Zimbabweans vote in first post-coup elections today 30 July 2018. The general elections mark a turning point in the country’s political history.
First, the elections effectively flip the Robert Gabriel Mugabe page. Second, depending on who wins the presidential polls, the elections may bring in new leadership if Nelson Chamisa of the MDC Alliance is voted into power, or it may legitimise the rule of the successful plotters of the November 2017 coup, led by old-guard giants in the persons of incumbent Mnangagwa and former Army Chief, now First Vice President, Constantino Chiwenga, if the ZANU-PF carries most of the votes.
If none of the two major contenders, Chamisa or Mnangagwa has 50 percent plus one of the votes in the first round, a second round will be organised on 08 September 2018.
In a Press Conference granted on 29 July 2018 Mugabe stated unequivocally that: “I can’t vote for ZANU-PF” (full video of his speech is provided at the end of this article). Mugabe and his wife voted at Mhofu Primary School in Highfields, Harare. He reportedly voted for Chamisa. Mugabe founded the ZANU-PF. Voting for Chamisa shows how bitter he is against Mnangagwa and Chiwenga, his two younger liberation-war allies, for ousting him from power by coup. It is reported that Mugabe was received with warm cheers as he voted while grim faces received his successor, Mnangagwa, as he voted earlier. If looks were to win the elections Mnangagwa would certainly lose today as a good number of the people waiting to vote at the polling station where Chamisa voted followed his (Chamisa’s) convoy after he (Chamisa) voted cheering for him.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) Chair, Priscilla Chigumb, earlier stated that based on early voting observations, voter turnout has been high. She also noted that the voting is going on peacefully in contrast to past elections during Mugabe’s rule.
The elections are being monitored by the African Union (AU) that fielded former Ethiopian strongman, ex-Premier Hailemariam Desalegn, to head its observer team of more than 64 members. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has also fielded an observer mission headed by Angolan Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tete Antonio. Other observer missions include the European Union (EU), National Democratic Organization, and COMESA (Common Market of Eastern & Southern Africa).
Prior to polling day, all these missions largely expressed satisfaction with the peace and tranquillity in the country. Mnangagwa is effectively trying to demonstrate a departure from the strong-handed control of elections used by the ZANU-PF in former elections in a bid to continue garnering support nationally and internationally for his government. However, the spectre of his participation in enforcing Mugabe’s rule hovers over him and many still suspect that he will rig the elections. Chamisa has tweeted:
Victory is ours!Long winding queues in most parts of Harare.There seems to be a deliberate attempt to suppress and frustrate the Urban vote. Good turn out but the people’s will being negated & undetermined due to these deliberate & unnecessary delays.We are in because #Godisinit
— Nelson Chamisa (@nelsonchamisa) July 30, 2018
The international community relies on the observers on the ground to whistle-blow any unorthodox practices.