What the numbers said


As many as 100 000 voters were turned away during the 2005 elections which the Movement for Democratic Change claimed the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front had rigged but failed to produce any semblance of a parallel vote count, undercutting its claims of fraud.

There were gross discrepancies between figures initially released by Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the final results in six of the ten provinces.

Of the 19 constituencies where there were gross discrepancies, 18 were won by ZANU-PF.


Full cable:


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Reference ID





2005-04-11 15:46


Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000563







E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2010




REF: (A) HARARE 508 (B) HARARE 502 (C) HARARE 501


Classified By: Ambassador Christopher W. Dell under Section 1.4 b/d


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Inexplicably high voting totals, high

voter turn-away rates, and manipulation of voter registration

rolls appear to have been used in combination by the ruling

ZANU-PF party in a large number of constituencies to ensure

its &victory8 in Zimbabwe,s March 31 parliamentary

elections. The discrepancies in vote totals released by the

Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) early Friday morning and

the &final8 results remain unexplained. ZEC has suggested

that the announced totals were &preliminary8 but has yet to

provide hard data, such as tallies for polling stations, that

could put suspicions of rigging to rest. Preliminary figures

developed by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN)

suggest an additional tactic — that accredited observers

were systematically excluded from certain polling stations

that then returned results heavily skewed in ZANU-PF,s favor

and that were enough to swing highly contested

constituencies. The MDC has, however, so far has failed to

produce any semblance of a parallel vote count, undercutting

its claims of fraud. END SUMMARY.



Discrepancies in Announced Vote Counts



2. (U) Public charges by the MDC and others of GOZ

vote-rigging revolve in part around gross discrepancies

between figures released by ZEC at about 2 a.m. April 1 for

the total number of ballots cast in constituencies from six

out of Zimbabwe’s ten provinces and the subsequently released

final results for all constituencies. As noted in ref B, the

first red-flag went up when ZEC inexplicably failed to

announce total ballots cast for the four remaining provinces

in its 2 a.m. announcement. Then, when total vote tallies

for the candidates were released later in the next two days,

the totals differed drastically from those first released.


3.   (U) Some discrepancies in a national election might be

expected, but the pattern in this election, which heavily

favors the ruling party, as well as the high percentages

involved, suggests rigging. Of the 19 constituencies where

the discrepancy exceeded 5,000, 18 were won by ZANU-PF.

ZANU-PF won 15 of the 17 constituencies where the discrepancy

alone exceeded the winning candidate’s margin. All but two

of the constituencies in which the discrepancy exceeded

either 5,000 or the margin were regarded by the MDC before

the election as seats that were safely theirs or closely

contested. The fact that ZEC never released the total vote

counts for the other four provinces and never explained why

the announcement abruptly stopped has fueled additional







4. (U) The high rate of voter turn-away in other key

constituencies is another likely indicator of ruling party

manipulation. The national turn-away rate was about 10

percent, alarmingly high compared with typical figures of 2-3

percent in other developing country nations. In all more

than 100,000 voters appear to have been turned away.

Moreover, as reported in ref B, the figures varied

significantly by constituency, tending to be higher in more

contested areas. Our embassy observers, for example, noted

that turn-aways in the safe ZANU-PF constituency of Gokwe

Central never exceeded ten at any polling station; in

contested Gokwe South, some polling stations turned away more

than 100.


5. (U) ZEC has yet to release a final tally of turn-aways at

49 constituencies, including the Gokwe constituencies.

However, at the constituencies for which ZEC has released

turn-away figures, turn-away totals exceeded the candidate’s

margin of victory in five constituencies, three of which were

won by the ruling party. More telling is that the turn-away

figures combined with the discrepancies in ZEC’s announced

tallies exceed the candidates’ margin of victory in 24

constituencies ) 20 of them won by ZANU-PF.



Vote Totals Indicate Imported Voters



6. (SBU) Voter turnout across the country generally was

lower than in the 2000 parliamentary elections. The few

constituencies that saw an increase in ballots cast were

typically heavily contested rural seats, all taken by

ZANU-PF. In each of the two urban Manicaland constituencies

retained by the MDC, for example, vote totals declined since

2000 (despite reports of net urban inflow from drought-ridden

rural areas). By contrast, vote counts increased in all

three of the rural seats in the region that shifted to

ZANU-PF control, highlighting the importance of “new voters”

in the ruling party victory.


7. (SBU) By way of illustration, Chimanimani had 19,842

ballots cast in 2000 with a 3338 MDC margin of victory. In

2005, 26,848 ballots were cast (or 23,896 per ZEC’s 2 a.m.

announcement) in the constituency with a 4,786 margin in

ZANU-PF’s favor. Principally responsible for the anomalous

increase and shift to the ruling party was the reported

resettling of thousands of soldiers, police, war veterans,

and ruling party supporters in the constituency over the past

year, much of it associated with the violent seizure of MDC

MP Roy Bennett’s large farm there.


8. (SBU) Harare South presents an urban example. In 2000,

the MDC won the seat by a margin of 7,700 votes with a total

of 17,160 votes cast. This year, the total jumped to 22,261

(22,403 per ZEC’s early announcement) and yielded the seat to

the ruling party by a margin of just 829 votes. Largely

responsible for the boost in totals and the shift in control

was a gerrymandering that reportedly brought police barracks

and recently resettled populations ) all largely pro-ZANU-PF

– into the constituency.



ZEC: The Dog That Didn’t Bark



9. (SBU) At a press conference April 7, ZEC Chairperson

Justice George Chiweshe asserted that the initially announced

figures were preliminary and not authoritative (not something

mentioned when the figures were originally released), but did

not explain why they differed so significantly from final

figures or why figures were not originally announced for four

of Zimbabwe’s ten provinces. He said the ZEC had remained

silent on the issue for so long because it had not received

any formal complaint until the MDC filed its complaint on

April 6. ZEC has also continued to withhold the polling

station-by-polling station results necessary to analyze the

integrity of the polling station and constituency-wide

tabulations and has given no indication it ever intends to

release the data.



Preliminary ZESN Figures



10. (SBU) Preliminary data collected by ZESN is still being

collated and analyzed. ZESN observers numbered more than

6,000 and covered most polling stations in the country.

Nonetheless, they were barred from selected polling stations,

which suggests that the ruling party may have had a number of

polling stations to which it controlled access and therefore

the results. Indeed, figures for polling stations ZESN

observed sometimes yielded anomalous results suggestive of

ruling party control of voters for that station, if not the

results. For example, in Chipinge North, a seat ZANU-PF took

from an MDC incumbent, most polling stations reportedly went

for the MDC by fairly close margins, with ZANU-PF winning the

few polling stations it took by margins as high as six to



11. (SBU) ZESN data for at least one constituency also tips

possible rigging at the constituency tabulation level. Nine

out of ten representative polling stations it reported

results for in Mutasa South, another heavily contested rural

constituency reclaimed by ZANU-PF, went for the MDC often by

wide margins. Only one small polling station went for

ZANU-PF, suggesting that the aggregate figure that gave a

narrow election to the ZANU-PF candidate was fabricated at

the constituency tabulating level.



Waiting for MDC Data



12. (C) The MDC has put out several press releases

highlighting doubts raised by discrepancies in ZEC’s

conflicting reports but has yet to release its own polling

data for any constituency. MDC contacts tell us they are

getting close to releasing data. However, some have confided

to us that the quality of MDC polling agents has been a

considerable handicap and it remains unclear when the party

will be able to release comprehensive data for any

constituency. Meanwhile every day that passes lessens the

impact when and if MDC ever does release a parallel count.



Distorting Pre-Election Flaws



13. (SBU) The reported numbers suggest rigging at both the

polling center and constituency center tabulations. However,

myriad fundamental flaws in Zimbabwe’s pre-election

environment also contributed to the skewed results and may

have played a direct role in ZANU-PF’s ability to generate

the numbers it needed to win contested seats. For example,

the GOZ undertook vigorous voter registration drives

targeting likely ruling party supporters in the months before

voter registration closed, while much of the country remained

a no-go area for opposition until after registration closed.

The GOZ’s flagrantly partisan disbursement of food and other

largesse to perpetuate public dependence on the ruling party

further bolstered “support” for ZANU-PF, especially in rural

areas. Subtle and not-so-subtle intimidation and the

influence of co-opted chiefs further explain the high

turn-out for ZANU-PF in key polling stations. By contrast, a

legacy of fear and apathy built on the experience of two

previous elections may have suppressed opposition turn-out,

notwithstanding the encouraging attendance at campaign

rallies in the final weeks. Emigration has also decimated

urban, educated, and professional population segments that

figure largely in the MDC’s base.





14. (C) None of this yet amounts to definitive “proof” of

massive fraud, but the preponderance of evidence shows a

clear pattern. ZEC’s continuing refusal to release polling

station data lends credence to those who assume the worst —

that the most suspicious numbers and discrepancies indicate

electoral fraud on the part of the GOZ. However, until the

MDC and ZESN tally up and release their own data to

contradict ZEC’s announced results it will be difficult to

fully determine now how and how much the GOZ rigged this

election. The inability to prove fraud in a court of law is

one issued, but the failure of ZESN and MDC to make strong

public cases demonstrating detectable patterns is hurting

their ability to make the case in the only venue that really

counts: the court of public opinion.


15. (C) If there is a silver lining in Zimbabwe’s clouded

election results, it is that international and domestic

pressure have pushed the ruling party to more remote redoubts

of cheating. This may make it easier to help the MDC and

others prepare to counter the cheating in the next election,

but that will require international, and most importantly,

regional pressure on the GOZ and ZANU-PF to shine more light

on the deliberately opaque vote-counting process.






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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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