Zimbabwe's growing post-poll tensions

International development agencies, Progressio, Tearfund, Trócaire, the Foundation for Development and Partnership in Africa (FEPA), and Christian Aid warn that Zimbabwe is becoming increasingly tense as election results continue to hang in the balance.

All five agencies are deeply concerned about the counting and tabulation of votes cast in Zimbabwe's March 29th elections despite the results of the parliamentary elections being declared yesterday.

The failure of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to adequately explain the delays in releasing official results and the discrepancies between ZEC tallies of votes cast and those of independent observers are leading to increasing the risk of heightened tension in the country.

Noel Kututwa, chairperson of Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) said in a statement: 'While it is the responsibility of ZEC to announce the official results of the election, it is the legal duty of election observers to provide the people of Zimbabwe with independent non-partisan information on all aspects of the electoral process.'

Specifically our partner agencies in Zimbabwe state that Zimbabweans feel betrayed by the failure of ZEC to declare the results of the presidential elections. We are concerned that:

- After 5 days, there has still been no announcement of presidential poll results. Results of parliamentary and senatorial polls were displayed at polling stations as early as 23h00 on Saturday 29th March and, since by law this constitutes the legal declaration, it is difficult to understand why ZEC insisted on the laborious process of broadcasting these results to the nation rather than moving on counting and tabulation of ballots pertaining to the presidential poll. This slow release of results continues to fuel well-founded fears that the official results have been tampered with;

- Members of the SADC observer mission left Harare prior to the official announcement of polls and did not observe the counting and tabulation of results. The SADC mission on Sunday stated that the 'will of the people had prevailed'. We regard this as premature given that an election is only concluded when the results have been communicated to and accepted as true by the electorate.

- The departure of the SADC observer mission prior to announcement of results constitutes a violation of their mandate as laid out in SADC guidelines for observing elections. It also differs from previous years when regional observer teams were deployed to observe voting and counting processes.

In light of these concerns and of the current dispute about the presidential poll, the five agencies call for:

- The presidential election results to be published forthwith;

- An external mediation team of reputed individuals from the region to assist with the talks between Zanu PF and MDC in the event of a disputed outcome. The team should be prepared to support a full audit of the polls as called for by Zimbabwe civil society and churches in a petition to SADC yesterday;

- The upholding of the rule of law in relation to any possible second round run-off of the presidential elections. The repeal of existing law and/or the gazetting of regulations to override existing legislation must be opposed on the grounds that this will provide legislative uncertainty and threaten the integrity of the electoral process;

- SADC leadership, in coordination with the African Union, to re-engage formally at this stage of the electoral process. Along with political leaders in the country, leaders in the region must be appealing for declaration of results and for peace and calm to prevail;

- The protection of the fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizens of Zimbabwe during this ongoing electoral period is vital. The impartiality of the security forces will be vital as will removing threats of paramilitary violence.

The Zimbabwe Christian Alliance, which works closely with us, is sending delegations to the region.

According to delegation member Reverend Albert Chatindo: 'We don't want any bloodshed so this is an effort that we are taking as church leaders to ask SADC and the AU to intervene. The church stands for the suffering people of Zimbabwe and they are continuing to suffer as they wait for the results. We are concerned that the possibility of violence is increasing.'