News / Africa

Africa, West At Odds Over Disputed Zimbabwe Election

Voters look at posted results for Zimbabwe's national elections outside of a polling station in Harare August 1, 2013.
Voters look at posted results for Zimbabwe's national elections outside of a polling station in Harare August 1, 2013.
South Africa's President Jacob Zuma on Sunday congratulated Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe on his re-election, in sharp contrast to Western governments which questioned the credibility of a rushed, disputed vote.

African monitors broadly approved the conduct of the election but Mugabe's main rival, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai, has said he will challenge the results in court with evidence of massive vote-rigging, irregularities and intimidation.

The sharply divergent views of Wednesday's vote surfaced after Zimbabwe's election officials declared a landslide win for Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party, giving Africa's oldest president five more years at the helm of a nation he has ruled for 33.

The standoff raises some fears the southern African nation risks repeating the turmoil that followed another contested vote in 2008. Election violence then forced Zimbabwe's neighbors to broker a shaky unity government between ZANU-PF and the MDC.

But Sunday's “profound congratulations” extended to Mugabe by Zuma, leader of Africa's economic powerhouse, reflected a willingness by the continent's diplomatic bodies to swallow the re-election of Mugabe, 89, for the sake of regional stability.

Controversial figure

Mugabe, one of the grand old men of southern Africa's liberation fight that ended white minority rule, is admired as a defiant nationalist by some Africans, though others share the West's view of him as a ruthless despot who wrecked Zimbabwe.

“President Zuma urges all political parties in Zimbabwe to accept the outcome of the elections, as election observers reported it to be an expression of the will of the people,” the South African leader said in his statement.

Zimbabwe's capital Harare was calm on Sunday, with many residents going to church. Newspaper billboards proclaimed “ZANU-PF gloats over victory”, “Mugabe romps to victory” and “Tsvangirai disputes election results”.

Western observers were barred from Wednesday's elections.

Monitors from the African Union and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) who observed them made a point of stressing that they were peaceful, in contrast to the violence of 2008 polls, and also endorsed them as broadly free.

In contrast, the United States and European governments, which have sanctions in place against Mugabe over past election-rigging, listed a litany of alleged flaws in the vote, from lack of availability of the voters' roll to pro-Mugabe bias in the media and security services that skewed the election run-up.

In Zimbabwe, independent domestic monitors had described the election as “seriously compromised” by registration problems that may have disenfranchised up to a million people.

Anti-corruption watchdog Global Witness, citing links between mining companies, ZANU-PF insiders and Zimbabwe's pro-Mugabe military, has also alleged that state diamond revenues may have been spent on securing the Mugabe re-election.

ZANU-PF has angrily rejected all vote-rigging allegations.

West skeptical

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spelled out Washington's distrust of the result in no uncertain terms.

“Make no mistake: in light of substantial electoral irregularities reported by domestic and regional observers, the United States does not believe that the results announced ... represent a credible expression of the will of the Zimbabwean people,” he said in a strongly worded statement on Saturday.

Former colonial power Britain expressed “grave concerns.” Foreign Secretary William Hague said the reported irregularities “call into serious question the credibility of the election.”

The 28-nation European Union has also pointed to “identified weaknesses in the electoral process and a lack of transparency,” completing a picture of general Western skepticism.

It remained to be seen how energetically the West, with little public appetite at home for overseas interventions and facing muscular Chinese trade and investment rivaly in Africa, would press its questioning against the apparent African endorsement of the vote as imperfect but acceptable.

China is already a significant investor in Zimbabwe, which has rich reserves of chromium, platinum, coal and diamonds.

Mugabe had defiantly ignored a request by SADC in June to delay the election beyond July 31 to allow more time for steps to create a “conducive environment” for a free and fair vote.

At issue now will be the future of the Western sanctions against Mugabe and Zimbabwe, where the economy is still struggling to recover from a decade of slump and hyperinflation that ended in 2009 when the Zimbabwe dollar was scrapped.

Conflict unlikely

Trevor Maisiri, senior analyst for southern Africa of the International Crisis Group, said the priority of the African Union and its regional satellites like SADC was avoiding conflict and civil strife. This often took preference over technical perfection in electoral processes.

“I don't think there is going to be any major social unrest. Some people are disappointed but they have already gone back to their lives,” he told Reuters by telephone in Harare.

The MDC, facing political annihilation after its third failure to oust Mugabe through the ballot box, has said it could consider challenging Mugabe's win through street protests.

But this could trigger a crackdown from pro-Mugabe security services, militias and supporters. In the 2008 electoral violence, 200 MDC followers were killed in such a crackdown.

In Harare, after the tense, rushed weeks of electioneering, many seemed anxious to get on with their daily lives.

“The elections have come and gone, and people have different opinions about the outcome but we still need to pray for our welfare, for national peace,” said one woman as she went into a service at the main Anglican Cathedral in the city.

“Politics is important, but it's not everything,” she added, declining to give her name.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: chihobori from: zimbabwe
August 06, 2013 5:13 PM
please leave us alone, why dont you just stop meddling with the elections, how much of rigging will it need for mugabe to win with such a margin..... whats your problem? Leave us alone!!!!!!!!! we love mugabe and we will vote for him until he drops and dies! All you want is juicy news, liars liars! When will you come out of your sleep. tell you what, we can live without the west. our hope is not in the West, watch and see

by: John Achem from: Vandykia, Nigeria
August 04, 2013 10:27 AM
One wonder at the way the "wester" thrive on meddling on other people's affairs. The AU and SADR said election good. Why dispute. Did Africa ever meddle in US, UK, Australia and the host's kind of 'democracy'. Leave us alone and redress yourselves for peace to reign in the world please. Or do you want war in Zim.

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs