Aspects of Zimbabwe vote ‘fell short’: regional observers 

HARARE -Poll observers from a regional southern African bloc SADC on Friday said certain aspects of Zimbabwe’s tense presiden­tial and legislative elections did not conform to democratic principles. The Southern Af­rica Development Community (SADC) cited cancellation of opposition rallies, biased state media and alleged voter in­timidation among some of the issues that sullied the election. 

“Some aspects of the harmon­ised election fell short of the requirements of the constitu­tion of Zimbabwe, the electoral act and the SADC principals and guidelines governing democrat­ic elections,” said head of the delegation Nevers Mumba. 

The observers deployed by the 16-nation SADC group, however said the period run­ning to the election and the vot­ing phases were “peaceful and calm”. The poll is being watched across southern Africa as a test of support for 80-year-old President Emmerson Mnan­gagwa’s ZANU-PF party, whose 43-year rule has been battered by a moribund economy and charges of authoritarianism 

The election was forced to stretch into an unprecedented second day over delays in print­ing of ballot papers in some key districts including in the oppo­sition stronghold Harare. 

The largest opposition, Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), which poses the biggest challenge to Mnangagwa and had more than 100 of its cam­paign meetings banned, lashed the electoral process as “fun­damentally flawed”. 

SADC added that “it was the contention of a number of stake­holders that the state-owned media houses remain biased against the opposition”. 

Less than a quarter of polling stations in Harare -- an opposi­tion stronghold -- opened on time on Wednesday, the first day of voting. The problems forced Mnangagwa, who is seeking a second term, to issue a late-night directive extending the vote by another day. 


CCC leader Nelson Chamisa slammed the delays as “a clear case of voter suppression, a classic case of Stone Age... rig­ging”. Chamisa, 45, is the main challenger to Mnangagwa, 80, who came to power after a coup that deposed late ruler Robert Mugabe in 2017. 

Meanwhile 41 local monitors were arrested late at night on election day and had their com­puters and mobile phones con­fiscated by police who alleged the equipment was “used to unlaw­fully tabulate” results from poll­ing stations, describing the activ­ity as “subversive and criminal”. 

The monitors, mostly women and men in their 20s and early 30s -- and who work for local pro-democracy NGOs -- ar­rived Friday at a Harare court crammed into the back of an open white truck to appear before a magistrate. As they waited in the sun, some waved and held back tears as they were greeted by a small group of family and friends. Several sported blue caps or green t-shirts bearing the words “elec­tion observer”. 

The elections are also being monitored by international observers from the European Union, Commonwealth and African Union, who are ex­pected to issue their verdicts later Friday. “At this stage it’s all pointing towards a disput­ed election,” said Kealeboga Maphunye, an African studies professor at the University of South Africa in an online de­bate organised Friday by the South Africa-based Southern African Liaison Office.

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