UN voices concern as tension rises over disputed Zimbabwe polls

Tuesday August 29 2023

Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres. PHOTO | MICHELE SPATARI | AFP


United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has voiced concern over the volatile post-election situation in Zimbabwe, after the opposition rejected President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s controversial re-election.

President Mnangagwa was on Saturday declared winner of the August 23 to 24 presidential election elections with 52.6 percent of the vote. His main rival Nelson Chamisa, who garnered 44 percent, refused to endorse the outcome saying the poll was rigged.

Civil society organisations say security agents have been hounding local election observers to stop the independent verification of the results.

Forty-one observers affiliated to the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) and Election Resource Centre (ERC) were arrested on August 23 on charges that they wanted to announce unofficial election results.

Read: Zimbabwe cracks down on 'parallel' poll results

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ spokesperson Florencia Soto Nino- Martinez on Sunday said her boss was closely following the developments in Zimbabwe in the wake of the disputed elections.


“He is concerned about the arrest of observers, reports of voter intimidation, threats of violence, harassment and coercion,” Ms Nino-Martinez said in a statement.

“The secretary general calls on political leaders and their supporters to reject any and all forms of violence, threats of violence, or incitement to violence and to ensure that human rights and the rule of law are fully respected.

“The secretary general calls on political actors to peacefully settle any disputes through established legal and institutional channels and urges the competent authorities to resolve any disputes in a fair, expeditious and transparent manner to ensure that results are a true reflection of the will of the people.”

President Mnangagwa (80), who is eyeing a second and final term in office, said those aggrieved by the outcome must challenge it in court as he denied charges by Mr Chamisa of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) that he rigged the election.

Five years ago, the Constitutional Court threw out a petition by the 45-year-old opposition leader who accused his rival of rigging the first elections after the 2017 coup that toppled long time ruler Robert Mugabe.

Read: Chamisa files petition challenging Mnangagwa's win

Foreign observer missions said last week’s elections failed to meet regional and international standards after chaos marked the first day of voting, which saw the polls spilling to the next day.

The observers were also alarmed by the clampdown against the poll monitors that were doing an independent verification of the results.

ZESN and ERC on Sunday said their observers were still being hunted down by the authorities amid reports that one of them had their homes set on fire.

“Since election day, ERC and ZESN have continued to receive reports of observers and staff being targeted, threatened and attacked, including one incident of an observer’s house being torched hours after the declaration of the presidential election results,” the two organisations said in a statement.

“This ongoing intimidation and silencing of anyone who can provide verification and transparency to the electoral results by state actors fundamentally undermines their credibility and the credibility of these elections”.

Tension has been rising in Zimbabwe since the announcement of the presidential election results on Saturday night with police saying they have deployed across the country to quell any protests.

“The Zimbabwe Republic Police is fully aware of attempts by some political activists to mobilise groups of people to move in small numbers and come to Harare for purported briefing and popcorn demonstrations under the guise of citizen voter audit verification,” police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said.

“This has been given credence by some social media posts obtained by the police where some individuals and groups are inciting violence and issuing threats aimed at causing alarm and despondency among Zimbabweans.”

After the disputed 2018 elections, six people were shot by soldiers on the streets of Harare during protests against delayed release of presidential election results.

Zimbabwe has a long history of disputed elections dating back to the Mugabe era where fraud and rigging were used to manipulate polls.