With election results trickling in from 59 rural districts across Zimbabwe, indications were that the ruling ZANU-PF party had retained its dominant position outside the cities despite inroads by the opposition in a few areas. ZANU-PF also reclaimed the mayor’s office in Kadoma, Mashonaland West, the only higher office up for grabs.
Observers said the two factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change undermined each other by fielding head-to-head candidates in 40 wards, thereby in effect handing victories to the ruling party. Both MDC factions accused ZANU-PF of rigging ballots and buying votes as well as engaging in voter intimidation.
Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the MDC faction headed by Morgan Tsvangirai told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that his party is pleased with the gains it has scored in the countryside in these elections.
Speaking for the Arthur Mutambara faction of the MDC, deputy spokesman Abednico Bhebhe said the elections were marred by irregularities.
ZANU-PF political commissar Elliot Manyika rejected charges of ballot-rigging and other abuses, saying the opposition was simply unable to accept defeat.
Rural district council elections and Kadoma’s mayoral election were characterized by very low voter turnout, according to the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, which said as few as 25 voters turned out to cast ballots in some rural wards.
Despite the extremely low turnout, the opposition made inroads by claiming some rural wards that the ruling party had traditionally dominated.
Though the elections were generally peaceful, the independent election-monitoring group cited one incident in Kadoma where the home of the MDC candidate for mayor, Jonas Ndenda, was stoned by alleged supporters of the ruling party.
Zimbabwe Election Support Network Chairman Reginald Matchaba-Hove told Carole Gombakomba that irregularities observed in the run-up to the elections, including the intimidation of voters and vote-buying, combined with generally low voter awareness and understanding, added up to elections that left much to be desired.
Despite scattered opposition gains, analysts saw the elections as a non-event given that the ruling party appeared to have won the lion’s share of rural seats as expected. Such an outcome was predicted by many in view of what observers called an uneven playing field and reported intimidation of voters and opposition candidates.
For insight on the significance of the elections, reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele spoke with two experts on Zimbabwean politics: Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Coordinator Jacob Mafume and Post-Independence Survival Trust Director Felix Mafa.