By Peta Thornycroft |
Zimbabwe’s regime has been accused of a “concerted effort” to rig the election for Robert Mugabe as it emerged that seals protecting ballot boxes have been broken. A partial recount of the election – which was held on March 29 – is now taking place in 23 constituencies.
A source at the recount at the Bulilima East constituency said: “There are 57 ballot boxes from 57 polling stations. We examined all the boxes from the presidential election and the seal on every one is slit.
“There is a foreign observer here so we hope this has been noted.”
The seals guard the keys to the padlocks on the boxes, which contain all the voting materials from a polling station, including the voters’ roll and ballot papers.
Diane Kohler-Barnard, an election observer from the Southern African Development Community and an MP in South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance, spent three days monitoring the recount.
“From what I have seen and experienced in Zimbabwe over the past three days, it is clear that the process of recounting the contested wards from the recent elections is fatally flawed,” she said.
“The process had been marred by delays, administrative problems and the clear political intent of blaming the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) for all the problems associated with the recount.
“Of particular concern was the evidence of ballot box tampering that I witnessed personally, which points to a concerted effort to rig the election results in order to bring about a Mugabe ‘victory’.”
She said Zimbabwe’s Electoral Commission had tried to obstruct outside monitoring by “deliberately” giving false information about the venues for the recount.
“There is no doubt that the situation in Zimbabwe is at breaking point as anger over the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s failure to release the results of the presidential election escalates,” she said.
Under the Electoral Act, a second round should have been held last Saturday if – as is almost certain – neither Mr Mugabe nor Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader, gained above 50 per cent of votes.
David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, said the conduct of the recount “only serves to fuel suspicion that President Mugabe is seeking to reverse the results that have been published, to regain a majority, and to amplify his own count”.
In a parliamentary statement, Mr Miliband called on African leaders not to recognise Mr Mugabe as Zimbabwe’s legal president.