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Could Zimbabwe be set for a power sharing deal after ‘rigged’ election?

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By Farai Shawn Matiashe |

MILDRED Muchenje, 26, was anxious as she approached the long, winding queue at her polling station in Warren Park, Harare, on 23 August.

She was about to cast her vote for only the second time ever, in the Zimbabwean presidential elections.

She had expected it to be a breeze, like it was in 2018. It wasn’t. She was told voting was yet to start because there were no ballot papers. What she didn’t know at the time, however, was this was the beginning of a more than 12-hour wait.

“I recently relocated, so voting for me meant travelling to the polling station,” Muchenje told openDemocracy. “When I went there early I was told there were no ballot papers. I wanted to vote and return home but I ended up sleeping in Warren Park.”

The elections were marred by voter intimidation, rigging and vote buying but observers say ballot delays were the main culprit in ensuring they were not free and fair.

“Some aspects of the harmonised elections fell short of the requirements of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the Electoral Act, and the SADC [Southern African Development Community] Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections (2021),” reads part of the preliminary report by Nevers Mumba, a former vice president of Zambia and the head of SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM).

On 26 August, 80-year-old incumbent president Emmerson Mnangagwa was declared the winner by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) with 52.6% of the ballots. His biggest rival Nelson Chamisa had 44% and has labelled the election a “gigantic fraud”.

Three weeks on, the fallout has continued, with opposition parties including Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T) and United Zimbabwe Alliance claiming the vote was rigged, that Mnangagwa’s ZANU PF colluded with the ZEC; and that ballot delays were the ruling party’s means of stealing the election.

Mnangagwa has denied fraud and said anyone questioning the results of the election can go through the courts.

But calls are intensifying for a fresh vote or, failing that, a diplomatic solution.

Ballot paper delays

Before the elections, ZEC chairperson Priscilla Chigumba told observers in Harare that the electoral body was ready and had printed enough ballot papers. But on 23 August, according to multiple electoral observer reports, many polling stations in opposition strongholds like Harare, Bulawayo and Manicaland Province had no ballot papers.

openDemocracy visited some polling stations which were billed to open for voting at 7am. However, polling officers only started allowing people to cast their vote at 10pm.

That left registered voters standing in long queues under the blazing summer sun for hours. They told openDemocracy they were angry, fatigued and frustrated by the delays.

During interviews with local media on election day, ZEC chief election officer, Utloile Silaigwana said they were still printing ballot papers. This contradicted the ZEC chairperson who had assured the nation that everything was in order days earlier.

Mnangagwa was forced to extend voting for polling stations in many wards across the opposition strongholds into the next day and many people in Harare, Bulawayo and Manicaland Provinces spent more than 12 hours in the queue.

Opposition party CCC spokesperson Promise Mkwananzi said the delay in ballot paper distribution was “deliberately targeted” in opposition strongholds.

“In Harare, more than 700 000 people were not able to vote due to the frustration in the delay of ballot paper deployment,” he told openDemocracy.

“It was shambolic and it was totally illegal. Violence and intimidation made a bad situation worse.”

openDemocracy saw how voters were intimidated in both rural and urban areas, particularly by the Central Intelligence Organisation affiliated Forever Associates Zimbabwe (FAZ), which was collecting names and identity numbers and coercing people to vote for Zanu PF.

Zanu PF spokesperson Chris Mutsvangwa acknowledged the delays in ballot paper printing but did not say if the party had raised it with the ZEC.

“Democracy is a quest that freedom-loving nations aspire to. That said, it is not a golden highway. It is a tantalising challenge with its own chances as well as mistakes and missteps. That’s [why] it calls for integrity and goodwill from all participants,” he told openDemocracy.

Not many people had the patience to wait to vote like Muchenje.

Some left polling stations as they could not endure more of the frustration and fatigue caused by the delay in ballot paper distribution. They include Lovemore Matikiti, a registered voter in the Warren Park constituency, who went home without voting. When he went to the polling station the next morning, he was told voting had closed the previous night.

“Just like that, my right to vote had been taken away from me by ZEC. I will never forgive them,” Matikiti said.

Matikiti’s polling station was not the only that opened late but closed the same night, despite the reprieve given by Mnangagwa. Some polling stations in Harare which had opened late closed around midnight but they did not open the next day.

Other voters could also not vote on the extended day because of the long distances they had to travel to polling stations, particularly in rural areas. And the additional voting day was not a holiday, unlike 23 August. Many employers did not allow their workers time to go and vote.

All of these problems meant that out of 6.6 million registered voters, two million people (30.3%) did not vote, according to statistics released by ZEC.

This is more than double the number of non-voters in the 2018 elections, in which 800,000 people (14.2%) of 5.6 million registered voters did not cast a ballot.

“Looking at those statistics, one can safely say among the two million people, the greatest chunk was those disadvantaged by the delays in terms of delivery of local authority ballot papers,” said Rawlings Magede, programmes manager at Heal Zimbabwe, a civil society organisation that observed the elections, campaigning for free and fair polls.

Ballot papers being printed on election day is not normal, according to Wilbert Mandinde, acting executive director of Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, a coalition of twenty-two human rights non-governmental organisations in Zimbabwe.

“In the past election ballots were basically distributed a day or two before the election day so that on election day people would just go to the polling day. This is almost the first time that we had ballot papers being printed on election day,” said Mandinde, who is also a lawyer.

The ballot papers for this year’s elections were printed by Fidelity Printers and Refiners, a company owned by the government through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. openDemocracy reached out for comment but did not receive a response.

Call for a fresh election and a diplomatic solution

CCC’s Mkwananzi is calling for a fresh election that meets the guidelines of the constitution and SADC principles.

But with the results already certified, it appears the ZEC does not intend to address the issue of ballot delays or offer any reprieve to voters, according to David Carroll, director of the US Carter Center’s Democracy Program. If that is the case, voters will remain disenfranchised.

Even justice through the courts is seen as unlikely, as opposition parties claim the judiciary has been captured by the ruling party. Instead, they want to pursue a diplomatic solution through the African Union and the SADC, the inter-governmental body of 16 countries in southern Africa.

There is some precedent there. In 2008, following a disputed election, then South African president Thabo Mbeki, through pressure from SADC, brokered a power sharing deal between the two frontrunners Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai. This gave birth to the Government of National Unity from 2009 to 2013, when Mugabe was president while Tsvangirai was prime minister.

Magede says all indications so far are pointing towards a similar solution.

“The swearing in of Mnangagwa and appointments of cabinet members is all being done in a hurry. But the fact that SADC is not yet clear on Zimbabwe elections, that alone has ramifications on the Mnangagwa regime. You can not be isolated by SADC and survive,” he said.

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Who is Harpal Randhawa, Indian billionaire who died in Zimbabwe plane crash? Here’s all you need to know – India TV News

Indian business tycoon Harpal Randhawa, who was killed in a
Image Source : X Indian business tycoon Harpal Randhawa, who was killed in a plane crash in Zimbabwe.

Indian mining tycoon Harpal Randhawa and his son were among the six individuals killed on September 29 when their private plane, Cessna-206, crashed near a diamond mine in southwestern Zimbabwe following a technical glitch.

Randhawa was the owner of RioZim, a diversified mining company producing gold and coal as well as refining nickel and copper. The plane that crashed was also owned by RioZim and was bound towards the Murowa diamond from Harare.

The plane experienced a technical fault, possibly resulting in a mid-air explosion, before plummeting into Peter Farm in the Zvamahande region. Confirming the crash, a statement from RioZim read, “The Murowa Diamond Company (RioZim)-owned white and red Zcam aircraft had left Harare for the mine at 6 am and crashed about 6km from Mashava.”

Who is Harpal Randhawa?

The 60-year-old Randhawa was the founder of private equity firm GEM Holdings worth $4 billion. He had vast gold, diamond and coal mining interests in Zimbabwe and was a prominent figure in the country.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Randhawa has served as the chairman of the GEM group for 30 years after its formation in July 1993. Aside from that, he was a partner at Sabre Capital Worldwide for 12 years and a senior adviser at the real estate firm Safanad for three years.

Randhawa completed his education at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) and the University of London. As per reports, he was planning his next business venture. His wife’s name has not been revealed yet.

The billionaire’s son, 22-year-old Amer Kabir Singh Randhawa, is a trained pilot, who also died in the tragic accident on Friday. The names of the other deceased passengers are yet to be released by police.

Reactions to Randhawa’s death

Although the names of the deceased passengers are yet unknown, journalist and filmmaker Hopewell Chinono, who was a friend of Randhawa, confirmed the deaths of Randhawa and his son.

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Harpal Randhawa, the owner of RioZim who died today in a plane crash in Zvishavane. Five other people including his son, who was also a pilot but a passenger on this flight, also died in the crash,” wrote Chinono on X.

“My thoughts are with his wife, family, friends and the RioZim community.” The RioZim company secretary said a full statement will be issued. “I am not in a position to address the media right now. We will however be issuing a statement as soon as possible,” he said.

Many people expressed grief and condolences over Randhawa’s death on social media. Meanwhile, the local community and law enforcement agencies are working together to manage the aftermath of the plane crash.

(with agency inputs)

ALSO READ | Indian mining tycoon, Harpal Randhawa, his son among six killed in plane crash in Zimbabwe

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Fraud-accused Zimstat boss granted US$200 bail

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By Staff Reporter

Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat) Director General, Taguma Mahonde has been granted US$200 bail by Harare magistrate, Marewanazvo Gofa following his arrest last week.

Mahonde is facing fraud allegations with prosecution alleging that he abused his powers to get away with crimes he committed at his workplace.

He is facing another charge of contravening the Prevention of Corruption Act and an alternative charge of obstruction of justice.

The magistrate said it was his right to be granted bail.

During the bail hearing Investigating Officer, Eric Chacha said Mahonde would threaten ZACC’s witnesses into silence or hiding if granted bail.

“The degree of interference is so severe to the extent that the accused found some tactics and used his position as the Director General of ZimStats to fire the witness (Matiza) from work. Realizing that Matiza was working with ZACC, he found some dubious charges and caused the witness to be suspended.”

Chacha said after firing Matiza, Mahonde allegedly called him threatening to “deal” with him.

It is alleged that he said, “I will get bail like what the NSSA boss and the clerk of Parliament did and once I’m back at work I will deal with you accordingly.”

Chacha said if Mahonde is released, he might go back to his workplace and continue to intimidate his subordinates and they will not assist ZACC.

“You could even tell during the interviews of the subordinates that they were being interviewed under threat and fear as they were always saying that they would be facing the challenges Matiza is going through. They are afraid of the accused.” Chacha said.

Mahonde is accused of squandering Zimstat US$4 000 by claiming school fees allowance for a non-existent child.

It is further alleged that when ZACC’s investigations into his alleged corruption started in March this year, he tried to cover up his offense by refunding ZW$756 047.33 but it amounted to US$826 as he had used the interbank rate of $915.

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ZB Bank heist: Four acquitted to be reimbursed forfeited funds

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By Staff Reporter

FOUR suspects who were acquitted in the ZB Bank money heist case which made headlines two years ago will have their forfeited money reimbursed.

The four are Trymore Chapfikwa, Tozivepi Chirara, Dennis Madondo and Tatenda Gadzikwa.

They filed an application for disposal before Harare magistrate, Clever Tsikwa ruled there was “no justification for the State to keep the money when there is no longer a case against the four.”

The amount to be reimbursed was not mentioned.

The prosecution had protested the release of the funds arguing that there was no evidence to prove that seized money did not belong to the bank.

“The cash before this court as an exhibit cannot be lawfully possessed by the applicants.

“They did not provide proof of the source of their ownership. In this inquiry of whether an exhibit can be claimed by an accused, the accused has an onus to show that they are entitled to the money.” said prosecutor Loveit Muringwa.

The four were jointly charged with Shadreck Njowa, Tendai Zuze and Neverson Mwamuka who were convicted on Friday.

Njowa, Zuze and Mwamuka await their sentencing on Wednesday.

Prosecutors proved Njowa the kingpin of the heist and had been hiding in South Africa before coming back into the country in November 2022 assuming the dust had settled.

Njowa and his accomplices robbed US$2,7m and ZW$43 090 that was in the commercial bank’s transit truck headed for seven branches across the country in January 2021.

The security crew and the gang then staged the robbery along the Harare-Chinhoyi highway just after Nyabira Business Centre.

They had reportedly armed themselves with pistols, knives, and three vehicles which they used to carry the cash in transit.

One of the guards, Fanuel Musakwa, transporting the money was in contact with the heist crew.

Court heard the guard requested the driver to pick up some of the accomplices as passengers before they stole the money.

Meanwhile, prosecutor Muringwa has submitted the State’s aggravation urging the court to impose a harsher sentence for the convicted trio.

“The crime had a negative economic impact on the complainant and resulted in reasonable material or economic loss.

“The complainant is in the banking business, the loss of such vast amounts of money certainly had a negative impact on their business as income was lost because of the lack of cash that could have been circulated to its clients earning it the much-needed interest. Wherefore the State prays that the accused be heavily sentenced of the charged offense of robbery as aggravation factors outweigh the mitigatory factors,” he said.

The three will submit their mitigation Tuesday.

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