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South Africa, China, Russia amongst first congratulatory messages to Zimbabwe over disputed polls

Staff Writer

Congratulatory messages began to pour in for Zimbabwe’s president Emmerson Mnangagwa on Monday after winning a second five term in office from recently concluded elections in the country that the opposition has described a “sham”.

South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa was amongst the first leaders to congratulate Mr. Mnangagwa over the disputed polls. In a tweet, the South African leader expressed best wishes for his Zimbabwean counterpart’s upcoming term.

In an earlier statement by the South African presidency, Ramaphosa is quoted to have said that the elections took place under a difficult economic environment, “due to the burdening sanctions which the people of Zimbabwe continue to unjustly endure”.

“Furthermore, South Africa has taken note of the preliminary pronouncements by the invited International Observers Missions including the African Union (AU) and the South African Development Community (SEOM) Observer Missions” the statement added.

The comments are seen as a reference to the controversy surrounding the conduct of the elections and results declared by Zimbabwe’s Electoral Commission (ZEC) on Saturday.

China, Russia hail Zimbabwe

China and Russia, both key allies of Zimbabwe have also sent in their congratulatory messages. Wang Wenbin, China’s foreign ministry spokesman  on Monday congratulated Mnangagwa and called Zimbabwe a “friend” of China.

“We stand ready to work with the new government to bring our two countries’ comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership to new heights,” he said in a statement that called for electoral disputes to be directed to the courts, stressing that it -China- does not interfere with internal processes.

“The results of the vote confirm the broad support for President Mnangagwa’s policy aimed at strengthening the state system, ensuring internal stability and carrying out reforms with the aim of forming conditions for the country’s further step-by-step development on the basis of safeguarding the rights and interests of various groups and layers of Zimbabwean society,” the statement added.

Russia on its part, issued a congratulatory statement published on its foreign ministry website. “Moscow reaffirms its unwavering commitment to further developing and strengthening its comprehensive partnership and mutually beneficial cooperation with the friendly Republic of Zimbabwe and their close interaction in international and regional issues,” the Russian Foreign Ministry.*

Presidential election results disputed

The controversial result of the presidential ballot announced much earlier than expected on Saturday following another troubled vote in the southern African country showed incumbent leader Emmerson Mnangagwa polled 52.6% of the votes cast as against 44 percent for main opposition candidate Nelson Chamisa of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) party.

Chamisa, 45, has vowed to challenge the results and irregularities that characterised the election which international observers have said raises questions of credibility on the polls.

“It is clear that we are rejecting the election as a sham, the result. The process itself we disregard it and it’s in line with what the SADC observers have said. We reject this sham result and flawed process based on the disputed figures.”

“Mr Mnangagwa knows that he has performed a coup since 2008, a coup on the ballot, 2017, a coup on the elected leader. 2018, a coup on the ballot, he has repeated again, 2023, a coup on the ballot,” Chamisa said on Sunday.

“Polls fell short”- Observers

The Southern African Development Commission (SADC) mission in a preliminary statement on Aug. 25 said some aspects of the election fell short of the requirements of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the Electoral Act, and the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections (2021).

The head of the African Union observer mission, former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, also registered his groups assessment noting the activities of a ruling party affiliate organization called Forever Associates of Zimbabwe (FAZ). Mr Jonathan warned that the group’s activities should be declared “criminal offenses.”

The FAZ is alleged to have set up tables at polling stations and took details of people walking into voting booths.

US says “bias” against opposition

The United States on Monday deplored the existence of a “bias” against the opposition during the recent presidential election.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller referred to “the systematic bias against the political opposition during the campaign”, based on the findings of regional observers.

According to civil society groups, the electoral commission “pressured election observers” to approve amended minutes, he said in a statement.

“These acts contradict President Mnangagwa’s repeated promises to uphold the rule of law, transparency and commitment to accountability,” he said.

“The United States intends to share its concerns with regional leaders, including discussing what this means for the international community’s efforts to reconnect with the Zimbabwean government,” Miller said.The United States also condemned the “intimidation” of election observers, whose work was “disrupted”, according to the spokesperson for the State Department.

Mnangagwa dismisses claims of fraud

Mnangagwa nicknamed the crocodile, now set for a second and final five year term has dismissed allegations of vote fraud.

“I did not conduct these elections. I think those who feel the race was not run properly know where to go to complain. I am so happy,” he said at a news conference Sunday, adding that the elections were run “transparently, fairly in broad daylight.”

Voting was extended last week into an extra day following a shortage of ballot papers, especially in opposition strongholds.

Chamisa had challenged his 2018 election loss to Mnangagwa, but that was rejected by the Constitutional Court.

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