Monday, April 14, 2008

Zimbabwe News Bulletin: Recount to Go Ahead, Says ZEC; SADC Accepts Govt's Explanation; Church Leaders Urge Peace

Recount to go ahead: ZEC

Herald Reoporter

THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission yesterday said the recount of presidential and House of Assembly election results would proceed on April 19 as announced.

ZEC chief elections officer Mr Utoile Silaigwana said it was within the commission’s mandate to recount election results regardless of parallel court procedures that might be instituted by any political party.

"It is within our mandate as the electoral authority to do the recounts and they would proceed as was announced in our Press statement today (yesterday)," he said.

He, however, said the commission had not seen a High Court order barring the recount as had been reported in some sections of the private media at the weekend.

"I have not seen the order barring us from conducting the recounts, so the process would proceed as advised," he said.

The private media yesterday reported that the High Court had issued an order barring the recounts.

But in notices published yesterday, ZEC announced vote recounts in 23 constituencies, saying: "There are reasonable grounds for believing that the votes were miscounted, and that the miscount would affect the result of this election."

The commission called for a recount of votes cast in the presidential election in terms of Section 61 (4) (a) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe as read with Section 67A (4) of the Electoral Act.

It also said the recount of votes cast for the House of Assembly, Senate and local authorities elections would be done in terms of Section 67A of the Electoral Act.

"ZEC has taken, by this notice, all necessary steps to inform accredited observers and all political parties and candidates that contested in this election, of this decision, and the date, time and place of recount, by sending copies of this notice to the respective parties’ head offices."

Parties represented at the recount would, in the presence of the constituency election officer, relate to the documents dealt with by the officer to satisfy themselves with their (officers) adherence to provisions of the electoral laws.

The parties would then "count the votes cast, with strict adherence to the procedure that was followed, in respect of material used at the election, including returns that were made at the time of the initial count and kept at the constituency centre as provided by the Act".

"The respective constituency election officers shall then act in terms of Section 67 of the Electoral Act, to transmit without delay, by telegraph, tele-facsimile or electronic mail, in the prescribed form, to the chief elections officer, the names of the persons declared duly elected, the day effective from which he or she was declared elected, the number of votes received by the respective candidates, the number of rejected ballot papers, in respect of the recount."

Once the procedures have been followed, the results of the House of Assembly and Senate constituencies would then be transmitted to the Clerk of Parliament.

"In respect of the presidential poll, the constituency election officer and the chief elections officer shall, after the recount, act in respect of votes received by each candidate at the recount, in terms of the Second Schedule to the Electoral Act," ZEC said.

Recounts will be conducted in Chimanimani West, Mutare West, Bikita West, Bikita South, Bulilima East, Zhombe, Zaka West, Zvimba North, Silobela, Chiredzi North, Gokwe-Kabuyuni and Buhera South.

Other constituencies, including Lupane East, Mberengwa East, West, North and South, Masvingo Central and West, Gutu South, North and Central and Goromonzi West would also conduct recounts.

The recount comes after Zanu-PF unearthed anomalies in the way V11 and V23 forms were completed by ZEC officers, some of whom have since appeared in court charged with electoral fraud.

Poll results: Sadc leaders accept Govt’s explanation

Herald Reporter

THE Sadc extraordinary summit held in Lusaka, Zambia, over the weekend accepted the explanation of the Government of Zimbabwe regarding the release of the results of the harmonised elections, but denied opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai a chance to address its closed session.

Tsvangirai spent his time in the public gallery after heads of state opposed his participation, saying he had no legal standing to address a gathering of heads of state. After all, said the leaders, he was not invited.

However, Tsvangirai and independent candidate Simba Makoni managed to have some informal consultations with some Sadc leaders outside the summit room.

Zimbabwe was represented by the Minister of Rural Housing and Social Amenities, Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa, after President Mugabe could not attend due to other work commitments.

In a communiqué released after the summit, Sadc commended the Government for conducting the elections in a peaceful environment while the people were also lauded for the peaceful and orderly manner in which they conducted themselves, before, during and after the elections.

The extraordinary summit was called by Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa to discuss events in Zimbabwe following the March 29 harmonised polls.

The Zimbabwe delegation, which was headed by Cde Mnangagwa, explained that the elections were held in a free and fair environment.

The communiqué said the Zimbabwean Government expressed concern at instances of inaccuracy of some figures relating to the House of Assembly, Senate and presidential elections.

"The extraordinary summit noted and appreciated the briefing by the delegation of the Government of Zimbabwe on the elections held in Zimbabwe. The Government of Zimbabwe indicated that the elections were held in a free and peaceful environment," read part of the communiqué.

The summit acknowledged the mediating role played by South African President Thabo Mbeki and his facilitation team in contributing to the successful holding of the elections.

"Summit requested President Mbeki to continue in his role as facilitator on Zimbabwe on the outstanding issues."

The summit noted and appreciated the briefing by the chairperson of the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation, Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, on the report of the Sadc electoral observer mission in Zimbabwe.

Cde dos Santos told the summit that all parties in Zimbabwe accepted the electoral process.

Following deliberations, the summit urged the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to expeditiously verify and release results of elections in accordance with the due process of law.

The summit urged all parties in the electoral process in Zimbabwe to accept the results when they are announced.

"By due process of law, summit understood to mean that the verification and counting must be done in the presence of candidates and/or their agents, if they so wish, who must all sign the authenticity of such verification and counting," read the communiqué.

Sadc offered to send its election observer mission which would be present throughout such verification and counting.

"If such verification and counting makes it necessary for the parties to go for a run-off, the Government is urged to ensure that the run-off elections are held in a secure environment. Sadc offers to send an election observer mission."

The summit appealed to ZEC to ensure strict compliance with the rule of law and Sadc Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.

The extraordinary summit was attended by eight heads of state — South African President Mbeki; Zambian President Mwanawasa; President dos Santos of Angola; President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi; Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba; Lieutenant-General Ian Seretse Khama, the President of Botswana; President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo; and Mozambican President Armando Emillio Guebuza.

The Kingdom of Lesotho, Mauritius, Madagascar, Tanzania and Zimbabwe sent representatives.

The Zimbabwe delegation that returned yesterday was comprised of Cde Mnangagwa; the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Cde Patrick Chinamasa; the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cde Simbarashe Mumbengegwi; and the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Joey Bimha.

Churches urge electorate to maintain prevailing peace

Herald reporter

CHURCHES in Zimbabwe have urged citizens to maintain the prevailing peace and join in prayer so that the country remains peaceful as people wait for the release of presidential poll results.

The prayer meeting was organised by the Ecumenical Peace Initiative of Zimbabwe, a religious grouping of the country’s church leadership that includes the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

Speaking at the sidelines of the meeting, the chairman Heads of Christian Denominations of Zimbabwe, Bishop Trevor Manhanga, said it was imperative that the electorate maintain the prevailing peace in the aftermath of the presidential poll results.

"The Church is happy with the peace prevailing in the country and we are urging our people to pray for such a condition to continue as people wait for the outcome of the presidential poll.

"As the Church, we have been praying and we are impressed by the response that the 2008 elections have been peaceful as compared to all previous ones," he said.

He said the search for continued peace has seen them engaging the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairman, Justice George Chiweshe, and communicated to him the message from their constituency.

Bishop Manhanga said the Church leadership wished to see Zimbabweans remain calm and give the commission enough time to finalise the presidential poll results and to allow the court processes to take place.

Also speaking at the meeting, Bishop Patrick Mutume said God was already at work in Zimbabwe as exhibited by the spirit of tolerance in the country and the people’s conduct during these times.

"We are praying that the whole process be a reflection of the people’s will and are grateful that God’s hand has been at work as reflected spirit of tolerance," he said.

The prayer meeting was held under various themes that included the need for people to submit themselves to the will of God, thank God for positive changes to the country’s electoral process, and the peace and restraint that has characterised the 2008 harmonised elections.

Meanwhile, regional church leaders have commended Government, its people, civic society, political parties and ZEC for ensuring that the country held a peaceful harmonised electoral process.

In a statement yesterday, the Association of Evangelicals in Africa urged all civic bodies to remain impartial and the electorate to stay peaceful and calm as the nation waits for the announcement of the final election results.

"We would like to appeal to ZEC to remain independent, impartial, transparent and honest and to announce the results expeditiously in order to avoid unprecedented anxiety, uncertainty, speculation and suspicion.

"To the people of Zimbabwe, we would like to urge them to remain peaceful, calm and be patient and focused in light of the complexity and enormity of running the harmonised elections for the very first time while political parties need to be magnanimous in victory and gracious in defeat," a read a statement by the regional body.

It also urged the Church to remain neutral and non-partisan while promoting reconciliation and reconstruction.

1 comment:

Pan-African News Wire said...

Zimbabwe court refuses to release election results

By Celia W. Dugger and Graham Bowley
Monday, April 14, 2008

JOHANNESBURG--The Zimbabwean political opposition suffered a rebuff Monday when the High Court dismissed its demand that the results of the presidential election last month be made public immediately.

The court accepted the election commission's explanation that it was investigating anomalies in some of the voting districts, according to an Associated Press report. "It can therefore justify the delay," the court ruled.

A spokesman for the main opposition party, Nqobizitha Mlilo, confirmed that the court had dismissed its demand, and said the party, the Movement for Democratic Change, was still considering how it would react to the ruling. The opposition had already threatened to hold a general strike this week. Later Monday, news agencies in Harare, the capital, quoted opposition officials as saying they would go ahead with the strike.

Zimbabwean election officials have yet to announce the winner of the presidential election, which was held March 29, causing widespread suspicions that President Robert Mugabe, who has been president since the country won its independence 28 years ago, is refusing to accept defeat.

On Tuesday, the court is to consider a separate petition from Mugabe's party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, which is seeking a recount of the vote in 23 parliamentary constituencies.

Official results in the election gave the opposition party more than half of the 210 seats in Parliament, but a recount of those districts could swing the majority back into the governing party's column.

The ruling by the court Monday is a setback for opposition officials in their battle to unseat Mugabe. On Sunday, they savored support they had gained from southern African political leaders. The leaders of a 14-country bloc gathered in Lusaka, Zambia, for 12 consecutive hours of talks on the political impasse in Zimbabwe, ending at 5 a.m. Sunday.

The bloc, the Southern African Development Community, announced that it was urging the Zimbabwean government to let representatives of the opposition be present when vote tabulations were verified and to ensure that a presidential runoff, if needed, would be held "in a secure environment."

Election monitors and opposition candidates have said they were denied access to the vote-counting command center. They have also charged that Mugabe's party has organized youth militias and veterans of the independence struggle to attack opposition supporters.

On Friday, the ruling party tightened its control over the beleaguered country by banning political rallies, continuing its crackdown on the opposition and arresting the lawyer of its chief rival, the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

In the past, the regional leaders have been accused of being overly deferential to Mugabe. And little had been expected to come out of the conference after a powerful leader in the bloc, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, flew first to the Zimbabwean capital to meet with Mugabe.

They emerged holding hands, and Mbeki blandly declared that he did not think Zimbabwe was facing a political crisis.

The No. 2 man in Tsvangirai's party, Tendai Biti, praised the African leaders, saying, "This is a major improvement, and SADC has acquitted itself relatively well."

His praise was noteworthy because before the meeting began, Biti, a labor lawyer, had said its outcome would be a test of whether the bloc was anything more than what he called a trade union for dictators.

Celia W. Dugger reported from Johannesburg and Graham Bowley from New York.