Zimbabwe 'back to extreme volatility'
02 August 2013, 16:04
Harare - Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's party claimed on
Friday he is on course for a landslide win in an election branded a sham by his
rivals, but which the African Union said was fair and credible.
Partial results of Wednesday's poll have given the
89-year-old a commanding lead, with his Zanu-PF party garnering 87 seats out of
"Our opponents don't know what hit them," party spokesperson
Rugare Gumbo said. "It's the prediction that the president might likely
get 70 to 75%."
Zanu-PF also predicted it would win a two-thirds majority in
parliament, enough to amend the new constitution that introduced term limits
and curbed presidential powers.
Mugabe's bitter rival Morgan Tsvangirai has rejected the
vote as a "huge farce" and "null and void".
"It's a sham election that does not reflect the will of
the people," he said, pointing to a litany of alleged irregularities with
the voters' roll.
The independent Zimbabwe Election Support Network reported
up to one million voters were prevented from voting in Tsvangirai strongholds.
But Mugabe won an endorsement from the African Union on Friday,
with former Nigerian president and military leader Olusegun Obasanjo saying the
vote was basically free and fair.
"There are incidences that could have been avoided, but
all in all we do not believe that these incidents will amount to the results
not reflecting the will of the people," he said.
Much now rides on the verdict of observers from the
15-member southern African SADC bloc, which negotiated the creation of a
power-sharing government in the wake of 2008's bloody poll.
With 600 observers on the ground, SADC's verdict will be
closely watched by western nations blocked from monitoring the poll themselves.
The bloc said it will deliver its initial verdict later on Friday.
Foreign diplomats have expressed deep misgivings about a
poll they have described privately as non-violent but fundamentally flawed.
Jeffrey Smith, from the Washington-based Robert F. Kennedy
Center for Justice and Human Rights, said it would be wrong to disregard the
final results but "we must also not be blind to potential irregularities
both leading up to the vote and on the day".
So far Tsvangirai has limited his comments to condemnation
of the poll, but already there are calls for mass protests, and warnings that
may prompt a bloodbath.
The top brass from his Movement for Democratic Change will
meet on Saturday to decide their response.
Ahead of the meeting top MDC official Roy Bennett called for
a campaign of "passive resistance".
"I'm talking about people completely shutting the
country down -- don't pay any bills, don't attend work, just bring the country
to a standstill."
"There needs to be resistance against this theft and
the people of Zimbabwe need to speak out strongly."
The disputed outcome risks plunging Zimbabwe - which battled
a decade-long downturn marked by galloping inflation and mass migration - back
into deep crisis.
"If certain people feel their choice was not accepted,
they may resort to violence," said Sean O'Leary a spokesperson for a 3 000-strong
group of poll monitors from the Catholic church.
Investors also expressed fears about the impact of a Mugabe
victory, which could roll back the power-sharing government's efforts to
stabilising the economy after crippling hyperinflation and joblessness.
"It's back to extreme volatility," Iraj Abedian
the CEO of Pan African Investments told AFP from Johannesburg. "We can
expect fairly radical positions that will have populist support, but which will
have huge implications."
Abedian predicted banks and financial firms could become the
targets of a new Mugabe government seeking to extend its programme of
indigenisation, after agriculture and mining.
"The land grabs caused chaos in the agricultural sector
and it took ten years for it to settle down.
"The financial sector would have a similar impact. It
would cause chaos, but Zanu-PF and Mugabe seem to like that."
Mugabe - Africa's oldest leader - is a former guerrilla
leader hailed as a hero of Africa's liberation movement, guiding Zimbabwe to
independence in 1980 from Britain and white minority rule.
But his military-backed rule has been marked by
controversial land reforms, a series of violent crackdowns, economic crises and
suspect elections that have brought international sanctions and made him a
pariah in the West.
As the economy in southern Africa's former bread basket
recovers from crisis, Mugabe loyalists insist their hero is "tried and
tested" and dismiss concerns about his age and rumoured health problems.
Former union boss Tsvangirai won the first round of voting
in 2008, but was forced out of the race after 200 of his supporters were killed
and thousands more injured in suspected state-backed intimidation and attacks.
This time around he announced plans to lure back foreign
investors, create a million jobs in five years and improve public services in a
bid to secure a long-awaited victory.
But some Western analysts said this could be Tsvangirai's
last bid at the top job if the MDC fails to prevent Mugabe sweeping to a