'Free and fair' claim disputed

28 July 2013 - 02:06 By SIBUSISO NGALWA in Bulawayo
subscribe Just R20 for the first month. Support independent journalism by subscribing to our digital news package.
Subscribe now
Morgan Tsvangirai addresses a rally in Domboshawa this week
Morgan Tsvangirai addresses a rally in Domboshawa this week
Image: SIMPHIWE NKWALI

A promise by the African Union that Zimbabwe's elections will be free and fair has been challenged by Morgan Tsvangirai, whose Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is campaigning against President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF.

The African Union Commission chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, said in Harare on Friday that she had been assured by political leaders that they would accept the election outcome, provided the process was free and fair.

"All candidates are very happy that everything has been peaceful up to now," she said. "We are hoping that peace will [prevail] till the end."

She said any challenge to the results had to be done legally, "not through the streets".

But Tsvangirai disputed her claim, saying there had been voter intimidation.

"How can the elections be free and fair when they are intimidating people?" he said.

The AU and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have sent election observers, but Mugabe has banned Western observers.

The AU will release its report on the elections within 48 hours after voting closes.

Mugabe took his campaign to Bulawayo this week. The city is in the heart of Matebeleland, where 20000 people were killed by the notorious Fifth Brigade in the 1980s. The wounds still run deep and Mugabe is unpopular there.

He is seeking to extend his 33-year rule by another five years, this time without the MDC as a coalition partner.

He told people in Bulawayo that they had made a mistake by voting for the MDC in 2008. He said a vote for his party would revive the factories and industries that were once the mainstay of Bulawayo's economy. "We will ensure, if you vote for us, that the industries will come back to life, the people of Bulawayo will come to life," he said, adding that the past five years of national government were a "regression".

But Tsvangirai accused Mugabe of ruining the economy. Addressing a rally in Domboshawa, south of Harare, on Friday, he said: "What is it that [Mugabe] can do in the next five years, having failed to do it in the past 33 years?"

He said he was confident of victory. "We will announce the results that we have won the elections if they like it or not. If they want to arrest us, they can do so, but they will be arresting a president."

Under Zimbabwean law, only the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission can announce an election result.

Tsvangirai's remarks reflect a mistrust of the commission. He has accused it of being biased in favour of Zanu-PF and questioned why it printed eight million ballot papers when there were 6.4million voters.

subscribe Just R20 for the first month. Support independent journalism by subscribing to our digital news package.
Subscribe now