Harare, June 5, – Hundreds of Zimbabwean opposition supporters marched through the streets of Harare on Tuesday demanding electoral reforms and free and fair polls next month.
The opposition supporters were addressed by main opposition Movement for Democratic Change presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa, 40, before heading to the Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) to hand over a petition calling for transparency.
“If ZEC want to hold a credible, free and fair election, we demand that all parties involved should know who is printing the ballot paper to avoid rigging,” Chamisa said.
“If the voters’ roll has not been audited by credible and an independent external auditor, there cannot be an election,” he added.
Zimbabwe goes to the polls on July 30 with 75-year-old President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a veteran of the 1970s liberation war and previously a close ally of ex-President Robert Mugabe, the incumbent.
Mugabe was forced to resign during a military coup in November, after ruling the country for over three decades, during which there were numerous allegations of vote-rigging and intimidation.
Mnangagwa has promised these elections will be free and fair and has invited EU observers to monitor the vote.
But the opposition ZEC petition complained that state media has been biased towards the ruling party.
It is also demanding no ex-military officials be allowed to work for the election body.
“We do not want soldiers to work for ZEC because they will not transfer power if the ruling party loses,” said one protester 35-year-old Tinei Tinarwo.
Zimbabwe holds harmonized presidential, parliamentary and local government elections on July 30 and so far a number of regional and international teams have sent pre-election observation teams to assess the situation in the country.
Among these are the European Union, the Commonwealth, the Southern African Development Community and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.
IRI, whose headquarters are in Washington DC, says it is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to advancing freedom and democracy worldwide.
NDI, which is also domiciled in the U.S., says it is also a non-profit, non-partisan organization working to support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government.
The delegation in a statement said that the mission was responding to the public welcome of international observers by Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa and requests from political leaders and civil society organisations.
The delegation will meet with government officials, political party leaders, election authorities, and representatives of civil society and the international community before presenting its mission findings at a press conference on Friday.
President Mnangagwa promised will be free and fair with international monitoring after the ouster of 94-year-old strongman Robert Mugabe.
Mnangagwa, who took power after the November military coup against Mugabe, counts on the election to bolster his legitimacy as he pursues a promised break with Mugabe’s repressive policies while urging foreign investors to return to Zimbabwe.
Missing from the July ballot for the first time in 20 years will be Zimbabwe’s foremost political gladiators, Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, the long-time opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader who died of cancer in February.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) said it had picked companies in southern Africa to print ballot papers and supply voting ink. The MDC wanted printing of ballots to be put to an open tender, but this was rejected by the government.
ZEC chairwoman Priscilla Chigumba told reporters that the commission’s partners, including U.N. agencies, would provide a quarter of the 198 million dollars budget needed to hold the elections.
Mnangagwa has invited the Commonwealth to monitor voting in Zimbabwe for the first time since 2002 when Harare was suspended from the group over accusations of rigged elections.
He has applied for Zimbabwe to re-join the Commonwealth.
Mnangagwa’s main challenger is 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa from the MDC, who has energised the party, drawing huge crowds at rallies in some of the ruling ZANU-PF party’s rural redoubts.
Sixty per cent of the 5.4 million voters on the new register are under 50 years old, according to official data.
The Constitutional Court on Wednesday dismissed an application by Zimbabweans living abroad to be allowed to vote.
The court did not immediately give a reason.
For the 75-year-old Mnangagwa, victory would accord him democratic legitimacy after taking power following the coup.
Mnangagwa urged ZANU-PF primary election candidates at a meeting on Wednesday to unite to ensure victory.
He forecast that ZANU-PF would prevail over the more than 100 political parties expressing an interest in contesting the election.
Nicknamed “Crocodile” for his secretive and insular demeanour, Mnangagwa goes into the election with the advantage of incumbency, allowing him access to state resources for his campaign. dpa