at Mugabe.

Mugabe, at a special news conference on the eve of the elections,  said he would step down if he loses the election.

"If you go into a process and join a competition where there are only two outcomes, win or lose, you can't be both. You either win or lose. If you lose, you must surrender."

Post-poll dispute

However, given the problems that have dogged the process, many Zimbabweans expect a lengthy post-poll dispute that will start in the courts, but could spill over onto the streets.

They fear a repeat of the violence that broke out after Mugabe lost the first round of an election in 2008.

A spokesperson for the MDC said the party was prepared only to the accept the results if the poll was "free and fair" - a verdict on which the jury is still out.

Western election observers have been barred, leaving the task of independent oversight to 500 regional and 7 000 domestic monitors. The final results must be released within five days, but may come sooner.

In an interview published in the Washington Post, Tsvangirai urged African monitors not to give the vote a seal of approval merely because they did not witness bloodshed.

So far, the campaign has been marked by allegations of threats and intimidation, but there has been no violence.

Despite this, squads of heavily armed riot police have been deployed in parts of Harare and state radio reported that thousands of officers had also been sent to the central Midlands province, another potential flashpoint.

Mugabe acknowledged problems with the election organisation, including the late release of the voters' roll, but denied the list had been doctored to ensure a Zanu-PF victory.

"We have done no cheating, never, ever," he said.

Dead voters

In June, the Research and Advocacy Unit, a non-government group, said after examining an incomplete roll, that it included a million dead voters or emigres, as well as over 100 000 people who were more than 100 years old.
Mugabe described campaigning as peaceful except for "a few incidents here and there" and said any unrest surrounding contested results will be stopped.

The Brussels-based International Crisis Group said conditions for a free vote were not in place.

It said a return to a protracted political crisis, and possibly extensive violence, was also likely, especially if regional election observers of the Southern African Development Community and African Union failed to identify flaws in the hastily arranged voting process.

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said on Tuesday that voters are weighing up their options in the most significant polls since the first elections that swept Mugabe to power in 1980, ending colonial era rule.

Despite complaints of harassment and arrests of rights and civic activists over several months, "we believe a high voter turnout and a determined electorate can still show by their numbers, tenacity and resolve that their vote will be heard and their will respected", the group said.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network, a private group involved in voter education and electoral training programmes, is set to deploy 7 000 observers to polling stations nationwide. Another 4 000, including 600 observers from elsewhere in Africa, are also fanning out into voting districts to cover more than 9 000 voting stations.

Outright win

Mugabe said he expected to see his party as an outright winner, thereby avoiding mediation to form another power-sharing coalition similar to the deal forged by regional leaders after the last disputed and violent polls in 2008.

Tsvangirai has also predicted winning the poll, which he says will usher in change.

He has criticised Zanu-PF for doing little except emphasising its liberation credentials going back four decades.

Comments
  • Madulla Nkosi - 2013-07-30 23:56

    Let's give Mugabe all the credit that he deserves. He loathes homosexuals - yet he feted Dali Tambo. He knows how to steal farms - 39 and still counting. He is a magician - he can make a currency disappear. He knows how to rig elections - he has it down to a fine art. He lost the last two elections - yet he behaves like he won it. He is older than the dinosaurs - but has no wisdom to impart. He knows how to kill people - and how to get away with murder. He is married to a prostitute - yet he calls others, 'Street Women'. He knows how to bankrupt a nation- and enrich himself in the process. Which other election thief can 'boast' a track record like this??

      Chris Nel - 2013-07-31 00:29

      Excellent.

      Anneline Etienne Gouws - 2013-07-31 00:40

      100% fantastic writing

      Bernard Ngwira - 2013-07-31 02:08

      @Madulla Nkosi, there is this troll Tinavo, i wish you could caught up with him and then bring him down. He is such an idiot commenting rubbish here.

      Alastair Webb - 2013-07-31 06:03

      Very well worded and we lived in Zimbabwe and to cause so many people utter misery,will celebrate when he goes.

      Qxtsa - 2013-07-31 06:43

      He was taught by the best! - anc :p

      Albert Mashoko - 2013-07-31 07:57

      to quite right about other facts but that of him marrying a prostite is baby talk.play the ball not the man.the man is ruthless and im anti him but this storry of yours that that his wife is a prostitute is way off the mark.Hypothetical speaking , suppose his wife is a prostitute, what has that to do with the decisions Mugabe takes in the paliament ?

  • Emiele Spillman - 2013-07-31 00:07

    Open letter to Tsvangirai: Sir, play it cool. Tell the moron Mugabe that he will receive immunity etc and when you win, throw the bastard in a cell or hand him over to the International Court in Den Hague. Mugabe's soldiers are gonna make life hell for you. Fight fire with fire and fire them all. Set up your own forces from your supporters. All of the best!!

  • Madulla Nkosi - 2013-07-31 00:13

    Here are excerpts from the following link. http://nehandaradio.com/2013/07/30/tanonoka-joseph-whande-give-it-to-tsvangirai/ "Mugabe, an unapologetic and arrogant tyrant, wants to remain in power for his own personal security because if he loses the election and vacates the presidency, he is going straight to jail or worse. He is corralled in a laager with murderous and greedy vultures that will not let him spoil their anticipated fun. ZANU-PF and its officials do not have the nation’s interests in mind but need to use the nation that they have raped for so long to serve their own, selfish purposes. After 34 years of uninterrupted rule, he did it all and failed dismally. He has nothing more to offer. There is no need for ZANU-PF to go on the campaign trail because we know them much too well. They have never kept their word and they have injured both the people and the nation. From him, all we ask is for him to see that he is no longer needed and cannot give the nation what it really needs. He should thank us and go home to play with his grand child and let Zimbabwe move forward."

      Abongile Blangwe Qwabaza - 2013-07-31 02:36

      I dnt even understand the people that still vote for Him coz he failed dismally, He must just step down and let MDC transform Zimbabwe...

      Derek Bredenkamp - 2013-07-31 06:34

      So Madulla, what do you do when the majority of Zimbabweans choose him to be their leader?? Will you respect their democratic right?

      Albert Mashoko - 2013-07-31 08:07

      its guys like madulla nkosi who sickens me to my bones.They talk so much negativerly yet he cant take a taxi to his homeland and cast a vote.You want to eat sheep,s meat and at the same time you dont want to touch the blood.Why are you here is S.A NOW when your brothers are excersing their right to vote.

  • Joe Smit - 2013-07-31 01:25

    He seems fascinated by elections. His own way of convincing himself that he is popular. And expects the rest of Africa to pay for it...

  • Jakes Cakedregs - 2013-07-31 02:28

    Zimbabwe, land of so much pain and suffering, I fervently hope that the sun will break through for you!

  • Gilbert Nkhethe Mokgerere - 2013-07-31 03:04

    I suggest after loosing the votes Mr Mugabe should be put inside a big cage at a national zoo where he will be seen by tourists from around the whole world

  • Slice Cucu - 2013-07-31 05:25

    After all xcuses by floyd mayweather-mdc not to fight manny pacquio-zanupf the fight we have been waitin for z finally here .lets get ready ruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuumble

  • Kutloano Nene - 2013-07-31 05:46

    Dis s complicated, bt zimbabwens mst never make a mistake, 5yrs is too long 4another chance 2vote. Gud luck my ppl!

  • Maphola Mogale - 2013-07-31 06:07

    They say your vote is your voice. For the past 30years it never worked Zimbabweans and who knows maybe this year, today their voice can be heard. Phambili with MDC

      TinavoMagaisa - 2013-07-31 07:03

      You dont seem to know what you are talking about. Ever voted for a president in your own country? Another prick that think they know about Zimbabwe. If we decide to vote for Mugabe, that our problem, you voted for an uneducated rapist who is slowly messing up your country. Let me go to vote for the Comrade

  • Beauty Frerb - 2013-07-31 06:57

    Let the people of zimbabwe speak through voting for the party they think will bring about changes in their country.

  • George Leggett - 2013-07-31 07:09

    Send Mugabe to the Hague!

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