The MDC Alliance appears to have been convinced by its own propaganda. Chamisa declared that he had won resoundingly before the tally of the votes had been completed by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC). Then, as soon as it became apparent that Mnangagwa had won, MDC Alliance supporters claimed the election was rigged.
The evidence? Of course Mnangagwa couldn’t have won because of the mood in the country, and the large number of Mugabe’s supporters, fed-up rural voters, and the youth who would have voted for Chamisa.
There was, however, the small problem of conflicting evidence in the form of X’s on ballot papers. The votes are tallied at the polling stations and the results entered onto a V11 form. Party representatives are invited to sign the V11 and are given a copy.
The V11s go to the ward counting centres. The totals from the polling stations in the ward are calculated and entered on a V23. The process is repeated as the tallies are forwarded to constituency and provincial levels.
Despite these safeguards, the MDC Alliance alleged that ZEC had altered the numbers on the returns. The allegation was readily believed, as throughout the latter part of the electoral period, ZEC seemed to go out of its way to earn the distrust of opposition parties through opaque procedures and manifest bias towards ZANU-PF.
In response, ZEC published spreadsheets showing all the totals at each level of counting, inviting anyone with documentary evidence showing an incorrect entry to come forward. No one did. This didn’t stop Chamisa from claiming he had copies of returns proving fraud, but then declining to reveal them.
Before the polling, MDC Alliance officials said they would render the country ungovernable if they didn’t get their way. Chamisa had threatened that if the vote were stolen, he would get what was rightfully his, not through the courts, but through people taking to the streets in anger.
A jumpy military command placed battle-hardened troops on high alert – with tragic consequences. When a small but destructive band of demonstrators gathered to protest against the count, the military was almost immediately deployed, ignoring the presence of the police who ought to have been able to contain the situation without difficulty.
Trigger-happy soldiers went on a rampage, indiscriminately firing on civilians in Harare’s city centre, leaving at least six dead and many more wounded. Over the next few days the military imposed an unofficial curfew in MDC Alliance stronghold areas, beating residents at whim. For many, it seemed that a thin veneer of civilian rule had been stripped away.
By refusing to accept the election results and alleging fraud, Chamisa has kept tensions high. He has also retained support among party cadres that might otherwise have dissipated had he conceded defeat. This has been accomplished at considerable cost.
By Derek Matyszak for ISS Today