Posted on May 1, 2008

Mugabe Declares Runoff in Defiance of Electoral Commission

Alexi Mostrous, AP, May 1, 2008

President Robert Mugabe’s party declared today that there would be a runoff between the veteran leader and Morgan Tsvangirai, the head of the opposition—in defiance of the official verification process.

Bright Matonga, the Deputy Information Commissioner, said today: “As far as I’m concerned, there is going to be a runoff. We have got our own results.”

His statement came as representatives from the main parties met in a Harare hotel to begin comparing their results from the presidential poll, which the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission (ZEC) said would pave the way for an official tally to be released.

But the process was marred by Mr Matonga’s statement, which suggested that Mr Mugabe’s Zanu PF party was gearing up for a bruising electoral run-off without thought to the official results.

Senior government officials officials leaked results yesterday which apparently handed victory to Mr Tsvangirai—but not by enough votes to win outright.

According to the leaks, Mr Tsvangirai won 47 per cent of the vote against Mr Mugabe’s 43 per cent. He needed more than 50 per cent to avoid a second round.

Mr Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) claimed to have won 50.3 per cent of the vote based on results published at polling stations.

But a month after the March 29 poll the official tally has still not been released, prompting accusations of vote rigging against the government.

Mr Matonga would not say whether the leaked results were correct or give details about the Zanu PF party’s own figures. But he maintained that no one won the 50 per cent vote needed to avoid a runoff.

Individual polling stations have posted results, allowing parties and others to compile their own tallies while the nation awaits official results from the ZEC.

In Johannesburg yesterday, Mr Tsvangirai’s spokesman reiterated that the opposition would not take part in a runoff because it believed only fraudulent results would deny the MDC outright victory.

“If Robert Mugabe cannot accept the real results now, what’s the guarantee he’ll accept the real results after a runoff?” George Sibotshiwe said.

The MDC said in a statement today that 20 of its activists had been killed in the last month. Independent rights groups in Zimbabwe have given more conservative tolls, but they also have said not all deaths have been reported.

The main trade union federation claimed that two schoolteachers were beaten to death in the latest wave of violence.

“We have received bad news. As we speak two teachers have been killed, beaten to death,” Wellington Chibebe, secretary general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), said at a May Day rally at a stadium in Harare today.

Mr Chibebe, whose movement is closely allied to the main opposition, said the two had been killed at a school in the northwestern Guruve region.