Zimbabwe’s Anxious Wait Amidst Vigilant Security Measures

Zimbabwe held its breath on Friday, eyes fixed on the culmination of general elections. Armed police, equipped with water cannons, maintained vigilance at the national results center, which bore witness to deadly violence during the aftermath of the previous vote five years ago.

Criticism from African election observer missions echoed as this week’s balloting transpired. Allegations of voter intimidation by a group affiliated with the ruling ZANU-PF party cast a shadow, while Zimbabwean authorities faced scrutiny for pursuing subversion charges against local election monitors, A maneuver perceived as an effort to suppress opposing voices. Early indications from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission hinted at ZANU-PF’s stronghold in rural regions, while the Citizens Coalition for Change appeared to gain ground in major urban areas, traditionally favorable to the opposition. Nonetheless, the final verdict on presidential results would take several days.

Zimbabwe’s history of disputed elections bred skepticism over official outcomes, leaving many apprehensive.

Voting concluded after delays in distributing ballots in urban centers prompted President Emmerson Mnangagwa to extend the voting period. Determined voters even spent the night outside polling stations in opposition-stronghold urban areas to exercise their democratic rights.

The battle for the presidency primarily revolves around Mnangagwa, seeking a second term, and Nelson Chamisa, the 45-year-old lawyer and pastor who narrowly lost to Mnangagwa in the contentious 2018 election.

This marks Zimbabwe’s second general election since the ousting of longtime ruler Robert Mugabe in 2017. The elections encompass the presidency, a 350-member parliament, and nearly 2,000 council seats nationwide. Although over 6 million registered, turnout figures remain undisclosed.

African Union, Southern African Development Community (SADC), and African Union Observer Missions expressed concerns about voter intimidation. They highlighted Forever Associates of Zimbabwe, a group linked to the ruling party, allegedly gathering information on voters within polling booths. Former Nigerian president and head of the AU mission, Goodluck Jonathan, deemed these activities potentially criminal.

The SADC mission underscored the assurance from the electoral body that all voting materials were ready for use, but voting day shortages raised doubts about credibility.

While the European Union and the Carter Center questioned the credibility of the vote, Zimbabwean police arrested workers from accredited poll monitoring groups, intensifying suspicions of manipulation. Despite police accusations of subversive activities, observers argued that these workers were fulfilling their mandate.

Allegations of violence, intimidation, and curtailment of dissent by Mnangagwa’s government have marred the elections, which took place against a backdrop of economic and social challenges.

Both ZANU-PF and Citizens Coalition for Change claimed victory, heightening the suspense.

As Zimbabwe waits with bated breath for the official results, security measures are in full force. The past shadows of violence at the results center serve as a reminder of the nation’s tumultuous electoral history.

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