The United States has condemned Zimbabwe’s just-ended elections, further widening the rift betweeen country’s supporters and opponents abroad, while tensions are rising domestically.
In a statement Monday, US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller accused incumbent President Mnangagwa of manipulating the elections saying his actions did “belie…pledges to respect the rule of law, transparency and accountability” which now put Zimbabwe’s reengagement efforts in jeopardy.
The August 23 elections were conducted in a peaceful manner and overcame some logistical problems on the day of voting which necessitated extension in some areas.
However, results which saw President Mnangagwa win by 52.6 percent to his main rival Nelson Chamisa’s 44 percent, have divided opinion both at home and abroad.
Western missions such as the European Union and the Commonwealth condemned the process, while the majority of observers from the developing world, including the African Union, Comesa and Carribean delegations backed the elections.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Namibia’s Hage Geingob, Tanzania’s Samia Siluhu as well as Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko have congratulated Mnangagwa on the reelection.
However, there was a rare but significant and unwonted discordant note from the Sadc Elections Observer Mission, led by Zambian Nevers Mumba.
The adverse report is now being used as a cat’s paw by Harare’s opponents and stuff out credibility which Zimbabwe had hoped to assume legitimacy and to turn over a new leaf and reengage the world.
Miller said: “Although the Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) has announced results of the country’s recent presidential election, multiple observation missions have expressed deep concerns and stated that the country’s electoral process did not meet regional and international standards for credibility.
“For example, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and other international electoral observation missions cited problems with transparency, independence, fairness, and credibility at all stages of the electoral process.”
He added: “We also strongly condemn the intimidation and disruption of lawful election observers throughout the electoral period.
“On August 23 the government arrested staff from respected civil society organizations engaged in lawful election observation in accordance with the Electoral Act.
“These arrests prevented efforts to independently verify ZEC’s announced results, a fundamental component of democratic processes in the region and around the world.
“Furthermore, threats directed against members of the SADC Electoral Observation Mission are dangerous, and we call upon the Government of Zimbabwe to cease these inflammatory and unacceptable attacks.”
“The United States notes in particular the systemic bias against political opposition during the pre-election period and reports from respected civil society groups that ZEC officials pressured election observers to sign altered polling station result forms.”
This latter allegation has been refuted by ZEC which on Monday explained the standard procedure whereby all election residue is protected.
But Miller challenged the electoral management body: “We call on the ZEC to make the disaggregated polling station results publicly available to increase confidence in the result tabulation process.”
Meanwhile the US says it is engaging African countries on the Zimbabwe question.
Said Miller: “The United States is engaging regional leaders to share our concerns, including what this means for the international community’s nascent efforts to reengage the Zimbabwean government. There is much at stake for the people of Zimbabwe and the region.”