ERC flags Mnangagwa over by-election freeze, calls for reforms

Election in Zimbabwe

By Nkosana Dlamini

Poll based lobby, Election Resource Centre (ERC) has added to growing demands for President Emmerson Mnangagwa to call for by-elections that were long parked by authorities under ostensible precautionary measures against the spread of Covid-19.

In a statement, ERC also insisted the envisaged by-elections should be preceded by the implementation of electoral reforms to preserve the credibility of the public process.

Government postponed the holding of by-elections indefinitely early this year.

Dozens of legislators and councillors mostly from the main opposition MDC Alliance were expelled from both parliament and councils on the recommendations of MDC faction leader Douglas Mwonzora.

Mwonzora, who heads MDC-T, which was granted rights to the opposition empire by the courts, accused the affected officials of defying his authority as party leader.

The affected representatives have defiantly maintained their loyalty to Nelson Chamisa, who enjoys significant grassroot support within the feuding opposition.

MDC Alliance accuses Mnangagwa of deliberately withholding the holding of by-elections to protect his preferred opponent, Mwonzora from losing control of the opposition.

ERC, in its statement, pointed out the withholding of by-elections was yet another “pandemic” that was threatening democracy.

“By-elections are a litmus test to ZEC’s preparedness for the 2023 harmonised elections.

“Responsible authorities must ensure that when by-elections are conducted, they are conducted in a transparent, accountable and credible manner that boosts the confidence of electoral stakeholders,” said ERC.


It has been 11 months since by-elections were suspended under Statutory Instrument 225a of 2020.  this is despite ZEC having developed the COVID-19 Policy on Electoral Activities with clear guidelines on how by-elections would be conducted under #COVID19, byelections have remained illegally suspended.

By-elections are a litmus test to ZEC’s preparedness for the 2023 harmonised elections. Responsible authorities must ensure that when by-elections are conducted, they are conducted in a transparent, accountable and credible manner that boosts the confidence of electoral stakeholders.

Currently, Covid-19 is not the only pandemic affecting the delivery of credible elections. The failure to adhere to constitutional principles that are fundamental to credible elections is another pandemic that is threatening democratic principles.

It is worrisome that citizens are currently underrepresented in Parliament and Local Authorities. Section 1 of the Constitution states that Zimbabwe is a unitary, democratic and sovereign republic and is bound by principles of good governance which include free, fair and regular elections according to section 2 (b) (i). The ERC, therefore, calls for President Emmerson Mnangagwa to undertake his mandate of proclaiming by-elections since there is no court order setting aside the elections.

Conclusively, the resumption of by-elections must be preceded by the implementation of electoral reforms as by-elections without reforms pose a threat to the credibility and acceptability of electoral outcomes.

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Khupe starts 2023 election preps this September

MDC-T president Thokozani Khupe is set to begin preparations for the 2023 elections this September as the breakaway group looks for answers on what led to its disastrous campaign in the July 30 harmonised elections.

The smaller of the two MDC factions, judging by the outcome of the just ended elections, failed to secure a single seat among the 210 contestable seats in the national process.

Khupe, the party’s presidential candidate, also came out with an insignificant 0,1 percent of the national vote as reality struck within the opposition that more needed to be done for it to start making any significant inroads in national politics.

Party spokesperson Linda Masarira (pictured) told RadioVOP weekend they lost the election after they had naively perceived campaigns for national elections as a seasonal occupation as opposed to a continuous process of soliciting for votes.

“We are going back to the drawing board and we are going to do better in 2023,” Masarira said.

“We have discovered that the opposition does not strategise on time and we are starting our 2023 campaign 1st September this year…this thing of waiting and campaigning when its election time does not work.

“We have learnt from what the ruling party does. It starts its campaigns on time. But as opposition, we have tended to relax over the years and only start campaigning during the final year.

“We have changed our stance. We are going to hit the ground running from the 1st of September, grow the party and ensure that by the time we get to 2023, people have sufficient civic awareness, people just don’t vote for a political party but have to vote for candidates who can actually deliver what they want.”

In the 2018 elections, Zanu PF maintained its stranglehold on national politics when it amassed a haul of 145 parliamentary seats during the poll while its presidential candidate Emmerson Mnangagwa polled 50,8 percent of the national vote to earn passage to state house.

The country’s most dominant party since independence has always put up a spirited and systematic show during national elections, starting with keeping its structures intact all the time and clarity on its ideological learnings.

Although this has strongly been challenged as illegal by opponents, Zanu PF has reduced traditional leaders into party functionaries, something that has seen chiefs council president Fortune Charumbira making continued pledges to rally support behind the ruling party.

Khupe and her group have a mountain to climb in order to replicate the strategy, if need be, as they do not have state resources at their disposal to entice significant following.

The party has ruled out chances of rejoining its former allies in the other party led by Nelson Chamisa.


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Chamisa still insists he has defeated Mnangagwa

Zimbabwe opposition leader Nelson Chamisa says the country’s electoral commission has known the results of the presidential election since on Monday night that that “announcing is just a formality”.

He is claiming victory.

Chamisa tells reporters that the commission has undermined its credibility by delaying the announcement of the results of Monday’s vote. The commission has said it will start announcing presidential results at 22:00.

International election observers in a joint statement have called on the commission to release the results as soon as possible after some noted that the presidential results were the first to be counted but the last to be shared publicly.

Chamisa also says he is shocked at President Emmerson Mnangagwa blaming the opposition for Wednesday’s deadly violence in which the military fired on election-related protests. The opposition leader says the demonstrators were not organised by his alliance but simply were citizens.


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Electoral violence death toll now 6 as 26 arrested

THE death toll from Wednesday’s deadly clashes in central Harare has increased to 6, while 14 people were injured, police have confirmed.

ZRP national spokesperson Charity Charamba (pictured) confirmed the increased death toll at a press conference in the capital Thursday evening.

Three people died immediately as riot police and the military swept into the city centre – the soldiers firing into the crowds – as opposition supporters protested the results of Monday’s elections.

According to Charamba three more later died from injuries sustained during the clashes while 14 are still hospitalised.

Elsewhere in the capital, day-long siege at the head offices of the MDC-T as also broken in the evening as police effected a search warrant and arrested 26 suspects who had been in the building.

Among those arrested is Shadreck Mashayamombe a former Zanu PF legislator who however lost the latest elections on an opposition NPF ticket.

Charamba also confirmed that police were still keen to interview MDC Alliance principal and former finance minister Tendai Biti.

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ZEC takes fight to Chamisa, reports Alliance leader to police

THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) reported MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa to the police Sunday in a development pooh-poohed by the opposition leader’s legal team.

Chamisa and his legal advisor Thabani Mpofu addressed a media briefing in Harare ahead of Monday’s general elections.

ZEC claimed this was in breach of the Electoral Act and reported the matter to the police.

Responding, Mpofu said; “The fact that ZEC has reported a non-offence at this crucial time is meant to intimidate the President and his team, is an unacceptable demonstration of partiality and will not be lightly viewed.”

Chief elections officer Utoile Silaigwana explained the possible legal infraction.

“The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has noted with concern the violation of the Electoral Act [Chapter 2:13] by one of the candidates contesting in the 2018 Harmonised Elections,” he said.

“Clause 7 (1)(b) of the Code of Conduct for political parties and candidates and other stakeholders provides as follows: (1) No political party or candidate may, from midnight 24 hours before polling day in any election or referendum until polling stations are closed on that day publish, or cause or permit the publication, of any advertisement or statement promoting or opposing a particular party or candidate.

“It has come to the knowledge of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission that one of the Presidential candidates today, the 29th of July 2018 held a press conference at Meikles Hotel, in direct contravention of the provisions of the Electoral Act Fourth Schedule (Section 160A, Clause 7(1)(B).

“This matter has been reported to the police for investigation on possible infraction of the electoral law.”

However, Chamisa’s legal team said President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his ruling Zanu PF party were now in panic mode.

“You would be now aware that the outgoing President Mnangagwa has this afternoon circulated a video in a panicky response to former President Mugabe’s press conference,” said Mpofu.

“We wait to see when a police report is going to be made by ZEC.

“(Chamisa) remains unfazed and urges Zimbabweans from all walks of life to remain vigilant and go on with the task of voting.”

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Suspense as Zim takes to first post-Mugabe election

Zimbabwe goes to the polls on Monday in its first election since authoritarian leader Robert Mugabe was ousted last year, with alleged ballot fraud and the likelihood of a disputed result clouding voting day.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s former ally in the ruling Zanu-PF party, faces opposition leader Nelson Chamisa of the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) in a historic vote for the southern African nation.

Mugabe, 94, who was ousted by the military in November, made a surprise intervention on the eve of the elections, calling for voters to throw Zanu-PF out of office.

Zimbabwe’s generals shocked the world last year when they seized control and ushered Mnangagwa to power after Mugabe allegedly tried to position his wife Grace to be his successor.

Mnangagwa, 75, who promises a fresh start for the country despite being from the Zanu-PF elite, is the front-runner with the advantage of covert military support, a loyal state media and a ruling party that controls government resources.

But Chamisa, 40, who has performed strongly on the campaign trail, hopes to tap into a young population that could vote for change.

The election is Zimbabwe’s first without Mugabe, who led ZANU-PF to power in a vote when the country became independent from British colonial rule in 1980 — and ruled for 37 years.

Speaking at his sprawling mansion in Harare on Sunday, Mugabe said that he hoped the election would “thrust away the military form of government.”

“I cannot vote for those who tormented me,” Mugabe said, hinting he could vote for MDC.

A clean vote?

As Zimbabwe’s hectic politics reached fever pitch, Mnangagwa claimed that Mugabe’s remarks proved that Chamisa was in an alliance with Mugabe.

But Chamisa also spoke out saying: “I have nothing to do with what president Mugabe would want to say as a voter. He is a citizen.”

Elections under Mugabe were marred by fraud and often deadly violence, and this year’s campaign has been dogged by accusations that the result will be rigged.

The MDC has raised repeated allegations of a flawed electoral roll, ballot paper malpractice, voter intimidation, bias in the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and free food handed out by the ruling party.

But campaigning has been relatively unrestricted and peaceful.

“After years of stasis, the events of November 2017 gave Zimbabwe the chance to dream again,” Mnangagwa said Sunday in an address on state radio.

“As we have always said, the elections will be free, non-violent and credible.”

A recent Afrobarometer survey of 2 400 people put Mnangagwa on 40% and Chamisa on 37%, with 20% undecided.

Mnangagwa, who is accused of involvement in election violence and fraud under Mugabe, invited international observers – including the previously-banned European Union team — to the poll.

The EU team will deliver a preliminary report later in the week.

Desperate for investment

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has warned of alleged intimidation and threats of violence in the run-up to polling day, but said it was encouraging to see open rallies and peaceful demonstrations.

The next government must tackle mass unemployment and an economy shattered by the Mugabe-backed seizure of white-owned farms, the collapse of agriculture, hyperinflation and an investment exodus.

Previously solid health and education services are in ruins and millions have fled abroad to seek work.

Life expectancy has only just recovered to its 1985 level of 61 years.

“The governing Zanu-PF party needs to maintain a semblance of free and fair elections in order to attract fresh foreign investment,” said the London-based EXX Africa business risk consultancy.

“However, there remain serious concerns over vote credibility.”

With 5.6 million registered voters, the results of the presidential, parliamentary and local elections are due by August 4.

A run-off vote is scheduled for September 8 if no presidential candidate wins at least 50 percent in the first round.

“I’m excited, I’m voting for the first time,” said Tawanda Mudondo, 18, who sells phone chargers on the street corner.

“I just want a government that will create jobs. I passed my exams but could not go to university. Our economy is trashed.”



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Zimbabwe election carries the hopes of nation

In July 2013 an enraged Zimbabwean immigration officer at the Beit Bridge border post fixed me with a frosty glare, promptly hurled me into a holding cell and deported me back into South Africa within an hour.

I was on my way to Harare, the Zimbabwean capital, to cover the July elections which Zanu-PF subsequently allegedly rigged and won through a series of underhanded tactics, returning to power with a two-thirds majority.

Stepping into Zimbabwe without accreditation was a sacrilegious offence. Myself and former colleague Carien du Plessis had tried for over a month to secure accreditation, but to no avail.

The plan was to commute to Harare by bus to talk to everyday Zimbabweans about how they felt about that election.

I returned to Johannesburg and flew back to Harare as a tourist within a day or two, and covered the controversial election. But that was Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, the current president who was catapulted into power on the back of a military coup in November, presides over a different Zimbabwe.

It differs from Mugabe’s Zimbabwe in dramatic fashion. For the first time in almost two decades, Harare is allowing the European Union, the Commonwealth and the US to observe tomorrow’s high-stakes poll.

Mugabe’s hostility towards and frosty relations with European countries, and Britain in particular, began in the early 2000s when Harare started encouraging the invasion of white-owned farms. His animosity towards the West extended to foreign media like CNN and the BBC, which he banned from Zimbabwe ahead of the 2002 elections. Since then, they have had to rely on local correspondents.

Ahead of the 2013 election, the Zimbabwean Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) and the state-owned Herald newspaper were Mugabe’s mouthpieces, running a series of monologues about the necessity of the leader’s failed land reform programmes and his anti-West sentiments.

This week the the ZBC reported that the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Nelson Chamisa, and his lawyers had gone as far as making outrageous claims that no results other than a victory would be acceptable to them.

In 2002, 2008 and 2013 it was unheard of for the MDC and other opposition parties to campaign in Zanu-PF strongholds like Mashonaland East and West, Midlands and Manicaland. Mugabe had also banned political gatherings, unleashed a bloodthirsty militia to terrorise opposition parties, and presided over a series of bloodstained and rigged elections.

This time around things are different. The MDC is campaigning everywhere, with little or no trouble. In Norton, a town some 40 km west of Harare in Mashonaland West, posters of MDC, Zanu-PF and independent candidates appeared alongside each other.

Cosmetic changes 

While Mnangagwa’s de facto but benevolent junta seems to be using the shards of Mugabe’s disastrous tenure as a launch pad for a better Zimbabwe, the economy, which has been in the doldrums for two decades, has shown no signs of recovery.

Edzai Mutale (36), a resident of Katanga in Norton, continues with the frugal existence which he was forced into when Intel Marketing, a small shoe-manufacturing factory in Harare, went out of business, retrenching about 40 workers in the process some six years ago. Mutale, who now runs a tiny key-cutting business in Katanga, says things could be better.

“I have three kids and I am in arrears on school fees. Here we make duplicate keys, door locks and car keys. But business is slow. I am renting this property and I pay just a little over R1 000 to the landlord every month.”

Whoever wins the election, all Mutale is asking for is minor changes, such as banks not running out of cash – because banks and ATMs run out of cash daily.

On Friday morning in the Harare city centre, at the corner of L Takawira and Nelson Mandela streets, hundreds of people were seen queuing in front of different ATMs and banks to withdraw cash. The cash shortage has created an extra burden for Mutale and millions of other Zimbabweans.

“Most people in Zimbabwe have bank or mobile money accounts. But those accounts are useless because you cannot withdraw money anywhere,” he explains. “If you want hard cash, you have to go to the black market. If you have $100 in your mobile account, you have to go to the guys in the black market and transfer it to them. They will give you hard cash, but they charge hefty commissions of between 25% and 40%. In the end, you have worked and charged $100 for your labour, but you end up with about $70.”

He adds that “the same applies with goods in small shops or general dealers”.

“If you buy a packet of rice with hard cash, it could cost you $10. But if you don’t have hard cash and pay through mobile money, they will charge you $13, and if you pay with bond notes, they will charge you $15.”

Mutale argues that this is wrong, because the government has pegged bond notes to be on par with the dollar and the rand.

A stone’s throw from Mutale’s business, a band of ambitious money exchangers vie for my attention, shouting out their exchange rates while brandishing wads of crisp new US dollars, rand and bond notes.

While Mnangagwa’s regime has delivered freedom of expression, association and assembly, Mutale says the most important thing that should result from tomorrow’s polls is economic freedom and the stabilisation of the economy.

Daily battle for survival 

The sprawling and shabby jumble that is the Katanga outdoor market is one of Zimbabwe’s many manifestations of Mugabe’s misrule. It is an enduring blight on Mugabe’s political career which ended abruptly, three years short of four decades.

A group of women line a stretch of dust- and grit-filled road, selling different kinds of raw fish in 20-litre buckets. Next to them is another band of women who buy the raw fish, prepare and roast it on the spot, and sell it off to hungry customers waiting in dark and dingy canteens. The raw fish arrives daily, in trucks, from the Darwendale Dam, some 10km west of Norton.

While the women prepare the fish, others fan old magazines and newspapers in order to fend off the fat green flies buzzing around, attracted by the fetid smell hanging in the air.

The health hazards in the area are difficult to ignore. Owing to the collapse of the country’s health system, Zimbabwe is vulnerable to outbreaks of measles and cholera. In 2008 a cholera outbreak left thousands of people dead. Official death toll statistics are hard to come by, but conjectural and back-of-the-envelope calculations place the deaths at around 3 000.

But, for Mutale and the hundreds of vendors trying to grab the attention of customers, health issues are the least of their concerns.

“You think we are worried about health issues? What health issues? Those women’s concern right now is that if no one buys their fish, entire families face a real possibility of starving.”

Pointing at Temba Mliswa, a fiery former Zanu-PF politician whose campaign truck was passing by, urging people to support his bid to become the area’s MP, Mutale said: “Maybe the elections will bring us so much relief and a semblance of normality in this area that we can also start worrying about health concerns.”

But for now, he says, the battle is to find something to eat, go to bed and wake up to face another tough day brimming with fresh worries.

By now it’s Friday afternoon and while waiting to ferry passengers home from the market’s taxi rank, taxi drivers are belting out loud local music from their beat-up and barely roadworthy cars, sending out strains of melodies into the atmosphere.

Mutale, now on his way home, jumps into one of the taxis and waves as the driver starts the engine, sending a swirling cloud of smoke into the atmosphere. Draining a bottle of beer into his mouth, Mutale shouts “Goodbye my friend” and delivers his parting shot: “It is now two days before election. These elections carry the hopes of a nation that is tired of dictatorship and corruption.”

Through the elections, he says, the country will be born again, or it will be another five years of tears, broken promises and hardship for him and his family, as well as Katanga, Norton and the whole of Zimbabwe.

Whether or not the changes will be sustainable into the future remains to be seen.

City Press

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Curtain closes on campaigns as Zim nears Monday poll

THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) on Friday issued a notice declaring that Saturday will be the last day of campaigning by all 55 political parties contesting in the July 30 election.

The country will hold elections for the presidential candidates‚ parliament and local government on Monday.

“The notice serves to advise all political parties and candidates contesting in the Harmonised Elections that all campaigning shall cease at midnight on the 28th of July in accordance with paragraph 7 of the Fourth Schedule of the Electoral Act [Chapter 2:13]‚” said the ZEC.

The ZEC’s notice brings to an end the colourful rallies held across the country that have characterised election season in Zimbabwe.

In May‚ President Emmerson Mnangagwa‚ in terms of the Zimbabwean constitution that empowers him to fix dates for elections‚ proclaimed July 30 as the date for harmonised elections to choose the president‚ national assembly members and councillors.

As the curtain closes on campaigns‚ the MDC Alliance’s Nelson Chamisa has held over 80 rallies and could be the leading presidential candidate in terms of the number of rallies held across the country.

Both Zanu-PF and the MDC Alliance have drawn crowds to every rally as they sought to outdo each other in terms of turnout. Supporters travelled to the rallies using trucks and hired buses.

Political analyst Blessing Vava said the campaign period had been colourful‚ with the MDC Alliance painting cities red and Zanu-PF’s multi-coloured logo also clearly visible all over the country.

Maxwell Saungweme‚ another political analyst‚ said since the proclamation of the election date there had been a lot of drama.

“We have seen both Mnangagwa and Chamisa commanding large crowds of both young and old at rallies. We have seen and heard promises from both main presidential hopefuls‚ most of which are unrealistic. We have also seen campaign gaffs by both hopefuls‚” said Saungweme.


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Zim election: Female candidates face scathing abuse

“Are you married?” The frequent question for Fadzayi Mahere, a Zimbabwe opposition politician, isn’t from men trying their luck. Instead, people of all genders approach her with the concern that a woman — a single woman — aspires to lead them.

Ahead of Monday’s historic election in the largely conservative country, the few female candidates have faced insults such as “slut” and accusations of sleeping around. Gender-based prejudices are still rife in this southern African nation, where women traditionally have been cheerleaders for male politicians and the #MeToo movement has hardly registered.

But the female candidates are fighting back with wit, turning the abuse into political capital.

“Marriage, though often a beautiful thing, is not an achievement. It does not qualify one for public office,” Mahere said in one of many spirited exchanges on Twitter.

“It will take a lot more than calling me … childless or husbandless to shut me up,” said the 32-year-old lawyer who is pursuing a parliamentary seat in the capital, Harare. She has declared: “I am married to my campaign.”

New political openness

Zimbabwe is seeing a new political openness in these elections, the first since longtime leader Robert Mugabe stepped down in November under military pressure amid concerns that his wife, Grace, was positioning herself to take over. While this election has a record number of 23 presidential candidates, most are still men.

The abuses hurled at women ahead of the vote have brought public condemnation from ambassadors, opposition leader Nelson Chamisa and foreign election observers. “This is not acceptable at all,” the first female president of Ireland, Mary Robinson, said earlier this month after allegations spread that the female head of Zimbabwe’s election commission was having an affair.

Violence, intimidation and lack of resources are major factors keeping women from running for office despite making up more than 54% of the country’s registered voters, said Margaret Sangarwe-Mukahanana, chairwoman of the Zimbabwe Gender Commission, a quasi-government body.

Despite the new diversity of voices in this election, “there seems to be convergence when it comes to lampooning women,” Sangarwe-Mukahanana told reporters on Wednesday. “Women have been accused of being prostitutes and accused of indulging in extra-marital affairs. Men have not been treated in the same manner. Moral righteousness only applies to women leaders.”

Women’s rights

That has held back female candidates for parliamentary seats. Just 15% of the more than 1 600 candidates are women, according to the Women in Politics Support Unit, a local NGO.

“Women’s rights are on paper; in reality it is business as usual,” the organization’s executive director, Sakhile Sifelani-Ngoma, told The Associated Press. Even with a quota system, women make up 35 percent of Zimbabwe’s parliament, and fewer women will have seats after the election, she said. Her organization’s research shows that 84 seats are being contested by men only.

In spite of the obstacles, Zimbabwe now has its first female presidential candidates since independence from white minority rule in 1980 — four of them.

“Optics matter. It is important that presidential elections are not seen as a preserve of men,” said Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, chief election agent for female candidate Thokozani Khupe. Like others, Khupe has been called a prostitute and other names by opponents.

Defiant, Misihairabwi-Mushonga wore a T-shirt printed with the word “hure,” a word in the local Shona language for prostitute, when she formally registered Khupe’s candidacy last month.

And at a solidarity meeting of female candidates from several parties in April, Misihairabwi-Mushonga called for a “pantyless campaign,” urging women to go underwear-free to the voting booth as a reminder to support females for office.

“You can always lift up your dress and remember that you are a woman,” she said at the time.

“That is how we are taking back our power. We can’t allow men to use our sexuality to undermine us. It should be ours to use,” Misihairabwi-Mushonga told the AP.

“The slut-shaming has actually shifted gender dynamics in a way,” she said. “Young women are coming out in support of other women. There is an outpouring of sympathy from men, too, and more people are talking about gender stereotyping. We are using it to gain power, not lose it.”


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Mlswa slams MDC over poll demands

INDEPENDENT National Assembly candidate for Norton, Temba Mliswa has castigated some political parties saying their utterances about ZEC are as a result of their ill preparedness for the elections.

Mliswa, who was addressing members of the media in Harare on Monday, said he is saddened by some political parties that are wasting time on issues to do with ballot papers and issues to do with ZEC instead of concentrating on campaigning.

Mliswa added that this year’s elections are the most free, fair and very democratic since independence in 1980.

He reminded Nelson Chamisa and his MDC Alliance party that it is illogical for them to participate in elections, which they think are not credible.

With a few days to go before elections, Zimbabwe has demonstrated that it is a peace loving nation and is capable of holding free, fair and peaceful elections.


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