Former head of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), retired Justice Johann Kriegler, says while the Zimbabwe elections result may be genuine, the ruling Zanu-PF’s pervasive influence was a critical factor.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa won six of the 10 provinces on his way to just above 50% of the vote, while his closest rival, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)-Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa, garnered just over 44%.
The MDC-Alliance says the polls were rigged and they will challenge the results in court.
“The first victim of an election is always the truth,” Kriegler, Freedom Under Law chairperson, told The Citizen yesterday.
The 85-year-old headed the IEC, which oversaw the first South African democratic election in 1994.
“I don’t think the result is at all surprising considering the stranglehold Zanu-PF has had on the country during its administration and rule of communities in particular,” he said. “The fact that the MDC presidential candidate received more than 44% of the vote is remarkably good.”
Kriegler said in general, and not looking at any specific reports on what was observed in Zimbabwe, only an idiot would try to steal an election on election day. It would have to happen already long before that.
“It’s how you’ve kept the voters’ roll over the years. You have complete control over the media as the ruling party; you have complete control of newsworthiness, such as the opening of schools, bridges and roads, maintenance and support systems for the elderly and the needy,” Kriegler said.
“I think there is no reason to doubt the result is genuine.”
Up to 153 MDC supporters were killed in the 2008 general elections, while allegations of violence and election-rigging have followed elections in the country under former president Robert Mugabe for decades.
Chamisa may still face accusations of trying to derail the electoral process after he declared himself the winner ahead of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), which led to wide-scale rioting in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare.
On Tuesday, he claimed victory in a now deleted tweet. The violence of the following two days is reported to have left at least six people dead.
Unrelenting, Chamisa tweeted on Wednesday: “We have won the popular vote. You voted for total Change in this past election! We have won this one together. No amount of results manipulation will alter your WILL [sic]”.
Final results – Mnangagwa with 2 460 463 (50.8%) votes to Chamisa’s 2 147 436 (44.3%) – were announced in the early hours of yesterday morning by the ZEC.
Maja Kocijancic, representing the European Union (EU), said the elections of July 30 were “held in a largely peaceful atmosphere”.
“The first findings of the EU Election Observation Mission, headed by chief observer Elmar Brok, indicate that the elections were competitive, and that overall political freedoms were respected during the campaign,” she said.
Brok had noted “strong concerns” over some pre-electoral practices, such as intimidation of voters, the ZEC’s lack of transparency in preparations, media bias, and problems around polling stations on election day.