“I’m a survivor,” MDC-T leader and Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai told a large crowd at a final elections rally, but repeated his concern that tomorrow’s elections in his country would not be free and fair.
An estimated 30 000 people, clad in the party’s red colours, cheering and using the party’s open-handed salute, came to the rally yesterday on the capital’s dusty Freedom Square – a large piece of open ground a few hundred metres from the Zanu-PF offices.
After initial reports that the police wanted the rally cancelled because of concerns that officers couldn’t handle a crowd of that size, the event went ahead without major incidents.
Tsvangirai, who is challenging President Robert Mugabe for the third time, said he had been “beaten and incarcerated for no good reason” but he wasn’t bitter.
“I was beaten like a common criminal. I have forgiven my tormentors. The reason is that I do not want to become a person of bitterness and revenge.”
He said he would be the country’s new president and bring about change and economic reforms, which would involve opening up markets for more foreign investment.
Tsvangirai was imprisoned by Mugabe at least three times since 2000 on charges of inciting violence, and in 2007 he was badly beaten in prison.
He again attacked the 89-year-old Mugabe on the grounds of his advanced age, saying it was time for him to retire and rest.
Tsvangirai reserved his worst vitriol for the country’s elections body, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), asking them to step down if they could not admit that they were failing at their job.
“Although I have respect for ZEC and the observers, what I don’t respect is the deliberate attempt to subvert the will of the people,” he said. “What is clear is that ZEC is either complicit (in trying to rig the elections) or they have abdicated their responsibility to other forces.”
In the past few days the MDC-T have slammed observer missions from the African Union and the Southern African Development Community for saying the country was ready for the elections while the MDC-T believed it was not.
At its final press conference before the elections yesterday afternoon, the ZEC again declared the elections would happen as planned.
Deputy chairperson of the ZEC, Joyce Kazembe, tried to allay fears that the commission wasn’t ready, following problems delivering ballots during last week’s special vote by saying that was “water under the bridge”.
She said the ZEC might have underestimated the time frames and that delivering specialised votes was different to delivering ballots to specified polling stations.
“Comparing elections and specialised votes is like comparing oranges and apples,” she said.
ZEC chairperson Justice Rita Makarau also tried to address complaints by Tsvangirai that he, as presidential candidate, had not yet received a copy of the voters’ roll.
She said there were “logistical problems” with making the roll available electronically, but hard copies had been printed and were available for inspection.
She also reiterated that nobody would be allowed to announce the results before they had been verified. The MDC-T had been wanting to post the election results of each polling station as they were announced, but Mugabe over the weekend threatened to arrest Tsvangirai if he did that.
The results of the presidential election are set to be announced nationally within five days of the elections, while local results are set to be announced in constituencies as they become available.
Elections campaigning had to end at 6.59am today.
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