It is a silent noise that prevailed in Harare yesterday, following the announcement that Robert Mugabe had been re-elected Zimbabwean president by a convincing majority.
“There is no noise, it is not like before,” Stanley Madzore (not his real name) said as he walked home from church in Hatfield, a poor neighbourhood south of Harare.
Previously, there was violence, but following Mugabe’s victory amid claims of massive vote-rigging, his opponents are left with a sense of being violated without having physically been harmed.
Yesterday was a Sunday much like any other in Harare, with congregations – dressed in long white robes – gathering to praise in open pieces of field and on the spectacular boulders in Epworth.
There were no obvious celebration parties, hardly any party-branded clothes, and not in the least any of the taking to the streets threatened earlier by the losing MDC-T.
“I didn’t vote because there was a problem with my registration,” Madzore said. “This is an illegal settlement, and someone who said he was the chairman took them to the registration centre, and they were registered because they are more likely to vote for Zanu-PF.
“I went there every day, and each time they said they were full, they were only taking 50 registrations, so eventually I gave up.”
Madzore said those Zimbabweans wanting to see Mugabe go thought these were the elections that would make it happen.
Wednesday’s poll was peaceful in contrast with the highly contested and violent 2008 poll. The MDC-T was included in the unity government after getting a small majority in the poll, and many, including MDC-T leaders, believed that they would grow on this achievement.
“It is like the Egyptians who went to Canaan. It was supposed to take them seven days, and in the end it took them 40 years,” he said.
But just down the road four women with containers to fetch water from a communal handpump, about 300 metres from their homes, said they were happy about the outcome.
“We are happy because our president won,” said Samantha Matanda (not her real name) who, aged 17, was too young to vote, but said her mother had voted Zanu-PF.
“We love him, because he gives us everything we need: free electricity, free water,” she said.
Under a tree, two 21-year-olds, who have gone back to school to improve their results, said they didn’t even bother to register.
“We aren’t interested in politics, we are satisfied with what we have,” Maynard Sibinda (not his real name) said. “If you don’t know what is happening, you can’t cast your vote,” he said.
They were happy, however, that these polls were violence-free, and said this might inspire them to register for the next elections.
They did, however, say “some people are scared to expose themselves” by expressing their political preferences, and they hoped this would change in future.
Meanwhile, Mugabe’s re-election and his rival MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s challenge against the poll results has put President Jacob Zuma in a quandary.
Zuma yesterday morning extended his “profound congratulations” to Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, on his re-election and urged political parties to accept the outcome as “an expression of the will of the people”.
He commended Zimbabwe for “conducting a peaceful election”.
Zuma’s statement also came after countries like the United States and Britain issued statements within hours of the announcement in Harare, describing the elections as “deeply flawed” and expressing “grave concerns”, respectively.
The DA was quick to lash out against Zuma’s remarks yesterday, with its spokesperson on international relations, Ian Davidson, saying in a statement Mugabe’s election was “stolen”.
Davidson said by “prematurely” congratulating Mugabe, “Zuma has failed Zimbabwe, failed Zimbabweans and failed SADC by not providing the leadership the region desperately required”.
Davidson said Zuma’s congratulations “shamefully legitimise undemocratic practices during elections, and sends a message that significant irregularities will be tolerated by his administration”.
Concerns by observer bodies included the printing of 2 million extra ballot papers, more than the international standard, the late release of the voters’ roll by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the number of people turned away from the polls.
Tsvangirai, who only managed to garner 33.9% of the vote, on Saturday said his party would withdraw from all government institutions and would consider “at the appropriate time” whether to withdraw its 49 MPs from the 210-seat national assembly as well.
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