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Do Zimbabweans See Election As A Sham?


I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Later in the program, more than a million American children are now homeschooled. Later, we'll talk with a young man who was educated at home. He says it left huge gaps in his knowledge. We'll also speak with a roundtable of parents about their very different experiences with homeschooling. First, though, we want to go to Southern Africa, where the official election results in Zimbabwe are in dispute again. The nation's electoral council declared that longtime leader Robert Mugabe won last week's election with a reported 61 percent of the vote. But his opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, or the MDC, is not conceding. He says he will challenge the results.


MORGAN TSVANGIRAI: The MDC totally rejects the 31, July elections on the basis of, A, the process and, B, the absence of reforms. The fraudulence in this total election has plunged Zimbabwe into a constitutional, political and economic crisis.

MARTIN: Joining us to talk more about this is Frank Chikowore. He is an independent journalist. He's with us from the capital of Zimbabwe, Harare. Mr. Chikowore, thank you so much for joining us.

FRANK CHIKOWORE: Thank you very much.

MARTIN: The American Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement last weekend, quote, the United States does not believe that the results announced today represent a credible expression of the will of the Zimbabwean people. Can you tell us, what does Zimbabwe's people think?

CHIKOWORE: The Zimbabwean populous think that this election was rigged in favor of Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party. They think that the talk by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, that there has been some shenanigans to rig this election, it is true. People here are not happy and they want a rerun of the elections. If you look - also look at the manner in which voter registration was conducted, it leaves a lot of questions than answers. Most of the people in Zimbabwe waited away on the following day, meaning to say that they did not participate in the election, yet they did possess all the documents that were required for them to cast their ballots.

MARTIN: How was the fraud conducted?

CHIKOWORE: You will notice that the election does not start on the 14th day. The election starts when the dates of elections are proclaimed by the president. Given the fact that we had a new constitution, we should require authorities to conduct a 30-day, intense voter registration in all the wards, in all the districts, in all the provinces, country-wide. That did not happen. What happened was that the election officials conducted voter registration for three days in any particular ward. Meaning to say that 27 days were not accounted for. So that, on its own, disenfranchised a lot of people.

MARTIN: What's the atmosphere there? I think many people may remember that after the last election in 2008 that there was a tremendous violence throughout the country. Many, many people were injured. I mean, at least 200 people were killed that we know of. What's the atmosphere there like now?

CHIKOWORE: There has been some reports of postelection violence. I've been talking to people at the MDC headquarters who were complaining that they have been evicted from their places of residence on the basis that they are Mr. Tsvangirai's faithful. So at the end of the day, we are seeing another (unintelligible) of violence in the country.

MARTIN: Do you have a sense of who citizens blame for the current state of affairs? I mean, many people will remember that Mr. Tsvangirai, who's currently serving as prime minister, who's the leader of the opposition party, the MDC, entered into this power-sharing agreement with Mr. Mugabe after the last election. It was only supposed to be temporary, but it's lasted for about five years now. So on the one hand, yes, many people believe that Mr. Mugabe's party has been responsible for a lot of violence and abuses directed at political opponents. On the other hand, many people say that Mr. Tsvangirai has simply been outmaneuvered all these years, and his own personal conduct has not reflected well on him. What is your sense of who the people blame for this current state of affairs?

CHIKOWORE: Well, the problem is that there has not been any democratic reform that Mr. Tsvangirai and his party have been calling for, such as security sector realignment and media reforms. You will notice that in the July 31 elections, there were a lot of involvement of the security apparatus in these elections. Some of the security personnel were actually on the field threatening people with violence, and they continue to do so. So the absence of key democratic reforms on each one makes this election not free and fair.

MARTIN: What happens now? Mr. Tsvangirai says that he intends to - the MDC says that they will file a court challenge in more than 100 constituencies, but I think it's well understood at this point that Mr. Mugabe's loyalists have been appointed to most of these court positions...

CHIKOWORE: Yeah, of course...

MARTIN: ...Isn't that right? So what happens now?

CHIKOWORE: Yeah, what is happening is that the MDC is preparing the court applications in over 100 constituencies, like you alluded to. But the problem with that is that the courts are heavily compromised. If you look at the fact that President Mugabe, only a few days before elections, appointed the new judges to sit on the High Court Bench, that on it's own is a clear indication that these applications will fail. If they fail, Mr. Tsvangirai is planning to take his challenge to the Southern African Development Community, our original block here, and the continental body, the African Union, which are the guarantors of the global-political agreement of power-sharing, signed by President Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvangirai on the 15th of September 2008. So the SADC and the AU, they have to meet. And apparently, the SADC is meeting, in the long way, in the fortnight, to discuss some of the issues that Mr. Tsvangirai is - and also, have Botswana saying that these elections were not credible.

MARTIN: Frank Chikowore is an independent journalist. He's based in Harare. That's the capital of Zimbabwe, and we reached him there today. Mr. Chikowore, thank you so much for speaking with us.

CHIKOWORE: You are welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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