Thursday, April 10, 2008
By Dambudzo Mapuranga
THE secretary-general for the main opposition party, Tendai Biti, has admitted that the just-ended harmonised elections cannot be rigged as the Sadc guidelines and amendments made to Zimbabwe’s electoral laws make it difficult for any form of rigging. Biti said this at one of the several Press conferences his party has given since the closing of polls in Zimbabwe on March 29.
Several observers and journalists have condemned MDC Tsvangirai for creating confusion and shifting the goalposts over the past few days.
In an interview with SABC correspondent, John Nyashanu, a local journalist asserted that MDC Tsvangirai was playing a dirty game where it makes conflicting statements through Biti.
On Sunday March 30, Biti was quoted as having said the MDC was confident that it had won the elections as reports coming in from the urban polling stations indicated that the party was at an advantage over Zanu-PF.
The following day Biti was claiming that the Government was delaying the release of results in order to rig. As results began to be released Biti then made a U-turn and announced that the elections could not be rigged.
Nyashanu pointed out that the MDC is at a crossroads and does not know which way to go.
On one hand, the MDC leadership needs to have a scapegoat if it fails to win the presidential election, but if it wins it then needs to acknowledge that the elections were free and fair because the results will be in their favour.
This shifting of goalposts is not something new for the MDC, as it has become a trend for the Tsvangirai-led group to make statements that are emotional and not informative.
A South African from the Institute of Peace was interviewed by the BBC on Monday night and pointed out that MDC Tsvangirai was finding it difficult to substantiate its claims of vote rigging and keeps on making baseless claims against the Government in the hope that eventually people will come to take such claims for fact. He also concurred with the reports that indeed the elections were free and fair. Unfortunately, this interview was cut short and this writer doubts the BBC will be re-airing it, as it certainly does not support the British line on Zimbabwe.
One reporter with Al- Jeezera has indicated that the MDC has been able to gain ground in the elections because of the Sadc-mediated talks that saw the Govern-ment of Zimbabwe creating a conductive political arena for free and fair elections.
The reporter then pointed out that Biti and his boss Tsvangirai prior to the elections scorned the inter-party talks as being a non-event and yet on March 31, Biti was on air thanking Sadc and South African President Thabo Mbeki for working hard to ensure the Zimbabwe elections were free and fair.
The same Sadc he had earlier on accused of ‘‘playing ping-pong with the people of Zimbabwe’’!
MDC leaders need to come up with one position on the elections and not create confusion among their supporters and the nation at large. As the situation stands, election results still need to be verified in light of reports that some ZEC officials were paid to tamper with results in favour of MDC Tsvangirai. However, conflicting statements by the opposition create a negative atmosphere which is not representative of the true mood of the nation that has been hailed by observers as having just voted in a calm, organised manner.
While several Western governments are jostling to voice their concerns over the delay in the releasing of results one wonders what the urgency is? This writer knows of several countries that have held elections and have released results weeks later. In the USA, for instance, results of the George W. Bush and Al Gore contest took over a month to be announced.
In Zimbabwe, the delay in the releasing of the results should, in fact, serve as an assurance to all parties and stakeholders that the ZEC is doing all it can to ensure there will be no question over the tallying of votes.
The ZEC is not a partisan body that does a shoddy job to appease one political party. In this case it cannot legally take results over the telephone from polling agents but has to collate results using the requisite documentation from all polling stations. Lest we forget, any party that loses can claim the results reported by the ZEC command centre were different from those recorded at polling stations. It is then prudent for ZEC to wait for all the actual papers from polling stations that all parties involved have signed, to be in their possessions before announcing the results.
The argument that the results are in the public domain and can therefore be released by anyone does not hold water given that if the circumstances were different and it was Zanu-PF releasing results unofficially, this writer doubts that Biti would take the situation as lightly as he expects the Government of Zimbabwe to do. In fact, this writer is quite sure there would be an outcry from the MDC and several diplomatic community members with US and British ambassadors at the forefront accusing Zanu-PF of undermining the electoral process.
There so-called results that the MDC has unofficially released after receiving them from its various functionaries across the country should not be consequential as there is a high probability that both the recipient and the receiver can doctor them. It is hypocritical that the MDC challenged the tallying of votes in 2005 alleging that the polling officers had phoned in correct results and that all tallying of votes should be done with the requisite papers at hand and yet now they are using that same method they faulted as flawed to proclaim their supposed victory in the polls.
Who has won or lost this election is important not only to Zimbabweans but also for Africa and the Westerners who bankroll the MDC.
The next few days are crucial and the people of Zimbabwe must maintain peace as the courts and ZEC decide on the presidential contest.
We must remain calm and peaceful as we wait for the results in the same manner we patiently queued to vote.
The resolve of the people of Zimbabwe should not shaken by the few elements that have dubious reasons to destabilise Zimbabwe.