News / Africa

Western Backlash Rises Over Zimbabwe Vote

Zimbabweans read newspaper coverage of the recent elections in Mbare township, outside Harare, Zimbabwe, August 4, 2013.
Zimbabweans read newspaper coverage of the recent elections in Mbare township, outside Harare, Zimbabwe, August 4, 2013.
Anita Powell
Zimbabwe’s election is receiving wide criticism after longtime President Robert Mugabe swept the vote in an election the opposition says was rigged. 

Australia is calling for a rerun of the poll, and the United States and Britain have said they do not think the results were credible.  In neighboring South Africa, Zimbabwean expatriates are reacting to the results with disbelief. 

On Monday, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change said dozens of its members were arrested a day after the electoral commission announced that longtime President Robert Mugabe trounced challenger Morgan Tsvangirai, winning 61 percent of the vote.

Those reports follow strong expressions of disapproval from the top diplomats of Australia, the United States and Britain.  Zimbabwe’s largest poll observer mission also said the poll was “seriously compromised” by multiple irregularities, including problems with voter rolls, vote tampering and voter intimidation.

  • Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai gestures during a media briefing in Harare, August 1, 2013.
  • Voters look at posted results outside a polling station in Harare, August 1, 2013.
  • Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe casts his vote in Harare, July 31, 2013.
  • Zimbabweans line up to cast votes in the country's general elections in Morondera, July 31, 2013.
  • An electoral worker watches as voters cast ballots in a Harare suburb, July 31, 2013.
  • A woman casts her vote in presidential and parliamentary elections in Harare, July 31, 2013.

But the African Union and the Southern African Development Community observation missions considered the poll relatively free and fair, though neither has presented a full report. Rugare Gumbo, a spokesman for Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, said the party won honestly.

“These people have to accept that their biggest problem was that they didn’t have a program to offer to the people," Gumbo said.  "They were complacent.  As ZANU-PF, we went into the field quietly like old typical guerrilla fighters.  We started restructuring the party from the bottom, while these people [opposition parties] were complaining or [creating their party] constitution, we were organizing the party, and that’s why we came up on top.”       

South African President Jacob Zuma sent Mugabe his “profound congratulations” and said the observers had found the poll to be “an expression of the will of the people.”
That opinion is not shared by many Zimbabwean expatriates in South Africa. Mugabe has few fans among the Zimbabwean community here, which is believed to number two million people.  Many of them say he is the reason they fled here and claimed political asylum.

Sox Chikohwero is one of them. The opposition party activist he fled after he was arrested and tortured in 2002.  He said Zimbabweans of all persuasions are questioning the results.

“The elections are not free and fair,"  Chikohwero said. "They’ve tried to force Morgan [Tsvangirai] to accept the results.  Morgan has refused, because he’s not talking for himself, he’s talking for the people.  And even people in ZANU-PF are surprised where this figure came from.  You saw [ZANU-PF chairman] Simon Khaya Moyo commenting after winning so resoundingly, we know how ZANU-PF boasts about winning, but Simon Khaya Moyo was saying, no one is a winner in this election, which means he is also surprised and shocked about the level of winning.  The type of rigging, I think they overdid it," he said.

Chikohwero’s concerns are echoed by top Western officials.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he did not believe the outcome “represent[s] a credible expression of the will of the Zimbabwean people."  British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he had “grave concerns.”  Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr is calling for a complete rerun of the poll.

Mugabe was forced into a power-sharing government with Tsvangirai after elections in 2008 turned violent. That coalition has now come to a bitter end.

One thing does appear to be sure: Mugabe, who is now 89 years old, is not a man who is easily defeated. He has ruled Zimbabwe since its independence in 1980 and says he is still going strong.

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Comment Sorting
by: Clever Sibanda
August 06, 2013 3:06 PM
Some folk are short on memory regarding the past, like Dan who should reflect on the period 1983-1987, which was covered up.
Those who lost their lives in this period were unarmed civillians.
Dan Edepi please do yourself a big favour and research the above,
to aquaint yourself with the facts. Then move on to other issues
which are on record and you will be much the wiser.

by: Dan Edepi from: Kenya
August 06, 2013 9:57 AM
Zimbabweans who fled to South Africa are cowards and are their own worst enemy. Were they brave enough to remain at home Tsivangirai would have won. Imagine two million wasted votes! You are traitors to your motherland.
In Response

August 06, 2013 12:58 PM
I personally ,I could not leave the bullet killing my mom, brothers, sisters and children in Zimbabwe while watching and waiting to vote. Where I stay in Chipinge Zanu pf never win free Elections without rigging or intimidating voters since 1980.This is something that no one can approve. But the souls of the late William Ndangana and Ndabaningi sithole ( both Chipinge Residents) can. Home is the best I love Zimbabwe. Cde Mugabe Was Not alone during Chimurenga war.

But now He forget the agenda of the war. He is becoming greedy and protecting only a few Generals Around him, Leaving the whole of Zimbabweans in hunger. Honestly we Zimbabweans, We don't need Onother Chimurenga war where we have to Kill each other like the Kenyeans. We Have Enough tears on our chicks......................These greedy guys in Zanu pf must revise ,look back,analyse and correct their mind and leave others who fought for Zimbabwe to lead. Even without diaspora guys, Tsvangirai can win the election. No one loves Mugabe except for few CIOs.

by: oxen
August 05, 2013 3:53 PM
Imperialist propaganda. Zimbabweans won, Imperialists lost with their puppet Tsvangirai. The western media will have nothing positive to say about Zimbabwe. That is OK, no one expects supporters of the previous regime of Ian Smith the savage to praise an African patriot. If USA, EU do not want to invest or trade with Zimbabwe, that is OK, there are other willing partners like China who know better. Hague, Bob Carr , and Kerry must shut up, there are not masters of Zimbabwe. It is not their colony. Kerry and Hague are busy supporting terrorists in Syria, and a coup in Egypt-and they have zero credibility on democracy at the moment.

by: Phineas Mhlongo
August 05, 2013 2:38 PM
Another sad story sums it up and the West has "grave concerns"
but then Mr Hague does not live there. Please spare the people your concerns sir.

by: Ken Girtz
August 05, 2013 2:31 PM
The so called west, chief among which is UK, US and Australia and to a lesser extent the EU, invested heavily in the MDC-T and ZESN from 1999 to date. They even tried to forge a grand coalition to unseat Mugabe. It has all come crushing down. The political party was in place, the local observers were put in place, the constitution was put it place and all the people of Zimbabwe had to do was vote in peace. We did! And in a secret, free, fair, credible, peaceful and successful process, gave the mandate to form a government to an 89 year old man we believe levelled with us - its going to be a bumpy ride at the end of which we must hold more of our resources and economy than we do now.

We bought into it and have buckled up. If the West decides again to turn our screws on us, this time it will be clear to all and sundry and hegemony is not theirs any more. We will survive and grow! On the other side is an open opportunity for the West to re-engage. We're not too enamored with Chinese chairmanship of the "rewards committee" but then, they are here and the West is not standing with us. A sad reality but thanks to all the West's foreign policy architects who like Morgan, have the heads in the clouds. The people of Zimbabwe have feet on the ground.
In Response

by: David Kay
August 05, 2013 3:20 PM
"We will survive and grow!"

So far food production and rest of economy have been going down drastically rather than growing, now close to poorest of africa countries, and needs to import supplies from south africa.

Why would others invest in Zimbabwe if whatever they succeed in may be nationalized/seized next year and given to others who often loot/plunder sell rather than keep succeeding?

Currency wise, Zimbabwe is also now tied to US dollar is if US keeps going in debt and creating 1 trillion dollars a year from nothing and that implodes eventually like it did in zimbabwe, then your economy can crash again even if you figure out how to do things better locally.

By the Numbers

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