Zimbabwe leader: Unite be­hind me

Cyprus Today - - WORLD -

PRES­I­DENT Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa called yesterday for Zimbabwe to unite be­hind him af­ter he was de­clared win­ner of na­tional elec­tions, but the op­po­si­tion leader ques­tioned the out­come and de­manded “proper and ver­i­fied” re­sults be re­leased.

The elec­tion, the first since the army re­moved 94-year-old Robert Mu­gabe from office in Novem­ber, passed off rel­a­tively smoothly on the day, rais­ing hopes of a break from a his­tory of dis­puted and vi­o­lent polls.

But an army crack­down on op­po­si­tion sup­port­ers in which six peo­ple were killed and op­po­si­tion claims that the vote was rigged re­vealed the deep rifts in Zim­bab­wean so­ci­ety that de­vel­oped dur­ing Mr Mu­gabe’s four decades in power, when the se­cu­rity forces be­came a by­word for heavy-hand­ed­ness.

Af­ter three days of claims and coun­ter­claims, 75-year-old Mr Mnan­gagwa, a for­mer spy chief un­der Mr Mu­gabe, se­cured vic­tory.

He polled 2.46 mil­lion votes against 2.15 mil­lion for 40-yearold op­po­si­tion leader Nel­son Chamisa, the Zimbabwe Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (Zec) an­nounced in the early hours of yesterday morn­ing.

“This is a new be­gin­ning. Let us join hands, in peace, unity and love, and to­gether build a new Zimbabwe for all,” Mr Mnan­gagwa said on Twit­ter.

But his ef­forts to re­ha­bil­i­tate the im­age of a coun­try syn­ony­mous with po­lit­i­cal re­pres­sion and eco­nomic col­lapse were also un­der­mined by a po­lice raid on the head­quar­ters of Mr Chamisa’s Move­ment for Demo­cratic Change (MDC).

Mr Mnan­gagwa re­ceived 50.8 per cent of the vote, just edg­ing over the 50 per cent mark needed to avoid a runoff. The de­lays in an­nounc­ing the pres­i­den­tial re­sults and the nar­row mar­gin of vic­tory fu­elled the op­po­si­tion ac­cu­sa­tions of rig­ging.

He now faces the chal­lenge of per­suad­ing the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity that the army crack­down and lapses in the elec­tion process will not de­rail his promise of po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic re­forms needed to fix a mori­bund econ­omy.

Euro­pean Union ob­servers said on Wed­nes­day the elec­tions had sev­eral prob­lems, in­clud­ing me­dia bias, voter in­tim­i­da­tion, and mis­trust in the elec­toral com­mis­sion. Its fi­nal as­sess­ment will be crit­i­cal in de­ter­min­ing whether Zimbabwe can re­turn into the in­ter­na­tional fold.

“The im­me­di­ate pri­or­i­ties for Mnan­gagwa and his gov­ern­ment will be to con­tinue on the path of restor­ing the econ­omy and boost­ing ex­ports, helped by in­ter­na­tional en­gage­ment,” said Christopher Diel­mann, econ­o­mist at Ex­otix Cap­i­tal.

“By many ac­counts, this im­per­fect elec­tion de­liv­ered suf­fi­cient trans­parency, es­pe­cially in re­la­tion to past re­sults in the coun­try, that should al­low reen­gage­ment to oc­cur rel­a­tively smoothly.”

Mr Chamisa, who ear­lier ac­cused the elec­tion com­mis­sion of try­ing to rig the vote, said yesterday it should re­lease “proper and ver­i­fied” re­sults.

“I thought the force of will would pre­vail over will of force,” he said in a tweet, with­out elab­o­rat­ing.

The streets of the cap­i­tal Harare were quiet early yesterday, with traf­fic thin­ner than usual. Wa­ter can­non and an­tiriot po­lice re­mained out­side the MDC of­fices, a re­minder of the clashes be­tween op­po­si­tion and the se­cu­rity forces this week.

“We are not happy with this elec­tion but what can we do?” said Pa­tience Sit­hole, a cleaner in Harare.

“I’m not sure things will ever change in Zimbabwe.”

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