(Last Updated on July 31, 2013 by Editor)
See live updates as millions of Zimbabweans head to the polls in a fiercely contested election.
- ‘Do or die’ election for Tsvangirai
- Fears of violence hover as Zimbabwe goes to the polls
- Crunch vote for Zimbabwe
- Mugabe vote rigging ‘evidence’ handed in
Harare – Veteran Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe said on Tuesday he will step down from 33 years in power if he loses Wednesday’s knife-edge election.
“If you lose you must surrender,” the 89-year-old said at a rare press conference in response to a question about what he would do if he lost.
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through a series of violent and suspect elections, has ruled Zimbabwe
for 33 years uninterrupted since it gained independence from Britain.
But he denied any attempts to rig the election, declaring: “We have done no cheating”.
faces a major challenge from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, his
reluctant partner in an uneasy power-sharing government forged after the
last bloody polls in 2008.
Although tainted by sex scandals and
allegations of party corruption, Tsvangirai has rallied tens of
thousands of supporters on to the streets ahead of the vote.
Mugabe’s foes fear the wily old crocodile of Zimbabwean politics will
seek to win what is likely his final election by hook or crook.
Few believe the military – which remains squarely behind the independence hero – would recognise a Tsvangirai victory.
Movement for Democratic Change on Tuesday handed what they claimed was
documentary evidence of plans to rig the election to observers from the
Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The dossier, which
was seen but not verified by AFP, listed around 125 duplicate or
questionable voters gleaned from a first examination of the electoral
The MDC said it had received a copy of the roll less than 24
hours before polling stations open, and only in printed –
non-searchable – form.
“It is very clear to us there are
shenanigans to try and rig this election, to try and interfere with the
outcome of this election and to subvert the will of the people of this
country,” junior minister Jameson Timba told AFP.
“We have seen a
lot of duplicate names in the roll where you see somebody is registered
twice, same date of birth, same physical address but with a slight
difference in their ID number,” Timba said, adding this had occurred
across various constituencies.
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission officials were not available to respond to the allegations.
an SADC observer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was
not authorised to speak to the press, said the MDC dossier raised
“It’s not normal. If the roll had been released two weeks ago, these kind of problems would have been fixed.”
sceptics, the dossier will only serve to confirm long-standing
suspicions that the chaotic state of the voters’ roll could be used to
mask any low turnout by Mugabe’s supporters.
In June, the Research
and Advocacy Unit, a non-government group, reported that the roll
included one million dead voters or people who have emigrated, as well
as over 100 000 people aged over 100 years old.
Around 6.4 million people are eligible vote in Wednesday’s first round and results are expected within five days.
opinion polls are rare, but according to one survey by the US-based
Williams firm in March-April, Mugabe could be in for a rough ride.
of a survey of 800 Zimbabweans, 61% said they had a favourable
view the MDC compared to 27% for Mugabe’s Zanu-PF.
showed Tsvangirai leading in seven out of 10 provinces and that only 34
percent of those who voted for Mugabe in 2008 back him for president
this time around.
Amid recovery from an economic crisis that saw
mass unemployment and some of the highest rates of inflation ever
recorded, Mugabe loyalists insist their hero is “tried and tested”.
“We have won already. It’s a walkover,” said Zanu-PF supporter Jestara Mziwanda.
At a final campaign rally Sunday, Mugabe promised further indigenisation of white and foreign-owned assets.
has also painted his rival as a foreign stooge and warned Zimbabweans
against change, citing the fallout after uprisings in Egypt and Libya.
“See what is happening in Egypt. They were fooled and advised to remove their leaders.”
On Monday, Tsvangirai drew a vast crowd who directed a chant of “game over” at Mugabe.
has promised to create one million jobs and has used Mugabe’s advanced
age as campaign fodder, saying: “How can you let an old man push a
plough when there are young people around.
“I want Mugabe to enjoy
his retirement in peace and quiet,” hinting that Mugabe may be granted
immunity if he relinquishes power.
But with the backing of state media, the military and control of most other levers of power, Mugabe remains odds-on favourite.
“Many expect a Mugabe victory, because ‘Zanu doesn’t lose elections’,” said the International Crisis Group.
for a free and fair vote do not exist,” it said. “A return to
protracted political crisis, and possibly extensive violence, is