Although the two presidential candidates are now in court, the Zimbabwean general election, after 37 years of President Robert Mugabe’s stranglehold on the country, must be considered a success. We congratulate Zimbabweans for a successful violence-free democratic general election.
It is an election viewed as a transition from the Mugabe era to a new opportunity to economically reconstruct Zimbabwe, renew its democratic promises, and put the country on a new path to progress and development.
When the votes were counted and tallied by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), President Emmerson Mnangagwa of the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), the ruling party, had won 2,460,463 votes which amounted to 50.8 percent of the votes. Mr. Nelson Chamisa of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance, the main opposition party, was credited with 2,147,436 votes which amounted to 44.3 per cent. In parliament, ZANU-PF won 34 seats to MD Alliance’s 25. However, a closer analysis showed that ZANU-PF had lost three seats in parliament whereas the MDC Alliance had gained four. Twenty three candidates ran for President. The third candidate to win the most votes ran under the auspices of the MDC-Tsvangarai, reflecting the schism which had developed within the party since the sudden death of the founder and leader of the MDC, Morgan Tsvangarai. He won 45,573 votes which was under 1 (one) per cent.
The international observers were generally satisfied that the election was free and fair and the results a true representation of the will of the Zimbabwean people. The European Union and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) signed off on the election. The campaign was hard fought, and got acrimonious on occasions, but it was violence-free until the results were officially announced whereat the MDC Alliance and Mr. Chamisa said he has evidence to show he had been cheated out of the presidential election. He, therefore, approached the Constitutional Court while protesters went into the streets where violence broke out as soldiers opened fire with live ammunitions on protesters leading to the death of six opposition protesters. The result was that the Mnangagwa inauguration which had been scheduled for August 12 was postponed till the resolution of the Chamisa petition challenging the results of the election. The Court has 14 days to make a decision, and it can order a rerun, award the election to Chamisa, or uphold the results. Its decision is final. Before then, opposition politician, Tendai Biti, had ran afoul of the law for announcing MDC victory without the authority of the ZEC. He fled to Zambia which refused him an asylum saying his grounds were weak.
While all eyes are now on the Constitution Court, we cannot but continue to remind African nations that elections ought not to be do-or-die affairs. It is about seeking a governing mandate, legally. When you win, you govern. But the electoral umpire, like all umpires in all human contests, must be respected. When it rules, its decision should be respected, and the loser, if he has a generous spirit, should congratulate the winner, to unite the polity and enlist every citizen to the nation’s service. Where an opponent feels strongly that some irregularities had occurred, he or she must go to court, which has a duty to review the issues, expedite the hearings if need be, and make a decision. But under no circumstances should a candidate resort to inciting supporters to violent street protests.
Violent street protests tend to polarise the polity, and, worse, solve no problems. The killing of the six Zimbabweans by soldiers last week is a tragedy which has now dented the reputation of the Zimbabwean military which won continent-wide respect last year as it patiently tried and successfully nudged the autocratic President Mugabe to leave power in peace without firing a shot.
The MDC Alliance must exhibit maturity and dignity. By winning more than 44 per cent of the votes, it has demonstrated that it is ready to play at the highest level. It must hold its members and partisans in check. The country needs peace above all things, now. All hands must be on deck for the economic reconstruction of Zimbabwe. Every effort must be made to create and maintain a transparent electoral system. Transparency is the antidote to suspicion. Where there is no suspicion, there is no violence.