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ZANU-PF Election Trickery Exposed

Recount appears to have been part of a ruling party strategy to force a run-off and make sure Mugabe wins it.
By Jabu Shoko
The recount of votes in 23 constituencies ordered by ZANU-PF after the disputed March 29 polls was a ruse to divert the nation’s attention from the ruling party’s next move in its battle to extend its hold on power, according to analysts and ruling party insiders.

The recount was earlier believed to have been an attempt by President Robert Mugabe to rig the poll. But when it ended, the Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, still had 109 parliamentary seats to ZANU-PF’s 97; and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai still had more votes than Mugabe – but not enough to avoid a run-off.

Before ZANU-PF demanded a recount, Mugabe consulted with the Joint Operations Command – which includes the heads of the army, police, intelligence and prisons service – and the ZANU-PF politburo, the party's supreme decision-making body.

The petition for a recount alleged gross irregularities in the electoral process. Mugabe claimed that Tsvangirai had sourced funds from the West, particularly from British prime minister Gordon Brown, and had bribed officials of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, ZEC, to secure victory in the parliamentary poll.

But analysts and ruling party insiders said the recount was part of ZANU-PF strategy to force a run-off and to make sure Mugabe wins it.

They said while attention was on the recount, Mugabe, with advice from his securocrats, was moving with speed to deploy about 200 senior army personnel to lead a violent campaign of retribution in former ZANU-PF rural strongholds which had shifted allegiance to the opposition.

Part of the apparent strategy was the order to arrest a number of polling officers, allegedly for defrauding ZANU-PF and Mugabe during the counting of the ballot papers. The arrests, it seems, were intended to dissuade teachers and headmasters from doing the same task for ZEC in the run-off, on the grounds that the job was risky.

ZANU-PF insiders said Mugabe intended winning the second round of the presidential race overwhelmingly and then staying on for about 18 months before handing over to Emmerson Mnangagwa, the current minister of rural housing and social amenities who serves as the ZANU-PF secretary for justice and legal affairs.

Since the election, Mnangagwa has been Mugabe’s point-man on critical national and international issues.

The recount demand "was a tactical retreat; it gave [Mugabe] time to re-organise while all eyes were on the recount", said Takura Zhangazha, a political analyst and acting director of the Zimbabwe chapter of the Media Institute of Southern African.

"While people waited for the outcome of the recount, believing ZEC would reverse the MDC’s gains in parliament, the country was being militarised .... That's why we have soldiers, the youth militia and the state security agents running amok in rural areas. It is a part of a wider strategy for a presidential run-off which Mugabe desperately wants to win."

Eldred Masungure, a professor of political science at the University of

Zimbabwe, agreed that Mugabe used the period to distract the attention of everyone, including the international community, which had been clamouring for the release of the presidential results.

"That is why ZANU-PF and Mugabe are talking comfortably of a run-off," said Masungure. "The recount gave ZANU- PF and Mugabe breathing space after their shocking loss to the opposition. It has allowed them to come out of the shock and they are now coming out vicious, judging by the pictures we are seeing coming from the rural areas – where there is violence, some of it blamed on uniformed forces."

Reports indicate war veterans and the youth militias are holding violent night vigils to mobilise support for Mugabe. At the same time, senior army personnel and police have reportedly been criss-crossing the country, visiting barracks and police stations to “re-educate” the population as part of ZANU-PF's Operation Waka Votera Papi (Where did you cast your vote?).

The violent campaign has displaced thousands of MDC supporters and is running in tandem with a massive propaganda campaign in the state media meant to discredit Tsvangirai. Fake documents have been published, linking the MDC to the British premier and displaced white farmers.

"All this was done while you people waited for the recount,” said a ZANU- PF politburo member, who spoke on condition he would not be named. “There is also mobilisation of financial and social resources such as food for the masses as we want nothing short of an outright victory. We cannot allow ourselves to give a puppet this country on a silver platter."

Newsrooms have been inundated with chilling reports from the opposition and its key allies in civil society organisations that people were being killed, raped, maimed and assaulted in the rural areas.

The reports noted that there was a continuing trickle of state security agents into rural areas as Mugabe stepped up the deployment of the army, police and intelligence units countrywide to campaign for him.

Irene Petras, the executive director of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, ZLHR, agreed that Mugabe was leaving no stone unturned to bag the run-off by also harassing would-be polling officers. She said more than 120 of those employed by ZEC had been detained since ZANU-PF demanded a recount. She said she saw it as a strategy to win the run-off.

"ZLHR sees these arrests as persecution of human rights defenders, and as an attempt to ensure that, in the event of a presidential run-off, such officers will refuse to participate, thus allowing the state to justify its use of law enforcement agents, intelligence officers, war veterans and graduates of the National Youth Service Training Programme to manage the electoral process to benefit one presidential candidate to whom they owe their political and human survival," she said.

She warned Zimbabweans involved in the arrest or interrogation of ZEC polling officers that they were acting unconstitutionally and would face criminal sanctions under both national and international law.

Jabu Shoko is the pseudonym of an IWPR journalist in Zimbabwe.

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