Zimbabwe: Tsvangirai set to challenge Mugabe victory

Morgan Tsvangirai has started legal proceedings to challenge Robert Mugabe’s victory in elections last week – but many dispirited Zimbabweans simply want to put the polls behind them and move on, despite mounting evidence of rigging.

A message in Harare yesterday for Robert Mugabe. Picture: AP
A message in Harare yesterday for Robert Mugabe. Picture: AP
A message in Harare yesterday for Robert Mugabe. Picture: AP

Mr Tsvangirai, who lost the 31 July poll by more than one million votes to Mr Mugabe, applied for a court order to get the state Zimbabwe electoral commission to release detailed records of police officers who cast their ballots early and of voters turned away on voting day. A request for the information earlier in the week was refused.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said lawyers needed the data to file their main challenge in the constitutional court.

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Officials admit there is almost no hope of a rerun. The court is the one that refused to grant a Southern Africa Development Committee-backed request for a poll delay – and earlier this week it went on recess for a month.

The official Herald newspaper has confirmed a skeleton staff will deal with “urgent” matters.
MDC spokesman Douglas Mwonzora said: “We want to see how unjust the court can be.”

However, after the sense of frozen shock that greeted news of Mr Mugabe’s landslide victory, few Zimbabweans appear to have the heart for a legal – or any other kind of – battle.

“We now want to focus on our future,” said education
ministry employee Alec
Chitsamba on Facebook.
The mood has shifted. First there was anger and the grim recognition that Mr Mugabe had outwitted Zimbabweans once again.

One farmer told The Scotsman: “My workers came to me and said: ‘What happened? Because we didn’t vote for him’, and I said: ‘Well, what did you expect?”

Criticism of Mr Tsvangirai has peaked in the international press – but is seldom reflected in Zimbabwe’s independent press.

Arguing that the MDC leader was right not to boycott the polls, Conway Tutani of the private Newsday said: “Had he taken that route, would the same long-suffering people not have turned against him for prolonging their misery? Tsvangirai didn’t have much leverage except the people.”

Rigging claims are mounting. Many centre on the voters’ roll, only released to the MDC by registrar general Tobaiwa Mudede on polling day.

Mr Mwonzora says that a single name appears on 40 pages.

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Voters have told The Scotsman that the “indelible” pink ink used to mark voters’ fingers could be scrubbed off, allowing for multiple votes.

Official figures from the electoral commission show turnout was around 3.5 million – but 500,000 Zimbabweans were
either “helped” to vote or turned away from polling stations.

Israeli firm Nikuv is alleged to have been paid $13 million (£8.4m) to work on the roll ahead of polling.

Analysts say that intimidation since the last violent elections in 2008 also played a part.

A housekeeper confirmed that her father, who was beaten in eastern Nyanga after Mr Mugabe lost the first round five years ago, was “visited” by war veterans just ahead of the polls. There are claims of voters in remote areas being handed five ballot papers each and ordered to vote Mr Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party.

Meanwhile, after weeks of uninterrupted power, parts of Harare were without electricity yesterday, prompting anger on social media.

A Twitter user said: “The price everyone has to pay for the unsustainable populist policies is endless blackouts and dry taps for the next five years.”