The first post-Mugabe elections in Zimbabwe have come and gone. As usual in the African political terrain, while the declared winners are jubilant, the presumed losers are bitterly contesting the conducts and results of the elections. With the leader of the ruling Zanu-PF President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared the winner with 50.8% of the vote, on the other hand, the leader of the opposition Nelson Chamisa, whom, according to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), received 44.3% of the vote, repeatedly claimed that the elections were forged and fake. Responding to the results, Mr. Mnangagwa called the elections “a new beginning” for the Zimbabweans and urged dissatisfied individuals to freely challenge the results in the court of law. He went further to call for peace and unity and assure Zimbabweans that he would be President “for those who voted for me and for those who did not.” Meanwhile, his opponent Mr. Chamisa named the results “another coup.”
Interestingly, while President Mr. Mnangagwa was sending out a reconciliatory message, the riot police stormed the hotel premises, where the opposition leader Nelson Chamisa was about to give a news conference and dispersed journalists. That police action obviously resulted in the delay of the news conference for nearly an hour and perhaps sent a conflicting signal to the peace gospel of President Mnangagwa. That police raid may have as well, sent a wrong message to the International communities, who would like to see the police brutality and lawlessness under former President Mugabe a past in Zimbabwe. President Mnangagwa had condemned the raid of the MDC Alliance press conference, arguing the police thought it was an unlawful public gathering being organised, he apologised for the behaviour of the riot police and Twittered that such a behaviour has “no place in our society.” Regardless, some are wondering: Is the old Zimbabwe still very much alive?
The defiant and resolute mood of the opposition leader Nelson Chamisa seems to suggest his little confidence in President Mnangagwa’s “new beginning.” Although the opposition is being blamed by the government for the aftermath demonstrations, which resulted in the death of innocent citizens, the opposition may have believed it had a legitimate reason for the demonstrations. It did not help that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), delayed the announcement of the results of the Presidential election which created suspicion – especially amongst the opposition, who argued that the results would have been released earlier if President Mnangagwa had won. Unlike the results of the parliamentary election, which was announced on time, the ZEC announced the results of the Presidential election on Friday morning, after days of waiting. Apart from the announcement delays, the opposition leader equally claimed the ballot boxes were being transported in open trucks, an act, which they argued could have given room for alteration of the results. He insisted he had evidence to support his claims. Furthermore, having in mind that both the Presidential and Parliamentary elections took place at the same time, the leader of the opposition Nelson Chamisa questioned the inconsistencies in the numbers of votes tallied in both elections. The opposition also complained that their election agent was allegedly not allowed to verify the results on Thursday. It remains to see the validity of these accusations.
While Zimbabwe’s neighbour South Africa and China, the country’s major trading ally congratulated President Mnangagwa and called for peace, European Union observers insisted the elections took place under “un-level playing field” and emphasised their “lack of trust” in the election process. One may not be wrong to ask: have the new elections in Zimbabwe really ushered in a “new beginning” or are they just the continuation of the political “coup?”