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MCC partner reports post-election tension in Zimbabwe

Tim Shenk
April 1, 2008

AKRON, Pa. – Zimbabweans are anxiously awaiting the official results of national elections conducted on March 29, according to Dumisani O. Nkomo, the chief executive officer of a Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) partner organization monitoring the voting process.

"There is a lot of tension," Nkomo said from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second-largest city, on March 31. "People don't know whether to celebrate or not, because the (electoral) commission is releasing results bit by bit, and they are only releasing results where the ruling party has always got strongholds."

MCC provided $10,000 U.S. to Habakkuk Trust, a Zimbabwean Christian advocacy organization, to help monitor the electoral process in and around Bulawayo. Habakkuk Trust trained and organized 60 volunteers to monitor electoral centers before, during and after the voting process.

Nkomo said election monitors from Habakkuk Trust and other organizations are reporting that opposition candidates won by a wide margin in the Bulawayo area. He said that the electoral commission appears to be delaying the release of results in areas where opposition candidates defeated the ruling party, Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front.

Under the presidency of Robert Mugabe, the ruling party has been in power since the Zimbabwe's independence in 1980. Since 2000, Zimbabwe has suffered an economic collapse, with sky-high inflation, widespread unemployment and the mass emigration of working-age adults. Basic services, such as health care, have deteriorated dramatically, Nkomo said.

President Mugabe, who is 84 years old, stood for reelection on March 29. The official presidential election results had not been announced by March 31.

Nkomo said that many Zimbabweans believe Mugabe rigged a previous bid for reelection in 2002. The current delay in releasing results is creating fear that vote totals are being altered to ensure another Mugabe victory, Nkomo said.

"For the first time in years, people have had hope," he said. "But as time goes on, hopelessness is creeping in, tension is creeping in."

Zimbabwe's Brethren in Christ Church also organized 20 volunteers to monitor the elections, and an MCC staff person served as an election observer from the Swaziland Council of Churches, according to Bruce Campbell-Janz, MCC Africa co-director.