ZIMBABWE’S LANDMARK ELECTIONS
By Donnelly McCleland
As vote counting continues in Zimbabwe, the governing Zanu-PF party has taken an early lead, winning most of the seats in the National Assembly so far, following Monday’s elections. The Zimbabwean Electoral Commission held regular briefings as results trickled in from various provinces, with the latest update given in the early hours of Wednesday morning [1 August]. The commission says the presidential results will only be announced when the counting at all 10,000 polling stations is done and collated. (EWN)
A landmark election
According to many analysts, these elections could be the country’s most consequential since independence in 1980. They afford Zimbabweans an unprecedented opportunity to choose who they believe can deliver economic recovery after decades of violent, authoritarian rule under former president Robert Mugabe and the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF). This is the first opportunity for the country to vote since Mugabe’s most unusual “military-assisted” removal in November 2017. Emmerson Mnangagwa, a 75-year-old ZANU-PF stalwart and long-time aide of Mugabe replaced him as president last year and is one of the frontrunners in these elections. Mr Mnangagwa pledged that these elections – in a break from the past – would be free and fair, and international observers have generally concurred that they have indeed been just that. Millions of people voted peacefully across the country on Monday. Of the almost 5.7 million registered voters (out of an estimated 14 million total population), more than 75% are estimated to have cast their ballots.
Mr Mnangagwa’s main challenger is Nelson Chamisa, the 40-year-old candidate of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance, who took control of the MDC after the death of its founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai in February. Chamisa is a lawyer and pastor with virtually no political experience. These two main contenders represent dramatically different ideologies and political styles, as well as generations. Both claim they are best positioned to deliver much-needed economic recovery. The Mail and Guardian sums up the electorate’s choice as being largely between an “untested MDC Alliance and a ruling party claiming it has reformed”.
If Zimbabwe has any hope of throwing off their economic and political woes, then these elections need to be highly credible, both in the eyes of citizens and international observers. Concerns raised to date include: scepticism of the independence and impartiality of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC); some incidences of voter intimidation and violence, especially in rural areas, in the lead-up to elections; leveraging of state assets by the ruling ZANU-PF party (with some activities seen as a crude form of ‘vote-buying’); and reports of the raising of civil servants’ pay by 17.5% by the government in recent months and an increase in special allowances for military and police personnel, even though the government is heavily in debt.
Election results and the possibility of a run-off
Pre-election surveys indicated that the race between Mr Mnangagwa and Chamisa was a lot closer than anticipated. If this was the case and neither candidate secured a 50% majority, then a run-off election between the two candidates would be held on 8 September. The last time there was a run-off was in 2008 which resulted in violent coercion and repression from the ruling ZANU-PF party, together with the military, to ensure Mugabe held on to power. It resulted in the deaths of hundreds of opposition activists and thousands of assaults.
Preliminary results, however, indicate that a run-off won’t be necessary as the ruling party, ZANU-PF, appears to have secured the majority. However, the opposition MDC appears to have won in most urban centres, where it enjoys majority support. The test for the new government will be to meet the tremendous challenges facing Zimbabwe, while remaining committed to reforming in such a way as to bring about a more inclusive society. The road ahead is difficult and will require work on all sides. Another loss for the opposition will be a bitter pill to swallow, but the manner in which they respond will speak volumes about their commitment to the well-being of the nation, above political ambition.
FROM A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE
Zimbabwe is widely regarded as a Christian nation. A national population census in 2012 indicated that at least 85% of its nearly 14 million population considered themselves Christian. In the months and weeks before these elections, the MDC Alliance appealed to citizens to fast and pray for their nation, and in particular that the ZANU-PF party be toppled from power and a new era ushered in for their beleaguered nation. Chamisa, himself an AFM pastor, called on all those who could to fast in the week before the elections, with an all-night prayer vigil on election eve. Chamisa‚ in a brief address to congregants in Bulawayo over the weekend (29 July)‚ said if elected into office his task “would be to turn the heart of the nation back to God”. He has made use of the social media handle #Godisinit (God is in it) to emphasise his belief that the Lord will enforce a victory for the opposition. However, it remains to be seen how opposition supporters will respond should the Lord decide that Mr Mnangagwa is His leader of choice for this next season.
Mr Mnangagwa also appealed to worshippers across the nation. At his most recent address to congregants of the Johane Marange Apostolic Church in Marange‚ their leader, Noah Taguta, predicted Mr Mnangagwa would win.
Regardless of which party and which man leads Zimbabwe in this new season, for many Zimbabweans, the recent developments in their nation and the promise of change gives them hope. Years of prayer and intercession have been sown into Zimbabwe, and there are indications that some of those prayers are being answered, but now is not the time to stop praying – it is a time to intensify prayer and trust the Lord for breakthrough.
- For an ongoing peace and calm across the country as results continue to be announced and the new president is declared
- For a genuine unity of purpose, both in government and among citizens
- For Zimbabwean believers to lead the way by actively pursuing peaceful resolutions and approaches to every challenge