Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, seemed confident of an outright win ahead of his country’s elections today, but vowed that he would step down if he lost to rival MDC-T leader, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
“If you lose you must surrender,” he told a contingent of journalists at a rare press conference at State House in Harare yesterday on the eve of his country’s first elections after he had been forced to share power with the opposition MDC-T following the 2008 elections.
Asked whether Zanu-PF could continue in such a government, he said: “That circumstance is not envisaged this time.” He added, though, that it was difficult to say before “we are told the facts by the voters”.
Mugabe denied claims that Zanu-PF was involved in attempts to rig the vote: “I comply with and obey the electoral law and I move in accordance with the electoral process,” he said.
“We are not lawbreakers.”
Polls have put Mugabe in the lead, but it is expected to be a close race.
Allegations of attempted vote rigging and irregularities on the voters’ roll from opposition parties have marred the run-up to what has so far been a peaceful election.
City Press understands observers from the African Union and Southern African Development Community missions were concerned about claims reported in ZimEye that an analysis of the voters’ roll showed as many as 2.3 million names were duplications with minor alterations to details. These are all in areas set to favour Zanu-PF.
The MDC-T yesterday handed what they claimed was proof of duplicate voters to SADC observers. The party also asked supporters at its rally in Harare to use their cellphones to report irregularities on voting day today.
The reluctance by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to release electronic versions of the voters’ roll has fuelled suspicions that it is complicit or at least tolerant of rigging. The commission said on Monday that “logistics” prevented it from releasing the roll electronically, but gave the assurance that print-outs would be available to view at polling stations.
SADC chief observer to Zimbabwe, Bernard Membe, told BBC they were concerned that a voters’ roll had not been released before the elections.
Observers told City Press, however, that they were cautiously optimistic that there would be no violence.
Mugabe confirmed he had briefly met with former Nigerian president Olesegun Obasanjo yesterday morning.
“We reminisced a bit. He wasn’t long and he said so far so good and he hopes the climate remains as he found it. When he arrived there were reports that it was calm,” he said.
Asked about Zimbabwe’s relations with South Africa following the elections and should he win, Mugabe intimated that it would be business as usual.
Earlier this month he had harsh words for President Jacob Zuma’s envoy, Lindiwe Zulu, who expressed SADC concerns that Zimbabwe wasn’t ready for the elections. Zuma then silenced her.
Mugabe said Zulu was “a woman who opened her mouth in an irregular way” and this had nothing to do with bilateral relations between the countries, but he added: “I am glad that it was corrected, and I am glad that she has learnt to zip her mouth.”
The ANC yesterday released a statement in which it wished Zimbabweans “successful and peaceful elections and a government based on the free will of the people exercised in an environment devoid of hindrance, reaffirming Zimbabwe’s established democratic system, independence and national unity”.
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