The tone has risen this weekend between Southern African Leaders and Robert Mugabe – the defiant President of Zimbabwe who has been in power for 33 years – over suspicions of probable vote-rigging in the Zimbabwean presidential election, to be held on July 31st.
A peace and security meeting of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) held on Saturday in Pretoria assessed the condition of election that is to take place in less 10 days. The African leaders of the SADC warned about the difficulty of holding credible elections in Zimbabwe in the current condition. Speaking after the meeting, the Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, said that it is very stressful to put together an election within a month and to “have everything organized, you know it is quite a mammoth task.”
The declaration was made amid growing concerns that Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party is trying to rig the poll to secure victory. Mugabe used hard words to answer. His answer was rather an attack against the South African President, Jacob Zuma, who held the SADC meeting. “Zuma should rein in Zulu and that SADC should not lie about the situation in Zimbabwe,” Mugabe said during a campaign rally. “I appeal to President Zuma to stop this woman of theirs from speaking on Zimbabwe,” Mugabe said.
Mugabe’s former opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, claimed that he had won the election in 2008. He accepted to take the post of Prime minister to stop protests that were taking place. Aware of risk of rigging, Tsvangirai said that the vote rigging would only happen if it was allowed by officials from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC). “It was up to them to ensure fair play on July 31,… The rigging can only occur when officials at ZEC are dishonest,” Tsvangirai said in a campaign rally in stadium in Gweru, south of the capital Harare. Tsvangirai said he and his party will be closely monitoring this “because we have to protect the vote, we have to protect the voter and we have to protect the outcome of the vote.”
The SADC warning came as many members of the Zimbabwean police, registered as earlier voters, were unable to vote in two days of polling due to shortages of ballot papers, indelible ink and boxes. A month ago, the SADC advised Zimbabwe to delay the election to allow time to apply reforms aimed to ensure a free and fair vote, giving the new government legitimacy.
According to this agreement, the military’s role should be limited in politics, and ‘ghost’ voters purged from the electoral roll. Zimbabwe has been under pressure for a long time, causing the economy to be poor. Opponents say that President Robert Mugabe called early elections, hoping to prolong his 33 years in power. During his address, Tsvangirai accused Mugabe of plotting to rig the vote.