“Credible but not Free and Fair?”: The Mnangagwa Victory
In what has been dubbed as a historic yet harmonized election, Emmerson Mnangagwa, the leader of the ruling Zanu-PF party, has come out victorious in the fiercely contested presidential elections in Zimbabwe.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced early on Friday that Mnangagwa had received over 2.6 million votes, which meant 50.8% of the total 4.8 million that were cast. The leader of the opposing Movement for Democratic Change party – Nelson Chamisa won about 44.3% of the votes, but Mnangagwa successfully won more than 50% of the votes and hence avoided a runoff vote.
Mnangagwa was a close ally of Robert Mugabe, the infamous autocrat who ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years who was ousted from his Presidency by the army over nine months ago and faced action for the atrocities committed under his rule. However, the current election has not been controversy-free either. Severe human right concerns were raised when over six people were killed by security forces in a post-election demonstration on the 1st of August. Human Rights Watch released reports suggesting that the security forces in Zimbabwe are abusive as ever, lashing out with “heavy-handed” responses to the protest, with even live ammunition being fired.
The chair of the ZEC, Priscilla Chigumba, on the other hand, urged the country to move forward with the hopeful spirit of the election, beyond the “blemishes” of the violence the country witnessed on Wednesday. Mnangagwa via his Twitter account reached out to his followers and conveyed that he was “humbled” by the election results and called upon the people of Zimbabwe to join hands in peace, unity and love to build a new Zimbabwe.
However, this optimism was not shared by Chamisa, who on Friday morning showed his disapproval for the election results by calling them “fake” and called upon the Election Commission to release proper and verified numbers. He also took to Twitter to express his anguish by writing about the level of opaqueness, moral decay and truth deficiency in the system. The MDC had expressed their intentions to not accept the voting results even before they were announced. Moments before they were actually announced, Morgan Komichi, the MDC’s Chairman made a statement on national television that the results that were about to be announced were “fraudulent” and would be challenged in court.
The capital city of Harare was calm on the morning the results were released. Many citizens were seen heading towards their workplaces as the army slowly withdrew from the city. The police presence, however, was maintained with officers being armed with water cannons in case any further protests broke out. Multiple MDC supporters stopped the protests citing the reason that they had done so only to maintain the peace and calm in the city and still did not approve of the results.
Yet, there was an air of passive-aggressive agenda among the general public regarding their opinions about the election results. Many were of the opinion that protesting would not help deliver justice to the alleged unfairness of the elections. Hazel Moyo, a local supermarket cashier felt that change was needed but would come by only after waiting.
Even international observers, such as Professor Stephen Chan, from the University of London, were of the opinion that while the results were credible, the process leading up to it were not completely “free and fair”. However, certain optimists from the opposing parties felt that the narrow win Mnangagwa had got was a sign that the opposition is still strong and will have a good chance the next election. With a country with a history of autocratic tendencies, whether the optimism of the opposition shall materialize in the real world is a question too far-fetched to be answered at the moment.