AFTER all the immense effort by South Africa and the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) over the past five years, Zimbabwe is now back to square one.
Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF are firmly back in the saddle on their own, having ejected Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T), their uneasy bedfellows in the so-called unity government over the past four years.
Last Wednesday Zimbabweans went to the polls and officially re-elected Mugabe with a 61% to 33% majority over Tsvangirai and officially elected Zanu PF MPs to Parliament with a majority over MDC-T of more than two thirds, If the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is to be believed.
Tsvangirai has rejected the election as a “huge farce” and alleged immense vote-rigging, mainly through a voters’ roll which he says was grossly manipulated.
Maybe Tsvangirai is just reacting to the shock of an unexpectedly large defeat. But let us just say the circumstantial evidence of rigging is abundant.
First, the ZEC delivered the voters’ roll to the opposition parties too late for them to check it properly.
The roll allegedly includes about 100 000 people over the age of 100, many people with the same identify numbers, many people who had been moved inexplicably from their proper constituencies, etc.
The AU election observer mission, especially, criticised the late delivery of the voters’ roll, and listed some of the consequent concerns, such as many voters being unable to vote because they turned up at the wrong voting stations, etc.
It also noted other concerns such as the printing of 35% more ballot papers than the number of registered voters – which it said was way above the “international best practice” of a five-10 % surplus, and the unusually high number of voters who had to be assisted to vote.
Because of these concerns neither the AU nor Sadc election observer missions could pronounce the election “fair”, though they both called it “free”, mainly, it seems, because there was far less violence and intimidation reported than in 2008.
Fairness, needless to say, is crucial. An unaudited voters’ roll could, theoretically, have disenfranchised enough MDC-T voters and enfranchised enough fictitious Zanu PF voters to have changed the outcome.
Whether or not that happened we don’t know yet and may never know. Tsvangirai has announced a forensic audit of the election which he intends using in a challenge to the results to the Sadc, the AU and the courts.
In the meantime, though, one can only say that a largely unscrutinised voters roll and the existence of two million-odd extra ballots certainly created the opportunity for extensive rigging.
For example, Tsvangirai got about the same number of votes – 1,1 million – this time as he got in 2008 when he beat Mugabe in the first round of the presidential poll.
But Mugabe more than doubled his vote from just over one million in 2008 to 2,1 million in 2013. Were those extra one million-plus voters for Mugabe all real?
Where did they all come from? Tsvangirai’s challenge to the results is almost certainly doomed to fail.
The courts are stacked against him. And so, probably, is Africa. The Sadc has urged him to accept the results, even while declaring it is too soon to pronounce them fair.
President Jacob Zuma has gone further by offering his “profound” congratulations to Mugabe on his victory and also urging Tsvangirai to accept it “as election observers reported it to be an expression of the will of the people”.
That is patently untrue. The observers did no such thing. But one can understand why he said it.
Zuma was the Sadc’s facilitator of the negotiations among the Zimbabwe parties that were supposed to lead to a free and fair election – the outcome of which would not be contested.
That mission has patently not been accomplished, but Zuma cannot accept what is not only an evident defeat for democracy, but also for himself. He has failed the people of Zimbabwe.