Tsvangirai concedes defeat
The MDC leader however slams the Zanu-PF victory cry as a monumental fraud.
HARARE - Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has conceded defeat after President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF unofficially claimed a landslide victory on Thursday.
The victory cry comes despite warnings from authorities that they would arrest anyone who released figures before the official results are made public on 5 August.
A senior aid to Mugabe called an international wire service on Thursday claiming the 89-year-old incumbent had beaten Tsvangirai to win an outright election victory extending his 33 year rule.
"We've taken this election. We've buried the MDC. We never had any doubt that we were going to win," the source told Reuters by phone.
'SHORT-CHANGING' THE NATION
Tsvangirai, who leads the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) which was attempting to unseat Mugabe for the third time, has slammed the election as a monumental fraud.
He said the polls should be considered null and void because of irregularities and vote-rigging.
Tsvangirai said the MDC picked up countless problems in the election process, listing examples such as "the abuse of facilities of voter registration slips," "militarisation of the electoral process" and a "lack of transparency in the printing of over 35 percent of ballots."
However, he urged supporters not to give up hope.
"We want to assure every Zimbabwean that this is the beginning of the end. Zanu-PF may have this victory as they would like to claim, but I would like to assure you that the resolution of the Zimbabwe crisis has never been so near."
He said the people of Zimbabwe will be the ones who suffer most.
"They will have to bear the economic, political and social consequences undertaken by Mugabe and the Zanu-PF."
Local observers say irregularities have systematically disenfranchised thousands of voters in Tsvangirai's urban strongholds and severely compromised the results.
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), the leading domestic monitoring body, said the credibility of the vote was seriously compromised by large numbers of people being turned away from polling stations in MDC strongholds.
Meanwhile, a group of observers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) confirmed on Thursday that incorrect papers were discovered in ballot boxes.
The SADC observer team is scheduled to deliver its verdict later on Friday.
Tsvangirai urged African observers to reflect these factors in their reports.
Meanwhile, observers found Wednesday's voting to be peaceful.
Western observers were barred, but the head of an African Union (AU) monitoring mission said on Wednesday the polls had initially appeared "peaceful, orderly and free and fair". It was an assessment at odds with the view of the Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MD) and independent agencies.