By Tendai Kamhungira
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been dealt a heavy blow after the United States asked the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to release comprehensive results of the just-ended presidential elections based on data collected from polling stations, in a move that could open new faulty lines between Washington and Harare.
In a damning statement issued just three days after the harmonised elections held on Monday, Jeff Flake, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, said there was need for a proper tabulation of the results.
“In order to instil confidence in the election results, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission must now make good on its commitment to release comprehensive polling data in a transparent manner that includes results from each polling station signed off by party agents who were present for the casting of ballots and the tabulation of results. Challenges to the results must be pursued through legal channels,” Flake said.
Flake also raised concern over events that ensued soon after the elections, which saw the killing of six civilians by soldiers saying it showed that nothing had changed from the previous administration led by former president Robert Mugabe, who was known for using ruthless tactics against his opponents to remain in power.
“Over the past several days, I have had the privilege of observing Zimbabwe’s historic elections. After decades of misrule by Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe deserves to have a government worthy of its people.
“After a day of peaceful voting on July 30th, the violence on August 1st that claimed the lives of at least six people and injured many more was a throwback to the old days. The use of the Zimbabwean military to respond to political protests, or the use of the police force to disrupt press conferences, does not signal a new era, rather it echoes a dreadful past,” he said.
The US has been trying to normalise relations with Zimbabwe following Mugabe’s fall last November following an army intervention that catapulted Mnangagwa to the presidency.
Flake was also part of a five-member delegation of US Senators that visited Zimbabwe from April 6 to 8, to assess the political situation in the country.
The mission also comprised senators Chris Coons, Cory Booker, Michael Bennet and Garry Peters – all members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Then, Coons observed that Mnangagwa was not walking the talk in ushering democratic change as promised, which could result in the lifting of sanctions.
Flake and Coons led the drafting of proposed amendments to the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 (Zidera), a legislation that imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe.
His comments come after spokesperson for the United States Department of State, Heather Nauert also issued a statement stating that they were assessing the outcome of the July 30 polls.
“The United States welcomes the commitment by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to release comprehensive election results in a form that provides full transparency. The United States will continue to review the data collected by its own observation teams, by international observation missions, and by local observers to make a complete assessment of the overall election,” Nauert said.
The electoral contestations put a dent on Zimbabwe’s chances of having the sanctions lifted by the US, after Washington expressed irritation at the manner in which the elections were conducted.
Mnangagwa had pledged that Zimbabwe will this year hold free, fair, transparent and credible elections though opposition parties complained on a number of irregularities, chief among them lack of some tangible reforms and the failure to provide a clean voters’ roll.
With Mugabe’s relations with the West having been toxic for most of the past two decades, the US government has to date been renewing its targeted sanctions against Zimbabwe and the country’s then top leadership.
Recently, Washington introduced a Bill amending the biting Zidera, which introduced tough sanctions against Mugabe personally, as well as many of his senior officials and State entities.
The new Bill, now referred to as the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Amendment Act of 2018, does not only contain conditions which are specific to Mnangagwa’s new dispensation — but if these conditions are met, President Donald Trump’s administration will completely remove the current sanctions and re-establish wholesome relations with Harare.
This comes as the Commonwealth observer group noted that the stakeholders in the elections including political parties and the electorate did not have confidence in Zec’s ability to deliver a credible free and fairs election.
“Although this was the second election organised by an independent election management body, Zec, we noted that public confidence in Zec needs to be strengthened,” the reports reads in part.
“Political parties and civil society, in particular, expressed the view that Zec missed some opportunities to build trust and instil confidence in the electoral process through effective communication”.
The Commonwealth said it will give a final comment in its final report on the issues “including the lack of transparency in Zec’s handling of the printing of the ballot papers, and access to the final voters’ register ahead of the polls”. Daily News