August 10, 2018. Earlier today Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (“MDC”), formally contested the election results of the July 30th presidential and parliamentary elections. Official election results were announced this past Thursday, August 2, giving sitting president Emmerson Mnangagwa, the head of the ruling ZANU-PF party, a slender victory with just 50.8% of the vote.
Last month’s elections were the first since former President Robert Mugabe was ousted in November of 2017. While hotly contested, the legitimacy of the poll has been seriously questioned for months with concerns raised about the independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, a system that favored incumbents, a biased media landscape and potential fraud in the conduct of the election, both in the lead-up to the actual poll and the counting and recording of ballots.
For the last 18 months, the Peace Appeal has been supporting our partner, the Zimbabwe Council for Churches (“ZCC”), as it worked across political, religious, tribal, gender and class lines to foster renewed civic engagement in Zimbabwe, and more recently to mount a robust election monitoring campaign. In the lead-up to the election, ZCC mobilized over 1,000 volunteers from across the country to participate in election monitoring. It also recruited dozens of international observers from Europe, Africa and Australia, including the Peace Appeal’s co-chair, Shirley Moulder, to join their national counterparts.
As reported by local and international observers, election day itself was relatively peaceful. However the post-election period was marred by violence as Zimbabwe’s Army sent tanks into the streets of its capital Harare and killed a number of opposition protestors who had taken to the streets in advance of the final election results being announced. When those results were announced, the electoral commission reported that Mnangagwa had received just above the threshold that would have result in a second ballot. The opposition believes the results are fraudulent, and the courts have two weeks to make a ruling on the petition submitted today.
In this tense environment, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches has called for non-violence and dialogue. In a pastoral statement issued last Friday, the ZCC called upon the ruling party to engage with the MDC Alliance through dialogue, offering the churches services as needed. The statement further asked the ruling party, ZANU-PF recognize the complaints of the opposition, and reform the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. It calls upon the MDC itself to address their concerns through the courts, and pursue nonviolent action.
In the coming months, the Peace Appeal will continue its support of the efforts of the ZCC and its local partners, as they work for national renewal.