Mnangagwa praises 'beautiful expression of freedom' after Zim polls close
In a tweet, Emmerson Mnangagwa says millions have voted in 'mutual respect and peace'.
JOHANNESBURG – Zimbabwe's incumbent president is praising what he calls "a beautiful expression of freedom and democracy" after polls closed in a historic election.
In a tweet, Emmerson Mnangagwa says millions have voted in "mutual respect and peace".
Today, Zimbabwe experienced a beautiful expression of freedom & democracy. In our millions, we voted in the spirit of tolerance, mutual respect & peace.— President of Zimbabwe (@edmnangagwa) July 30, 2018
As we wait for results to come in, let us remember that only ZEC is constitutionally mandated to announce any form of results
I urge all citizens and candidates alike to exercise responsibility and restraint by patiently waiting for ZEC to declare the official outcome.— President of Zimbabwe (@edmnangagwa) July 30, 2018
Let us remember that no matter which way we voted, we are all brothers and sisters, and this land belongs to us all.
He's also urged the country to wait patiently for the electoral commission to announce the results.
Final results are expected within five days but an indication of the outcome is expected sometime on Tuesday.
Counting at the open space station in Gun Hill, Harare started about an hour later.
Mozambican observer, Luciano Guie, says the process was above board.
The election is the first since long-time leader Robert Mugabe stepped down in November under military pressure after 37 years in power.
Past elections were marked by violence and irregularities.
Zimbabweans hope a credible vote will lift years of international sanctions and revive a shattered economy.
#ZimElections2018 It’s cut off time at all voting stations across #Zimbabwe. At the Tent C Open Space Station in Gunhill, Harare voters have been voting by candlelight. MS— EWN Reporter (@ewnreporter) July 30, 2018
📸: @ThomHolder pic.twitter.com/t4wCyo2Vvi
As Zimbabweans wait to hear who will be their new president, several supporters of the opposition leader Nelson Chamisa have told Eyewitness News, they will protest if the MDC Alliance leader doesn’t win the elections.
Zimbabwe’s Electoral Commission said on Monday night that most polling stations reported a 65% voter turnout.
Zimbabweans cast their ballots on Monday and are now waiting as the counting of their ballots is underway.
On several days leading up to Monday’s elections, Chamisa made it clear he will not accept defeat.
This is what he said the day before elections.
“Any outcome that will have Mnagagwa as a victor is not an election but a fiction.”
This sentiment trickled down to his supporters, whom Eyewitness News spoke to since last week.
“Even me I can’t accept defeat. I’ll protest against that," one supporter said.
"We have to go to the streets because everyone hates Zanu-PF,” another supporter added.
On Monday, Chamisa refused to be drawn on what will happen if he loses the poll to Mnangangwa.
The ZEC has called on political particles and presidential candidates to maintain the peace that characterised the voting process.
Timeline of events in Zimbabwe since 1980.
Mnangagwa is viewed as the frontrunner, though the latest opinion polls showed a tight race. There will be a runoff on 8 September if no candidate wins more than half the votes.
Voting closed at 7pm. The official result has to be announced within five days but there will likely be an indication of the outcome on Tuesday.
Zimbabwe’s electoral commission said voter turnout had averaged 75%, higher than in the last vote in 2013.
Zimbabweans are also electing 210 members of parliament and more than 9,000 councillors.
The election winner faces the task of putting Zimbabwe back on track after 37 years of Mugabe rule tainted by corruption, mismanagement and diplomatic isolation that caused a crisis in a country that once had one of Africa’s most promising economies.
A credible vote is essential if Zimbabwe is to exit painful sanctions and secure the donor funding and investment needed to stem chronic cash shortages.
Chamisa said the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) was impeding voting in urban areas where he enjoys strong support but gave no evidence to back the claim.
“The people’s will being negated & undetermined due to these deliberate and unnecessary delays,” he said in a tweet. The ZEC was not immediately available to comment. It has denied Chamisa’s previous allegations of bias.
Reuters spoke to several international observers who said the voting process had been slow at some stations but it did not appear to them to be intentional.
Chamisa said his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) would win if there was no “ballot mischief”, making it likely he will challenge the outcome if Mnangagwa prevails. A contested result is likely to lead to street protests and possible violence.
EU chief observer Elmar Brok said many voters, particularly young women, left voting queues in frustration at long delays. The EU has not yet concluded how to judge the vote, he said.
Dozens of people were killed ahead of a runoff in 2008 between Mugabe and MDC-founder Morgan Tsvangirai, who died of cancer in February.
Mugabe, 94, led the war for independence and since 1980 has dominated the country’s politics. But since he stepped down under military pressure in November he has lived in obscurity.
He emerged on the eve of the election to announce he would vote for the opposition, surprising Mnangagwa who accused him of striking a deal with Chamisa.
Mugabe made no comment to reporters as he cast his ballot around lunchtime accompanied by his wife, Grace. A huge crowd gathered outside, some cheering, many booing.
Mnangagwa, a former intelligence chief, denied Mugabe’s claim that the vote would not be free since it was being run by a “military government”.
“I can assure you that this country is enjoying democratic space which has never been experienced before,” Mnangagwa told public television after voting.
Mnangagwa, of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu–PF), has been president since the military ousted Mugabe in a bloodless coup.
Elections under Mugabe were often marred by intimidation, rigging and violence but the consensus is the build-up to this vote has been better than before, although Chamisa complained about a flawed voters’ roll and opaque ballot paper printing.
“Victory is certain, the people have spoken,” Chamisa said after casting his ballot in Harare as a cheering crowd chanted: “President! President! The president is here!”
“I have no doubt that by end of day today we should be very clear as to an emphatic voice for change.”
Chamisa has attracted young and unemployed voters frustrated with nearly four decades of Zanu–PF rule.
“I’ll vote for Chamisa because it is a vote for change, it is a vote for the youth. Tomorrow we will have a new president,” said Fabian Matsika, a security guard in Harare.
“Zanu-PF is the only party that I have voted for,” said Elizabeth Kamhunga, 67, after casting her vote in Harare. “We may have made some mistakes but I think President Mnangagwa is the only person who has the interests of Zimbabwe at heart.”
The European Union, the United States and the Commonwealth have sent observers.
“It is exciting to see so many Zimbabweans casting ballots,” said former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, co-leader of the National Democratic Institute’s observer mission.
“However the public’s faith in the secrecy of the ballot is essential for the credibility of the process. We urge the authorities to do everything possible to ensure the secrecy of today’s vote.”
Mnangagwa has made a big effort to win over foreign opinion; hosting Western ambassadors, courting investors and patching up relations with white commercial farmers who were violently evicted from their farms under Mugabe.
(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)