For the eleventh time since independence, voting is underway in Zimbabwe's presidential and parliamentary elections, with concern growing around whether the elections will be free and fair.
The election is seen as a fiercely contested one, pitting President Robert Mugabe against his rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who has vowed to push Africa's oldest leader into retirement after 33 years in power.
Catholic Church election observer Sean O'Leary told Talk Radio 702’s John Robbie on Wednesday morning he expects no violence or intimidation today.However, O’Leary said if there are going to be problems, it will be after the announcement of the results.
“There’s no way they can rig it on the spot. There are 18,000 observers across the country. They will record in each voting centre the actual outcome. All that goes to a central point in Harare and it’s at that stage we’re very worried. They have five days to announce the results. The longer the wait the more the tension will rise.”
Meanwhile, anti-conflict organisation International Crisis Group (ICG) says conditions for a free and fair election in Zimbabwe have not been assured.
The NGO predicts the polls will be rigged and that the outcome will be skewed.
The group's Piers Pigou says the organisation’s biggest concern is that the credibility of the elections can’t be secured in a situation where the contextual environment is highly uneven and problematic.
“There is an uneven application of the law and there are a range of significant problems in the preparation for these elections around the integrity of the voters’ roll.”
The Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) 600 election observers are armed with documents from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) outlining plans by Mugabe to rig the poll.
The dossier lists examples of duplicate or questionable voters assembled from an initial examination of the voters’ roll that was released only last night.
SADC’s chief observer to Zimbabwe, Bernard Membe, has expressed concern and observers speaking anonymously also say it’s extremely worrying.
Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU), a non-governmental organisation, alleged last month that the role includes around 1 million dead voters or people who have moved abroad, as well as more than 100,000 people aged over 100 years old.
The MDC believes Mugabe intends using these ghost voters to secure a win.
'I WILL SURRENDER’
'I WILL SURRENDER’
Mugabe said on Tuesday he will respect the will of the people if he loses and step down.
“Win or lose, you can’t be both. You either win or you lose. If you lose you must surrender to those that have won.”
Mugabe denies charges by Tsvangirai that he's trying to rig the elections and attributed his allegations to the cut and thrust of an election campaign.
The 89-year-old Zanu-PF leader said being in a power-sharing government with Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has broken down suspicion and suggests they can shake hands once the election battle is over.
Tsvangirai appears confident his party will win this year's polls.
“It is a historic event. What I can only anticipate is a victory for the MDC as shown by the overwhelming desire by the people of this country for change.”
Zimbabweans have been lining up since just after midnight, waiting to cast their votes.
At a primary school in the eastern Harare suburb of Greendale around 500 people were standing in the queue.
Voters said they were in good spirits but not all were excited as they had been through the process many times before. Inside the polling station 18 people crowded around the ballot boxes.
There were local observers looking on and party agents but no sign of the hundreds of foreign observers who are in the country to monitor the elections.