Monday, March 31, 2008

Despondency as election results trickle in

Initial jubilation by opposition supporters in Zimbabwe is fast turning into despondency as official election results are being announced at a seemingly deliberate trickle.

All Sunday the Movement for Democratic Change was telling the world that its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai had won the presidential poll by up to 67%.

However, by early Monday afternoon in the country, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission had not released any results in that poll and the opposition has begun to suspect rigging of the already counted votes.

Other sources said the presidential race was actually inconclusive with the possibility of a second round run-off between Tsvangirai and either President Robert Mugabe of the ruling Zanu PF party or Dr. Simba Makoni, an Independent candidate who is a former cabinet minister in Mugabe’s government.

In the parliamentary poll, which is equally important, the ZEC had released results from 24 constituencies by 1 pm Zimbabwean time (7 am EST). The results were evenly split between the ruling party and the opposition.

However, MDC tallied the results officially posted outside polling stations throughout the country to conclude that it had so far taken 95 seats against Zanu PF’s 40 and 20 for independents. There are 210 contested parliamentary seats and, if indeed, MDC won 95, it is just 11 seats away from claiming victory (which it has already done).

News agency reports say up to nine of Mugabe’s key cabinet and politburo members had already lost their seats to the opposition. These include vice president, Joyce Mujuru; the minister of security, Didymus Mutasa; minister of justice, Patrick Chinamasa; minister of youth services, Elliot Manyika and minister of local government, Ignatius Chombo.

Some of the Zanu PF big wigs who lost their seats appeared to have taken the losses so hard that Manyika killed a polling official and is now in custody. There are unconfirmed reports that Chombo and another losing minister, Webster Shamu were also involved in gun-related disturbances in their constituencies.

All this comes at a time when President Mugabe’s sister and long time confidante, Sabina Mugabe died on Sunday after suffering a suspected heart failure. She had been very ill for a long time.

Her two sons, Leo Mugabe and Patrick Zhuwawo (both senior members of Mugabe’s government) are said to have lost their parliamentary seats.