Both the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and an election observer mission comprised of trade union activists from southern Africa have raised sharp concerns regarding the presidential and parliamentary elections conducted last week in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe’s ruling party, ZANU-PF, and its longtime leader, Robert Mugabe, have claimed victory. Union-led observer teams, like many others, say that irregularities leading up to the vote and on election day were too numerous and systematic to qualify the vote as free and fair.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) led an election observation effort through its regional offices and as part of a coalition of civil-society groups. Along with its NGO counterparts on the network, the ZCTU flagged irregularities and acts of disenfranchisement around the country. In a joint statement, the groups called the election “illegitimate and not reflective of the will of the people.” Prior to the vote, the ZCTU had questioned the lack of pre-electoral reforms and the short time period between ratification of the country’s constitution in May and last week’s election.
In addition, an international observer team from the Southern Africa Trade Union Coordination Council (SATUCC), which represents trade unions from 13 countries, dispatched observers to six provinces in Zimbabwe—Harare, Bulawayo, Masvingo, Manicaland, Midlands and Mashonaland West—to monitor 87 polling stations. The monitors reported numerous voters being turned away from the polls, among other problems. In a statement released over the weekend, SATUCC said the elections “lack credibility and fail to pass the free and fairness test.”
With the results now official, Zimbabwe’s civil society is weighing options for democratic participation in what could be an unstable period.