Several people were arrested Friday in Zimbabwe’s second largest city, Bulawayo, where a Commission of Inquiry into the killing of at least six people in Harare by the members of the armed forces soon after the July elections, was holding a meeting with residents. (Video: Annastacia Ndlovu)
“I am ready to lead Zimbabwe out of crisis”, Chamisa said, “but President Emmerson Mnangagwa must come to the negotiating table and resolve all hanging political issues.”
Churches under the banner of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) are also leading efforts to bring Mnangagwa and Chamisa to the negotiating table to break the post-election conundrum characterised by a worsening cash crisis and escalating shortages of most basic products.
Mnangagwa and Chamisa were the main contenders in the July 30 presidential poll, seen as key to pulling the southern African nation out of international isolation and launching economic recovery.
Chamisa said the economic crisis was the symptom of a crisis of legitimacy, adding it would only end when all Zimbabweans were speaking to the international community with one voice.
“This requires Mnangagwa to come to the negotiating table,” Chamisa said.
ZCC vice-president Bishop Solomon Zwana said: “Let us try to find ways to move our nation forward. Yes, there is a period of problems and there must be another period of strategising and yet another phase of moving forward and not continue to mourn without trying to look for practical ways of moving forward.”
The ZCC officials met with Chamisa at the Anglican Cathedral in Harare on Wednesday evening.
ZCC secretary-general Kenneth Mtata declined to say what the churches discussed with the MDC Alliance leader, but said they were waiting for Chamisa to sign a “document” before going on to the next stage, adding that their focus was to bring the parties to the negotiating table urgently.
Mtata said Zanu-PF party officials were aware of their meeting with Chamisa.
IN THE early hours of August 5th four men broke into a house in eastern Zimbabwe known to be home to activists for the MDC Alliance, the country’s main opposition bloc. They dragged the husband and wife outside before beating them with sticks on their back and buttocks. Two of the assailants took turns raping the wife; the other two raped the husband. All the while the children of the couple watched.
After holding peaceful elections on July 30th Zimbabwe has again descended into violence. At least six people were killed on the streets of the capital two days after the vote. Since then human-rights groups have recorded more than 150 alleged cases of abuse against opposition supporters (including that of the husband and wife above), most seemingly at the hands of soldiers. The true figure is almost certainly many times higher. Hundreds of MDC members have fled their homes, including Tendai Biti, one of the bloc’s senior figures, whose claim for asylum in Zambia was rejected on August 8th.
For some the violence is not just grim, but odd. Since taking power via a coup last November, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has sought to convince the world that Zimbabwe is “open for business” following nearly four decades of misrule by Robert Mugabe. The culmination of this plan was meant to be a convincing victory in the election, which even if neither free nor fair, would be orderly enough to win him the blessing of foreign governments. They would then encourage creditors to lend the country much-needed foreign currency. Instead there is mayhem. When not shooting civilians in the back, Zimbabwe’s ruling elite seems to be shooting itself in the foot.
Zanu-PF, the party of Mr Mnangagwa, has a history of thuggery. Mr Mugabe once boasted: “We have degrees in violence.” But the recent brutality is probably made worse by the fact that the ruling elite is far from united. Both Zanu-PF and the myriad security forces are fragmented. So while some factions may lose from chaos, others believe they will gain. So goes the macabre struggle for power and spoils.
In his election campaign Mr Mnangagwa tried to portray himself as an all-powerful leader. But his control over his own party remains fragile. The so-called G40 faction, associated with Grace Mugabe, Robert’s second wife, remains influential, well funded and keen for Mr Mnangagwa to fail. At the local level it has been hard for the president to exert authority. There were two dozen riots during the primary elections for Zanu-PF candidates. Some newly elected members of parliament, such as Webster Shamu, have repeatedly clashed with Mr Mnangagwa. Overall only about a quarter of new members are incumbents. No one knows how the newcomers will wield their power.
Neither is there unity between the armed forces and Zanu-PF, nor among the men in uniform themselves. The agitator-in-chief, according to several sources, is Constantino Chiwenga, the vice-president and minister of defence, who is rumoured to want one day to replace Mr Mnangagwa. The former commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) played a pivotal role in the coup last year, but has struggled to adapt to political life. (He tried to fire thousands of striking nurses before realising that was not possible.) It is he, rather than the current head of the ZDF, Philip Sibanda, who is believed to have instigated the crackdown on August 1st, out of frustration that others have been too soft on the MDC. Mr Chiwenga speculates that his critics are high on weed.
The president may be weaker than many assume, but he is not innocent. Mr Mnangagwa reportedly co-ordinated the post-election violence in 2008-09. It is implausible to claim, as his allies do, that he knows little of what is happening now.
The MDC is challenging the legality of Mr Mnangagwa’s first-round win in the presidential race on July 30th. But given the partisanship of Zimbabwe’s judges, defeat looks certain. Therefore Mr Mnangagwa will be sworn in again as president before the end of the month. He will do so amid growing mistrust among foreign governments and would-be investors. And with more blood on his hands.
The rival claims by Zanu-PFC and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) reflect a bitter rivalry that was exacerbated by deadly violence in the capital.
Six people were killed when police and army fired live rounds to disperse a protest on Wednesday by opposition supporters in Harare. In addition 14 were injured and 18 people were arrested at the offices of the MDC, police said.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said it will start announcing results of the presidential election at 10pm local time (8pm GMT) on Thursday, though by law it has five days from the vote on Monday to deliver the final tally and it has sometimes given conflicting statements about when it is releasing information.
International election observers urged the commission to reveal the presidential results as soon as possible, saying delays will increase speculation about vote-rigging.
Meanwhile, a spokesman said the main opposition candidate, Nelson Chamisa, was being investigated by police for allegedly inciting violence.
Mr Chamisa, opposition politician Tendai Biti and several others are suspected of the crimes of “possession of dangerous weapons” and “public violence,” according to a copy of a search warrant, which was seen by The Associated Press.
The warrant authorises police to search for and confiscate any evidence as part of their investigation.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the ruling Zanu-PF party have accused the opposition of inciting the deadly violence. The opposition, human rights activists and international election observers condemned the “excessive” force used to crush the protests and appealed to all sides to exercise restraint.
Opposition demonstrations had broken out after electoral officials said the ruling party had won a parliamentary majority in the elections, and Paul Mangwana, a Zanu-PF spokesman, said at a news conference he anticipated similar success in the presidential race.
Elsewhere in Harare, Mr Chamisa said he was confident that his MDC party would be forming the next government. As the rival camps sparred over the election outcome, they also appealed for calm amid a fog of conflicting accounts. Mr Mnangagwa said his government was in touch with Mr Chamisa in an attempt to ease the tensions, though the opposition leader said he had not received any communication.
Soldiers cleared people from the streets of central Harare on Thursday after they swept in and opened fire on Wednesday to disperse protesters who alleged vote-rigging in the peaceful election, the first without long-time leader Robert Mugabe on the ballot. The electoral commission has said the vote was free and fair.
A credible vote is crucial to the lifting of international sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe so that its collapsed economy can recover. Elections under Mr Mugabe’s 37-year rule were marked by violence and intimidation against the opposition, as well as numerous allegations of fraud.
Mr Mnangagwa, who is close to the military, called for an “independent investigation” into the violence in Harare, saying those responsible “should be identified and brought to justice”.
The military deployment was the first time that soldiers had appeared in the streets of the capital since Mr Mugabe’s resignation in November after a military takeover. At that time, thousands of jubilant residents welcomed the soldiers as liberators.
Some Harare residents, standing amid the shattered windows of the violence, expressed frustration and exhaustion.
“We are a peaceful nation,” said 29-year-old Sifas Gavanga. “We don’t deserve the death we saw.”
Regardless of the result, this week’s election has pressed the post-liberation reset button
Mugabe’s departure is not the only novelty of this ballot. Also missing is Morgan Tsvangirai, opposition stalwart of the Movement for Democratic Change, or MDC, who contested the presidency in 2002 and at every election since. Tsvangirai carried considerable moral authority in the early years of this century, holding together a coalition of opposition, trade union and progressive forces, and bearing the scars of beatings at the hands of ZANU-PF. After he was denied an official victory in the 2008 elections, the outcry installed an internationally-brokered national unity government that survived until the 2013 election.
By then, Tsvangirai’s lustre had waned, and since then his coalition has only become more fractured. He died in February this year.
Inheriting the MDC mantle is lawyer Nelson Chamisa, contesting these elections for the seven-member MDC Alliance. Chamisa turned forty earlier this year, only just attaining the age qualification for presidential candidates. In a society where deference to age is deeply ingrained, Chamisa’s youth has presented a challenge. On the up side is the desire for generational change in leadership and the appeal to an overwhelmingly youthful population (although a quarter of the population is under eighteen and too young to vote).
Chamisa’s relative youth is not the only factor that made his MDC inheritance a contested one. His ascension pushed aside a senior female MDC figure, Thokozani Khuphe, who had been Tsvangarai’s deputy and served as deputy prime minister in the national unity government. The boy’s clubs (young and old) on both sides of politics have been increasingly exasperating for the many highly competent and energetic female politicians who have been kept just below the pinnacles of power.
Khuphe contested the validity of Chamisa’s assumption of the MDC leadership, presenting as a candidate in these elections for MDC-T (the ‘T’ standing for Tsvangirai, as opposed to the MDC-N, headed by Welshman Ncube, an earlier iteration of splits in the party). Khuphe also labours under the burden of coming from the minority Ndebele population, which predominates only in the south of the country.
Another high-profile female among the twenty-three candidates for president was Joice Mujuru, who was a very young firebrand in the liberation struggle. Her rise to the vice-presidency in 2004 came at Mnangagwa’s expense, and she was dismissed by Mugabe in December 2014, probably because she was becoming too popular within ZANU-PF. Her attempts to form a strong rival party — initially People First and subsequently the People’s Rainbow Coalition — struggled to gain traction.
For his part, Mnangagwa has spent the eight months since his ascendency to the presidency assiduously assuring Zimbaweans that a new era was under way. He has repaired relations with the international donor community, maintained close relations with China, declared Zimbabwe newly open for business, and even held a meeting with white farmers to assure them of a role in restoring Zimbabwe’s place as the region’s bread basket.
On the ground, however, there’s sense that little has changed. The economic challenges remain profound, chief among them the task of stimulating growth when you don’t have your own currency. (Since the hyper-inflation of 2008, Zimbabwe uses the US dollar.) Corruption persists as a threat to progress at both micro and macro levels. And any future government will have to chart a course between encouraging inflows of money, and becoming dependent on development assistance.
Western development agencies congratulate themselves on squeaky-clean funds distribution, but their practices often induce a different kind of corruption of the spirit. Money flows to projects whose objectives are set by the external donor, local recipients become practised in the art of telling the donors what they want to hear, and the hard choices in resource-constrained environments are never faced.
Mnangagwa has sought to reinvent himself as the technocrat best able to navigate these choppy waters. Indeed, he may well be able to position Zimbabwe to benefit from the contest for supremacy between China and the West. He has set his face assuredly to the future, not least because his past includes the 1980s Gukurahundi killings, which obliterated the Ndebele as a political force.
At the time of writing, the outcome of the presidential election is yet to be declared but ZANU-PF has gained a handy majority of seats in the parliament. If Chamisa wins the presidency, it will be a shock equivalent to Mohamad Mahathir’s return to power in Malaysia.
The MDC Alliance leader would face all the same challenges as Mnangagwa, but may be less well-placed to overcome them. His campaign showed some worrying signs. He has cloaked himself in a facile religiosity, accompanying many of his campaign tweets with the hashtag #godisinit. In 2016 he graduated as a pastor from the same theological college that has produced some of Zimbabwe’s more prominent self-appointed “prophets,” hugely popular in Zimbabwe with their combination of prosperity gospel and fire and brimstone.
Chamisa was able to attract crowds over the course of the campaign, but many of his promises — high-speed rail, $15 billion of investment from America (denied by the US Embassy), rural airports to air-freight produce to Europe — were fanciful. When he claimed to have been endorsed by Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame, the response from Kagame was to say he’d never met him – and Chamisa’s riposte, a tweet of a photo showing him shaking Kagame’s hand at a public occasion, was hardly convincing.
But if the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission does declare Chamisa the victor, they will dispel any fears they are prepared to rig elections for the government. By contrast, if Mnangagwa is declared victor, the MDC Alliance is already preparing the ground to declare themselves robbed. Within hours of the polls closing, social media was flooded with claims Chamisa had won, along with purported tally sheets from electorates and claims that Mnangagwa had fled the country.
Meanwhile, like a hammy actor prolonging his death scene on stage, Mugabe gave an election eve press conference to declare he would not support the ZANU-PF candidate. Amateur theatrics is the last thing Zimbabwe needs now.
In the reality-based universe, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission appears to have been doing a through and diligent job. International election observers are on hand to give assurance, regardless of the outcome. Whatever the next couple of days hold, Zimbabwe will have taken another major step to forge its future.
The MDC leader was dealt a blow when the earliest batch of votes were declared on Tuesday evening and finalised by Wednesday morning. The ruling Zanu-PF party are on course to retain their Parliamentary majority.
Zimbabwe election results so far
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced a total of 152 declared results for the National Assembly. Of the 152, Zanu-PF won 109 seats, while the MDC Alliance got 41 seats. The National Patriotic Front (NPF) and an independent candidate make up the remaining two votes.
It’s not exactly curtains for the MDC, however. The race for the Senate is different to the actual presidential poll. Emmerson Mnangagwa and Nelson Chamisa are still to learn which one of them has pulled in the majority of the votes.
Nelson Chamisa’s “fake election” claims
Chamisa, though, is not taking these results lightly. He claims that these Parliamentary figures are a strategy being devised to prepare the public for “fake presidential results” – by announcing that Zanu-PF have a majority in the National Assembly, the MDC leader believes it’ll be easier to lie about an Mnangagwa victory:
What will happen in the presidential vote?
The presidential vote is expected to be much closer than what we’ve seen in the one for seats in Parliament. The face-off between the ruling party and their main opposition has been too close to call over the last few days.
Neither candidate has been shy about declaring victory, either. Both Mnangagwa and Chamisa claimed on Tuesday they had seen the results and it was good news for both of them. All we know for sure is that one of them is lying.