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Zim poll: opposition slams Ramaphosa’s endorsement of result

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s early endorsement of Zimbabwe’s general elections held on 23 August has sparked criticism from the latter’s main opposition and some pro-democracy groups amid growing concerns of electoral fraud and post-election violence.

On Sunday, the Zimbabwe Economic Movement (ZEM) wrote to Ramaphosa and all leaders in the Southern African Development Community, as well as the African Union and the United Nations, complaining about the closure of the democratic space in Zimbabwe following polls that were condemned by the opposition and regional and international observers.

Ramaphosa is one the few dignitaries who attended Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s inauguration for a second term in Harare on Monday, where most regional leaders will not be present.

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President Cyril Ramaphosa arrives for Emmerson Mnangagwa’s inauguration on Monday. (Photo: Frank Chikowore)

ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula with other delegates at Emmerson Mnangagwa’s inauguration on Monday. (Photo: Frank Chikowore)

In a letter to Ramaphosa, ZEM founder Devine Mafa said Zimbabwe was at a crossroads following the disputed elections, and called for Ramaphosa and the rest of the international community to intervene.

“We find ourselves at a pivotal juncture where some leaders who should be champions of democracy and progress within our region are, at times, unintentionally or indirectly, lending support to a regime that has eroded the rule of law and pillaged our nation’s resources,” he wrote.

Repression is escalating, with abductions, killings, and acts of retribution becoming alarmingly commonplace under the cover of darkness.

“President Ramaphosa, while you rightfully attend to broader regional matters, we implore you to consider the plight of ordinary Zimbabweans living under an oppressive regime. It is disheartening that incidents such as Mr Mumba’s recent departure receive less attention than they deserve. Zimbabwe’s situation has deteriorated significantly and warrants immediate attention,” he added.

While Ramaphosa and a few regional leaders congratulated the veteran Zanu-PF leader after he was controversially declared the winner by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission with a 52.6% win against his closest rival, Nelson Chamisa of the main opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC), on 44%, Mafa called on SADC leaders to take immediate action to ensure peace in Zimbabwe.

Opposition activist Womberaishe Nhende shows his wounds after his abduction and assault. He says he was also injected with an unknown substance by his captors. (Photo: Supplied)

“As Zimbabweans, we find ourselves not only disillusioned but also increasingly imperilled. Repression is escalating, with abductions, killings, and acts of retribution becoming alarmingly commonplace under the cover of darkness. Those who dared to voice their concerns bear a heavy burden. The military’s iron grip on our nation, coupled with its insatiable appetite for our resources, paints a bleak picture of our future. We earnestly appeal to Your Excellencies, President Ramaphosa, and esteemed leaders of SADC, to heed the information we have presented and leverage your collective influence and resources to usher in positive change in Zimbabwe. The people of Zimbabwe yearn for a brighter future, free from oppression and violence,” pleaded Mafa.

‘Retributive agenda’

The CCC has claimed that Zanu-PF functionaries have embarked on a retributive agenda, victimising its supporters in the countryside. A CCC youth leader, Womberaishe Nhende, was allegedly abducted together with a party colleague in Harare by suspected Zanu-PF functionaries and the duo was severely assaulted before being dumped several kilometres outside the capital. In Hurungwe West, the opposition claims that houses of its polling agents were set on fire by suspected Zanu-PF goons. Although these cases were reported, the opposition says the Zimbabwean police took no action.

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Judges attending President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s inauguration on Monday. (Photo: Frank Chikowore)

Zimbabwe police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi, said his force would investigate all cases brought before its attention.

“As the Zimbabwe Republic Police we are committed to ensuring that there is peace in the country. We are not going to tolerate any form of disorderly conduct or violence. We are going to arrest anyone who would be found to be on the wrong side of the law,” said Nyathi.

It was not clear whether Ramaphosa would use his visit to Zimbabwe to meet Chamisa following the disputed polls. Chamisa abandoned the legal route in his quest to set aside Mnangagwa’s re-election, opting for “political and diplomatic” routes. He has since dispatched a team to meet regional leaders in his push for fresh polls.

CCC spokesperson Promise Mkwananzi told Daily Maverick that congratulatory messages from Ramaphosa and a few other regional leaders were too premature in the face of Mnangagwa’s alleged electoral fraud.

“Those congratulatory messages (from a few SADC countries like South Africa and Botswana) are both premature and undermine the SEOM (SADC Election Observer Mission) process which is still under way. SADC cannot abandon the truth which is that there was no election in Zimbabwe and there is a need for fresh, free and fair elections,” said Mkwananzi.

However, Zanu-PF acting information director Farai Marapira said the opposition was good at peddling falsehoods.

We kindly request your assistance in preventing further harm to Zimbabwean nationals residing in your country.

“We are busy focusing on the inauguration. Why would we assault the people who voted for us overwhelmingly? That is cheap politics coming from people who lost in the elections,” said Marapira.

In the face of Zimbabwe’s economic problems largely blamed on the political crisis, Mafa urged Ramaphosa to deal with Zimbabwe’s electoral dispute if there was not going to be an influx of Zimbabweans in South Africa and other neighbouring countries. The huge number of Zimbabweans flocking into South Africa has in the past resulted in xenophobic attacks.

An opposition polling agent’s hut was destroyed by fire allegedly set by suspected Zanu-PF functionaries in Hurungwe West constituency. (Photo: Supplied)

“Furthermore, we are deeply concerned about the ongoing suffering of Zimbabweans residing in South Africa. The dire situation in our homeland has compelled many to seek refuge abroad, and their safety is under constant threat. We kindly request your assistance in preventing further harm to Zimbabwean nationals residing in your country. The need for swift action to alleviate suffering and to ensure that Zimbabwe’s potential is not squandered is imperative. We cannot stand idly by while our nation is held hostage by those who have forsaken their duty to serve the people,” said Mafa.

The CCC claimed that several hundreds of thousands of its supporters, especially in its urban strongholds, failed to vote on election day owing to the ZEC’s bungling.

The prelude to the 23 August polls was characterised by violence and intimidation of opposition supporters in several parts of the country and other unfair practices, resulting in Douglas Mwonzora, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change formation, boycotting the polls and describing participation in those polls as foolish bravery.

International observers, including the SADC, noted that the opposition did not have access to the voters’ roll before the election, among other anomalies, and concluded that the polls failed to meet the requirements of the country’s constitution and electoral laws.

Meanwhile, the head of SADC’s observer mission to Zimbabwe, former Zambian deputy president Nevers Mumba, who has been criticised by Zimbabwean authorities for alleged bias towards Chamisa’s party, told a Zambian radio station that spies have been set on him following his mission’s condemnation of the polls.

“I am addicted to justice, I am addicted to fairness, that’s really what I am as a pastor or just as a political leader. Zambians know that if you want (the) truth, talk to Nevers. I am paying a high price now. There are people already in this country that have been sent to look for me and they have been talking to my pastors with cameras trying to create stories about me. But that doesn’t move me because the truth shall set you free, it doesn’t matter how long it takes. Yes, he is a pastor, but I don’t even know Mr Chamisa’s wife, I don’t know his children. I know he is a pastor (but) I have never heard him preach, so I do know him as a man who has a passion for his country but I also know President Mnangagwa and I was with him and we had a lot of laughter to do. He has a strong Zambian background, he speaks most of our languages and when I was at State House we were using Zambian language to speak to each other,” said Mumba.

The ZEC has claimed that its poor management of the polls was caused by the litigious nature of the road to the polls. DM