|Zimbabwe Vote-Counting Delayed
by Kondwani Chirambo and Hugh McCullum
Harare, 26 June 2000
By late afternoon today, Zimbabwean election officials claimed that none of the 120 constituencies had completed counting and only one, Makonde in Manicaland Province, had in fact, completed the verification process that preceded ballot counting.
Amid jeers from some 150 local and international journalists who had been waiting five hours for results to be announced, Tobaiwa Mudede, the registrar-general in charge of the vote counting and announcement of results, told them that there was nothing to announce.
He cited overwhelming, very large turnouts at all polling stations as the reason. Mudede declined to verify reports on state radio this morning that the turnout on June 24 and 25 was more than 4 million, the largest in Zimbabwes 20-year history. If these figures are correct, some 80 percent of the country 5.1 million eligible voters cast their ballots.
Most office workers were glued to their cell phones, people in the streets huddled around radio sets, hoping to catch the first in-flow of the anxiously awaited results. There was an air of expectation in the capital; scores of people congregated outside the Mukwati building in central Harare where the results were to be announced, for the expected news.
Inside the building, the press briefing, originally slated for 11 a.m., finally occurred at 4 p.m. The session began with a stern warning from Commission Augustine Chihuri that police had been deployed across the country to maintain law and order and he pleaded with Zimbabweans to observe law and order.
There is an over-excitement caused by rumours which could cause problems. Winners must win gracefully and losers must lose with honour and not spark problems. Chihuri added, those who will not accept the results will face the full force of the law.
He declined to say how many police had been deployed but at least 30,000 had been across the country during the two very peaceful days of voting, which ended last night.
Mudede and his officials accused some elements of the international media of speculating about specific results in advance of his official announcement which causes confusion and could create havoc.
The ruling Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU-PF)s campaign manager Professor Jonathan Moyo said in an interview said his party was poised to win the poll.
I dont see where the 35 or 60 seats the opposition is hoping to get will come from. They need 76 seats to make a simple majority and I do not see them coming close to that, he said.
The main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), issued a statement before Mudedes announcement that its exit polls indicated a sweeping victory and called on heads of state of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to take collective responsibility to ensure that President Robert Mugabe respects a MDC parliamentary victory.
Mudede claimed that the process of verifying that all ballot boxes were intact following their reception at the 120 counting stations, was taking far longer than expected. The ballot boxes were collected from the 4,000 polling stations after polls closed at 7 p.m. last night and taken to a counting centre in each constituency where they were held under the scrutiny of police, polling agents, monitors and international observers until 8 a.m. today when the seals and locks were checked and an official form of verification signed.
By the time the press briefing had ended, armed police were seen on some streets in Harare while small crowds gathered waving red plastic cards, an MDC symbol indicating that ZANU-PF had been sent off the political playing field.
Ahead of the registrar-generals announcement of no results, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) issued a statement from its 30-member mission headed by former Liberian president, Amos Sawyer calling on all political leaders in Zimbabwe to begin without delay to engage themselves across party lines in a process of dialogue and consultations and in so doing, demonstrate the necessary courage and magnanimity so that it can be seen that the election was not another element to deepen division and fuel conflict.
The OAU mission head said that the campaign had included violence and an acrimonious debate but praised Zimbabweans for voting in such large numbers and so peacefully.
Late last night, observers from the European Union issued an interim statement that there were serious flaws and failures in the electoral process citing lack of transparency in the registrar-generals office, violence and intimidation during the campaign mainly by ZANU-PF, unequal coverage for all political parties on state-controlled media and serious problems with the voters roll.
It also called on Mugabe to play a crucial role in the post-elections phase to ensure peace and calm (SARDC).
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