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Could Zimbabwe be set for a power sharing deal after ‘rigged … – New

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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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Hadebe scores in MLS defeat – The Herald

Hadebe scores in MLS defeat

Sports Reporter

ZIMBABWE international defender, Teenage Hadebe scored his first goal of the 2023 Major League Soccer season, the consolation for Houston Dynamo, in a 1-2 defeat at Sporting Kansas City yesterday.

It was his second appearance inside a week on his return from injury, which kept him on the sidelines since April 22. While he played the whole match in the 4-1 win over Vancouver Whitecaps, Hadebe lasted just the first half yesterday.

Hadebe scored nine minutes into added time of the first half, reducing the deficit after Sporting Kansas City had scored.  He was taken off at the start of the second half, the first time he was substituted this season in his 10 appearances.

Sporting Kansas City played 51 minutes with 10 men after a 39th minute red card to their goalscorer, Russell who found the target from the spot after seven minutes.

Houston’s final opportunity of the game came off the right foot of Corey Baird in the fourth minute of second half stoppage time. Bartlow’s pass found the forward in space, but his effort was saved by the Kansas City goalkeeper.

Hadebe and the Dynamo next travel to South Florida to take on Lionel Messi and Inter Miami CF in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final on Wednesday.

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SA’s Dirco deputy minister defends Ramaphosa’s presence at … – New

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By Victoria O’Regan | Daily Maverick

SOUTH African International Relations and Cooperation Deputy Minister Candith Mashego-Dlamini has defended President Cyril Ramaphosa’s presence at Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s inauguration ceremony this month, telling MPs his attendance was “procedural.”

Mashego-Dlamini was responding on Wednesday to questions from MPs after the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) had briefed the parliamentary international relations committee on its assessment of the outcome of the August elections in Zimbabwe, and South Africa’s role as part of the Southern African Development Community’s Electoral Observation Mission.

“Zimbabwe is a sovereign state and, therefore, if the election commission of Zimbabwe announced the winner of the election, as South Africa and as government, we had to congratulate, because that is their system, that is the system of Zimbabwe.

“So they’ve announced, the President has congratulated the winning president and also attended the inauguration, because it was procedural,” Mashego-Dlamini replied to DA international relations spokesperson Emma Powell.

Powell had questioned Ramaphosa’s “rush to congratulate” Mnangagwa, following the observer mission’s sharply critical assessment of the elections.

Mnangagwa was sworn in on 4 September for a second term, following the disputed elections held on 23 August, and amid a low turnout of invited African leaders.

Of the 16 presidents of the SADC, only three – Ramaphosa, Mozambique’s Filipe Nyusi and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Félix Tshisekedi – bothered to show up at his inauguration ceremony. From the 51 remaining African countries, not one head of state was in attendance, but were represented instead by a retinue of ambassadors and junior ministers.

The low turnout at Mnangagwa’s subdued inauguration suggested that his administration could be headed for further isolation – not only by many Western countries but also by fellow African leaders, Daily Maverick reported.

The SADC’s election observer mission, headed by former Zambian vice-president Nevers Mumba, concluded that the presidential, legislative and local government elections fell short of the requirements of the constitution of Zimbabwe, the country’s Electoral Act and the SADC’s Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.

The interim report’s findings included that Zimbabwean authorities had restricted opposition access to the voters’ roll, that the country’s Patriot Act had restricted freedom of expression, and that state media had favoured Zanu-PF in their election coverage.

The findings were collected by 50 observers from nine SADC countries – Angola, Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Eswatini and South Africa.

Other election observer missions from the European Union (EU), the Commonwealth, the US’ Carter Centre and the African Union were also critical of the elections. However, the sharp condemnation from Mumba and the normally reticent SADC, of which Zimbabwe is a member, was significant.

South Africa’s Presidency said in a statement that South Africa congratulated the government and people of Zimbabwe on the holding of the elections. Ramaphosa took note of the preliminary election reports by the SADC, the African Union and others, and called on all the Zimbabwean parties to work in unison to sustain peace.

Despite ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula’s remarks about the extreme unlikeliness of fresh polls being held in Zimbabwe and a series of tweets in which he appears to praise Mnangagwa and his party, the ANC has remained silent about its official position on the elections.

On Wednesday, Mashego-Dlamini said South Africa had been honoured to be part of the SADC observer mission to Zimbabwe:

“We have been honoured as South Africa to be part of the collective through participating in the leadership or as observers in the SADC electoral observer mission deployed by the SADC to assist member states to, amongst others, conduct peaceful, free, fair and credible elections. I am pleased that South Africa has also been part of the collective that observed the just-concluded, peaceful harmonised elections in the Republic of Zimbabwe,” she said.

South Africa’s Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Candith Mashego-Dlamini

“We were observing and we have learned there are issues that, when there’s an election in South Africa we can contribute and also correct some of the things that we’ve observed in Zimbabwe. So it’s a lesson; observing the election of any other country is not really to demise the legislation and the constitution of that country, but is to learn and do better in your own country,” she added.

In response to questions about how the SADC’s observer mission report will be processed, ambassador Tebogo Seokolo, who took the committee through the Department of International Relations and Cooperation’s presentation on the elections, said: “The Chair of the observer mission will present the final report to the Chair of the Organ, who will submit the report to the government of Zimbabwe as well and to other stakeholders. Thereafter, the SADC advisory council will engage with the member state regarding the implementations of the recommendations.”

Sanctions against Zimbabwe

Responding to questions from MPs, Mashego-Dlamini blamed sanctions imposed by Western governments for creating Zimbabwe’s economic ills.

“The crisis in Zimbabwe is not really created by the election, it is created by the sanctions against Zimbabwe which have been passed by the EU, the United States and the UK. We can’t really – when we discuss [the] election – say this election has caused the crisis in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is already in crisis in terms of the economy, the job creation and the rest of the issues, just because of the sanctions that they have,” said the deputy minister.

Mashego-Dlamini’s statements come on the back of Ramaphosa’s call to lift the sanctions against Zimbabwe, made at the 78th United Nations General Assembly in New York on Tuesday.

“The sanctions that are also being applied against South Africa’s neighbour, Zimbabwe, should also be lifted as they are imposing untold suffering on ordinary Zimbabweans, but also have a collateral negative impact on neighbouring countries as well, such as my own country, South Africa,” he said.

In 2002, the EU imposed targeted financial and travel sanctions on then Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, some of his cronies and Zanu-PF-linked companies, citing human rights violations. Brussels also imposed an arms embargo on Zimbabwe.

But the sanctions have steadily diminished since then, and now only comprise the arms embargo and individual sanctions against the state-owned Zimbabwe Defence Industries, which makes ammunition.

From 2001, the US introduced sanctions targeted at key officials of the Zanu-PF party, which also oblige US administrations to veto any financial support to Zimbabwe from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, among others.

The UK has also maintained limited sanctions against key Zanu-PF individuals.

Powell accused the deputy minister of drawing a “pointed, sharp sword” at some of South Africa’s largest trading partners, and asked her to clarify her statements that the economic crisis in Zimbabwe is not as a result of its political situation but a direct result of sanctions.

“Honourable Powell should not really be making herself a legal person here against the sanctions of Zimbabwe. We are aware that Zimbabwe has got sanctions and that’s it – it’s period. It’s something that is not a secret,” she replied.

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World View: Life elsewhere: Findings promising – The Zimbabwe … – NewsDay

A “Super Earth” … K2-18, a planet far larger than Earth where life could theoretically flourish, has been discovered.

Last week’s real news was the discovery of life on another planet. As Cambridge University’s Nikku Madhusudhan said in the first sentence of his report: “The search for habitable environments and biomarkers in exoplanetary atmospheres is the holy grail of exoplanet science.” And he has probably found the Holy Grail.

The planet orbits a star imaginatively named K2-18, about 120 light years from here. It is in the star’s “Goldilocks Zone”, where life could theoretically flourish because the temperature will allow water to remain liquid. (It will neither freeze nor boil off.)

Planet K2-18B is far larger than Earth (8,6 times bigger), but it has an atmosphere containing carbon dioxide and methane, both commonly emitted by living things — and also dimethyl sulphide, a trace gas that is definitely a strong “biomarker” for life. On Earth, it is exclusively produced by life, mostly by plankton living in bodies of water.

K2-18B belongs to a newly named “Hycean” category of big ocean-covered planets with hydrogen-rich atmospheres that circle dim dwarf stars (so they are easier to see). It’s sort of like the drunk looking for the dropped car keys under the street light (“because the light’s better there”), but it’s letting astronomers spot lots of potential candidates for life.

Dr Madhusudhan is understandably excited (“It’s mind-boggling”), and at the same time professionally cautious. It will take more observations by the James Webb telescope to confirm the “tentative” finding of dimethyl sulphide, but he was feeling confident enough to say this:

“The atmospheric composition tells us that … there is an ocean underneath. It is very hard to get that composition otherwise. Planet-wide oceans and hydrogen atmosphere are just the right conditions to be able to host life similar to the conditions of what we see on Earth.”

It’s a triumph (“We found life!”) and at the same time no surprise at all (“What did you expect to find?”).

If only one-in-a-million planets was a host to life, there would still be around half a million life-bearing planets in this galaxy alone. There are over 30 galaxies in our local group, and up to two trillion altogether.

Indeed, we have managed to see only 5 000 planets so far, and Nasa says that 200 of them are potentially habitable. So there are probably lots of places with bacteria and maybe even algae and jellyfish. But what if only one in a million habitable planets has a civilisation on it at any given time?

That’s about the right ratio for Earth: our civilisation is around 4 500 years old; the planet is about 4,5 billion years old.

If civilisations are really that scarce, then we might be the only one in this galaxy at the moment and there would be no more than two trillion civilisations in all of the universe right now. Makes you feel special, doesn’t it?

But let’s get back to the neighbourhood. Unless there is some way around the cosmic speed limit (the speed of light), human beings will never travel much farther than the nearest stars and even those that are probably too far. However, there is a project under development to investigate the nearest star close up.

The star is a red dwarf called Proxima Centauri, it’s 4,2 light years away, and one of its planets, Proxima B, is in the star’s habitable zone and about the same size as Earth. We don’t even know if it has an atmosphere, but it would be nice to know a bit more about it — and Breakthrough Starshot is working on sending a probe there.

Breakthrough Starshot is a privately funded proposal to send a thousand-strong fleet of tiny sensor “chips” on a one-way trip to Proxima Centauri to get more information about that planet and its sun. (The high numbers are to allow for a good deal of attrition en route.)

The initial impulse would come from a gigawatt-range array of ground-based lasers pushing against the light-sails that carry the chips. That would get the chips up to 20% of light speed and the rest of the trip would be on cruise.

Launch is projected “within the next generation”, and arrival for 20 years later (plus four more years to send the data back to Earth). And, of course, if you can do it for Proxima Centauri B, you can do it for any other celestial object of interest: no extra fuel is required.

The technology to do this does not now exist, but the next or second-next generations of existing technologies would probably suffice. No conceptual leaps are required. Patience and persistence are essential — but if this bird doesn’t fly, another one will.

Nothing can stop the process now except nuclear war or climate collapse. So it’s a definite maybe.

Dyer is a London-based independent journalist. His new book is titled The Shortest History of War.


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