Poll command centre cordoned off, fears of clampdown mount

Jeffrey Moyo

Harare—Police in Harare have barricaded roads leading to the national election command centre at the Rainbow Towers, a stone’s throw from the Zanu PF headquarters.

The barricades were set up on Thursday evening, igniting fears that the security sector was stepping in to run the counting and verification of election results.

Zimbabwe held harmonised elections on Wednesday, but, in some cases in Harare and Bulawayo, polling spilled into Thursday because of delays by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to distribute ballot papers.

The armed police wielding guns and baton sticks have mounted barricades on roads leading to both the national election results command centre and the Zanu PF headquarters.

This is happening at a time election results are being slowly released at the command centre, amid rising tension as fears of rigged elections run high.

Traffic coming from the west of the capital using Samora Machel Avenue has been blocked from entering through the vicinity of the command center.

National police spokesperson, Paul Nyathi, said there was nothing amiss about the police deployments.

“We are just maintaining law and order. There is nothing sinister about that,” Nyathi told NewsHub.

But political analyst, Rashweat Mukundu, said the deployments were pre-emptive.

“I think it is meant to intimidate citizens. It must be a strategy to cow citizens into refraining from demanding accountability on elections,” said Mukundu.

Stanford Nyatsanza of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI), an independent governance think tank headquartered in Harare, castigated the blocking of the way to the command centre.

“It’s basically an infringement on the constitutional right to freedom of movement and it clearly shows brazen attempts by the regime to announce election results that contradict the general will of the people of Zimbabwe,” Nyatsanza said.

During the 2018 elections, protesters demanding the release of presidential election results ran amok, overrunning the national command center before soldiers intervened to quell the protests, shooting six civilians in the process.

The Home Affairs minister, Kazembe Kazembe, and police commissioner general, Godwin Matanga, have issued strong warnings against protests during and after polling.

In 2018, pro-opposition supporters poured into the streets to protest results that showed President Emmerson Mnangagwa leading Nelson Chamisa, then leader of the MDC Alliance, amid protracted delays in releasing outcomes from some key provinces.

The army deployed soldiers who used live ammunition to quell the disturbances, resulting in at least six civilian deaths.

Military deployments spread to numerous southwestern suburbs where people reported beatings and arbitrary arrests.

The violence forced a commission of inquiry led by former South African president, Kgalema Montlante, whose team blamed the army for the deaths.

Since Wednesday, most Zimbabweans have travelled home early and avoided venturing out during the night, fearing a repeat of the 1 August 2018 incidents.

Many businesses closed earlier than normal on Friday as the SADC Election Observer Mission rapped the manner in which the polls were handled.

The mission’s preliminary report is a striking departure from previous reviews which were coated with diplomatic language and avoided outright condemnation of the elections.

The run-up to and conduct of the polls have, however, been mostly peaceful.


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