Zimbabwean church leaders encourage peace after Mugabe claims disputed victory

President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF wins a disputed landslide victory in the Zimbabwean national election.
Botswana calls for independent audit of elections

The Roman Catholic churches and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe have asked their followers to wait patiently for talks to resolve outstanding issues and to not be consumed by bitterness that leads to violence.

However, the Zimbabwean police, prepared for possible disturbances on Sunday by putting up extra roadblocks in the capital, some of which were manned by police with automatic rifles. In downtown extra troops and water cannon trucks were brought in.

According to official results, Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader to Mugabe, took only 34 percent of the presidential votes as compared to Mugabe’s 62 percent and Tsvangirai said that the vote was “a monumental fraud,” which he will challenge.

Mugabe’s party also claimed a two-thirds majority in the 210 seat parliament which will give it the opportunity to change the country’s new constitution which it opposed when the charter was being rewritten.

Elizabeth Joseph, an Anglican worshipper said that it was inconceivable how Tsvangirai could have lost by such a huge margin. She added that church service that morning had been more like a funeral.

Due to allegations that Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party inflated voting and the absence of about 700,000 names of eligible voters from voter’s lists, observers from the African Union and regional southern African monitors have demanded that an investigation takes place.

According to independent observers, even if the official state election commission, which is dominated by supporters of Mugabe, decides to make available voting ballots, so that a complete audit of the lists can take place, it could take weeks to complete.

However, after the nine days that are allowed for legal challenges to the votes, the 89 year old Mugabe could be sworn in for his seventh term of office since independence in 1980. Mugabe and his party deny all knowledge of vote rigging.

Mugabe was congratulated by South African President Jacob Zuma who has been the chief regional mediator in Zimbabwe’s decade long political and economic crisis. In a statement from Zuma’s office, he also asked for the losers to accept defeat with honor and respect.

Audit needed to shed light on possible irregularities — Botswana
However, the Botswana Government which sent an 80-member election observer team to Zimbabwe as part of  Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) collective commitment to observe the electoral process, has called for an independent audit of the Zimbabwe electoral process to “shed light on the conduct of the just ended election and indicate any shortcomings and irregularities that could have affected its result, as well as the way forward”.

“There is no doubt that what has been revealed so far by our observers cannot be considered as an acceptable standard for free and fair elections in SADC. The Community, SADC, should never create the undesirable precedent of permitting exceptions to its own rules,” says the Botswana Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement released this week.

The Botswana observer team, which was led by former Vice President, Lt. General Mompati Merafhe, included citizens drawn from a wide range of experience in the conduct of elections including former diplomats, senior civil servants and politicians, as well as academics, civil society and religious leaders.

The team reported back to the Government that while the election day itself was free of overt intimidation and violence, various incidents and circumstances were revealed that call into question whether the entire electoral process, and thus its final result, can be recognised as having been fair, transparent and credible in the context of the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections within the Community.

According to the Botswana Government statement, evidence of possible shortfalls include the fact that the voters’ rolls were released on July 29, 2013 only in hard copy two days before the election; questions about both the inclusion and exclusion of people on the rolls; questions over the forms of identification required to vote in the election; as well as credible allegations of people otherwise being denied the right to vote. Concerns were also raised about the conduct and integrity of the Special Voting Process that was carried out on July 14 to 15, 2013.

“There are many other examples that our observers shared with Government that clearly indicate that the process was undermined by these and other irregularities. Our observers are currently compiling a report of such incidents for submission to SADC, the African Union (AU) and other concerned stakeholders,” says Botswana.

It says it is in the common interest of SADC Members States, including Zimbabwe, to observe the SADC Community’s shared Election Guidelines so as to ensure transparency and credibility of the entire electoral process.

The Government of Botswana hopes that its proposal for an independent audit of the Zimbabwe electoral process will be placed on the agenda of the next Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government, which is scheduled for later this month in Lilongwe, Malawi.

“The Government of Botswana wishes to once more commend the people of Zimbabwe for the orderly manner in which they conducted themselves during the Election Day and since then and further appeals to all parties in Zimbabwe to continue to do so,” the statement concludes.


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