HARARE – If the scenes and mood in Harare yesterday were anything to go by, President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF is in for a "shock defeat" in Wednesday’s key harmonised elections.
While the octogenarian leader’s spin-doctors will argue that “Harare is not Zimbabwe”, the verve and build-up to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s crossover rally aptly captures the change mood sweeping across the country — just as the Zimbabwean capital is the nerve centre for all socio-economic activities in this impoverished southern African nation.
From our office window, we counted more than a thousand cars sweeping down Samora Machel Avenue en-route to the rally.
Some party supporters on foot toyi-toyied their way to the venue dubbed “Freedom Square” singing revolutionary songs.
The crowd at the venue, just a stone’s throw from the Zanu PF headquarters, was unprecedented and at least 100 000 attended the massive rally.
Singing that at 90, the game is over and Mugabe must go, there was an electric atmosphere.
There was a sea of red as thousands of supporters of the MDC party gathered for the last rally before the general election. The crowd danced for hours waiting for the arrival of Tsvangirai and MDC candidates.
Wearing red caps and T-shirts, tens of thousands of MDC supporters gathered early on awaiting final words from their presidential candidate who was met delirious cheers from the crowd of MDC supporters beneath.
Thousands of people packed the open space next to the Rainbow Towers in crowds never before seen in Zimbabwe, listening to speeches and dancing to music, while waiting for an appearance by their party’s hero.
The rally was colourful and the candidates did their best to enthuse supporters ahead of a vote which a US-based organisation says Tsvangirai will win by 61 percent.
The MDC leader said he was winning the election. He said he harbours no ill feeling towards those who attempted to resist his rule and promised to work with security commanders that have been fiercely loyal to Mugabe.
He promised jobs, health and free primary education to a delirious crowd.
Tsvangirai said there were attempts to steal the vote but said the will of the people will triumph.
“With two days before elections, I as the president don’t have a voters’ roll,” he said. “As I speak, our elections manager Morgen Komichi is in prison because of the incompetency of Zec.
“We are not aware as a party who is printing the ballots and how many have been cleared. It is clear that Zec is either complicit or they have abandoned their roles to other persons. If they are not up to their constitutional mandate, Zec should say so or resign in the public interest.
“By this time, with all the shenanigans around the voters’ roll, there are people who are manipulating and trying to say everything is okay. I want to state here clearly, ladies and gentlemen at Zec, if you are not the ones doing this mess, just do the honourable thing and go.”
Accompanied by Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn leader and ex-Zanu PF politburo member Simba Makoni, Tsvangirai said this time around the former opposition movement will not be dribbled by his crafty 89-year-old rival.
“Zimbabweans have been short charged in the manner elections have been conducted in the past years,” Tsvangirai said. “Mugabe rigged elections in 2002 and 2008, but we are not going to accept that this time. Today we have a clear message to him, don’t do that again.”
The 61-year-old, who is making his third crack at dislodging his octogenarian opponent, promised amnesty for Zanu PF bigwigs including Mugabe saying he will not devote his time settling old scores but rebuilding a stunted economy and creating opportunities for crisis-weary Zimbabweans.
“We are going to win the elections and please manage your emotions diligently, this country needs stability and that will not come if we are fighting,” Tsvangirai said.
“I myself was treated like a common criminal but I am not bitter. I have forgiven my tormentors. The reason is that I don’t want to be a prisoner of bitterness and revenge.
The former trade unionist, who was once beaten in police custody, said he is going to provide Mugabe with a safe exit to enable him to “enjoy his pension.”
He said God had great plans for Zimbabwe.
Earlier, MDC secretary-general Tendai Biti had told a press briefing that Zanu PF’s attempts to rig the poll will fail.
“Zanu PF has a problem of how they want to panel beat the results,” Biti said. “As the MDC, we are not going to accept that illegality. The world has moved and tin pot dictators will no longer be able to subvert the will of the people.”
Biti questioned Zec’s commitment to deliver a fair vote.
“We have raised concerns with Zec over their credibility of conducting credible elections on 31 July and we are not getting firm answers that will comfort the people of Zimbabwe,” he said.
“We are not inspired by their capacity to deliver a clean election.”
Reacting to threats by Mugabe against a plan to run parallel voter tabulation, Biti said there was nothing illegal in announcing the results as the MDC would simply be repeating what Zec would have pasted outside the polling stations.
“We are going to announce the results as we will be repeating what Zec has done,” Biti said. “It is not an offence we are definitely going to do that.
An opinion poll by a US firm has said Tsvangirai will garner 61 percent of the vote against Mugabe’s 27 percent.