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Zimbabwe election 2018: Five things

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Zimbabwe Election

More than five million Zimbabweans are going to the polls on 30 July to vote in historic Zimbabwe elections. But what makes it different from previous votes?

1) The first election without Mugabe

Since Zimbabwe’s birth in 1980, only one person has ever won an election to lead the country – Robert Mugabe. He was prime minister until a presidential system was introduced in 1987.

But the 94-year-old was ousted from power last year by the army and those in his own party who were angered at moves to allow his wife Grace Mugabe to succeed him.

A few weeks before the military takeover in November, Mr Mugabe had fired his deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, and was manoeuvring for his wife to be appointed in his place.

But it ended in his downfall and Mr Mnangagwa became president. He is now the Zanu-PF’s presidential candidate.

And there is a change in the air when it comes to campaigning as all parties have been able to hold rallies and marches without hindrance or intimidation, unlike in previous polls.

International election observers from Europe and the US have been welcomed for the first time since 2002.

The media scene is also vibrant, with different views being expressed – though state media is still seen as the mouthpiece of the ruling party.

2) Longest ballot paper

Robert Mugabe’s exit from the scene has led to a flourishing of political ambitions – and 23 names will appear on the presidential ballot.

Fifty-five parties are also contesting the parliamentary election. Commentators say this shows how feared the former president had become during his 37-year rule.

Some of those trying their luck have returned from the diaspora to relaunch their careers. But the main presidential contenders are Emmerson Mnangagwa of the ruling Zanu-PF and Nelson Chamisa of the opposition MDC Alliance.

However, there is a controversy over the two-column design of the presidential ballot paper, which has Mr Mnangagwa appearing at the top of the second column.

The opposition says this is illegal, but electoral chief Priscilla Chigumba said if it was done as a single column when folded, a voter wouldn’t be able to post it into a ballot box as it would be too thick for the slot.

Evan Mawarire is not standing on the presidential ballot, though he is vying for a seat as a councillor in the capital, Harare.

The charismatic pastor became famous for his courageous criticism of Mr Mugabe’s rule. His viral #ThisFlag movement was sparked after he spontaneously posted a video expressing his frustration at the woeful state of the nation – and urged Zimbabweans to be proud of their flag and demand change.

He then organised a two-day shutdown in July 2016 – the biggest strike action in more than a decade – and was charged with trying to overthrow the government.

He was acquitted a week after Mr Mugabe resigned.

3) Ghost voters ‘banished’

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has introduced a fingerprint ID system to register voters, which it says has been able to identify when people register more than once.

It says the new system, which required everyone to re-register, means the voters’ roll is now “clean” and free from ghost voters.

In total 5,635,706 people are registered – 238,409 fewer than in 2013, despite an annual population growth of more than 2%.

In the past, one way in which people have allegedly rigged elections was by using the identities of dead people still on the voters’ roll.

The commission has denied recent allegations that 250,000 ghost voters have managed to get on to the new list.

It cited the example of a woman in Mutare, in the east of the country, who had registered three times, giving a different address in each case. But Zec said the ID system had spotted it was the same voter and her duplicate entries had been removed.

In total Zec says 92,000 people who initially registered have been excluded because of various anomalies.

4) ‘Witchcraft’ animals banned

The Zimbabwe election commission has banned a whole host of things from candidates’ logos, including some animals and weapons – though guns are allowed.

This is the full list of outlawed symbols, in the order it appears on the Zec website: Flame Lily, cheetah, elephant, secretary bird, flaming torch, leopard, lion, buffalo, griffon (mythical creature), owl, bird of prey, cobras, sword, rhino, laurel wreath and axe.

No official explanation has been given for why they are not allowed. Historian Pathisa Nyathi told Zimbabwe’s state-run Chronicle paper that witchcraft may have been a contributing factor in some cases: “From an African point of view, for example, an owl is associated with witchcraft. A snake can equally be associated with witchcraft. Also, depending on the type of snake, it could be related to ancestral spirits.

He added that plants and animals are seen as having “national significance” might also be a reason for the ban. The flame lily, for example, is Zimbabwe’s national flower.

The ruling Zanu-PF uses an image of Great Zimbabwe ruins as its emblem – an iconic stone tower from an ancient empire between two trees to symbolise unity; the opposition MDC has an open palm of a hand to depict openness.

5) The decline in anti-gay hate speech

The director of a gay rights group says there been “a sharp decline in the use of hate speech and harassment of the LGBT community” during campaigning in Zimbabwe, where homosexual acts and gay marriage are banned.

Mr Mugabe once infamously said gay people were “worse than pigs and dogs” and claimed homosexuality was unAfrican.

“LGBTI issues have been used as a tool to divert Zimbabweans from discussing other pressing issues affecting them and a convenient ploy for political leaders facing rampant unemployment, political unrest, and a downward economic spiral,” Chester Samba, from Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (Galz), told the BBC News website.

Elections in the past have been characterised by scapegoating a largely invisible and unpopular minority, creating a moral panic, which at times easily escalated into a witch-hunt.”

He admits that no party’s manifesto has anything specific on gay rights, though Zanu-PF did invite Galz for a meeting to gauge the challenges the LGBT community faces.

Gay people face widespread stigma in Zimbabwe – it has been too dangerous to live as openly homosexual and as a result, many have been too scared to go to hospitals for treatment when they get ill.

In another sign that attitudes may be changing, the body that coordinates the treatment of HIV and Aids in Zimbabwe has announced that it is opening up five drop-in centres nationwide for gay men.
BBC

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Mugabe buried in a tamper-proof casket

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Robert Mugabe Burial

Robert Mugabe was buried in a tamper-proof casket because he feared that people would “use my body”, according to his family.

He was buried at Kutama village, his rural home village, on Saturday, near his mother, instead of the National Heroes Acre in Harare.

Mugabe’s nephew and family spokesperson, Leo Mugabe, told Zimpapers Television Network that “he wanted to be buried next to his mother but there is no space there” so the family elected to bury him, at a private ceremony, in the same village as his mother.

Asked about the speculation around the family changing his casket, Leo said: “Originally, why we changed is because we wanted a tamper-proof casket because you know, with rituals and things like that, people are really after his body, body parts, so we wanted something that was tamper-proof. That is why the casket was changed in the first place.”

He said it was Mugabe’s idea in the first place.

He explained that Mugabe had previously expressed concern about what would happen to his body after death.

“He said to his wife … ‘If and when I’m gone, don’t leave my body. Be careful, people want to use my body.’ It was him who said it to the former first lady.

“We knew that spiritually he probably knows something,” said Leo.

The family kept the body at home the night before he was buried in keeping with his wishes.

AFP reported that family members threw white roses into the grave as the coffin, draped in navy blue velvet, was lowered to its final resting place in the courtyard of his rural home, about 90 kilometres from Harare.

A boys choir from Mugabe’s old high school sang in the background.TimesLive

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Robert Mugabe’s family rejects government burial plans

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Mugabe

The family of Robert Mugabe has said he will be buried in his home town in private, in an apparent snub to the government, which wants to inter him at a national monument.

Leo Mugabe, a nephew of Zimbabwe’s late ruler, said the ceremony would probably be held early next week in Zvimba district, about 60 miles (95km) north-west of the capital, Harare. “That is the decision of the family since last night unless something changes,” he told the Guardian.

Many of Mugabe’s relatives oppose government plans for the funeral and burial of the man who ruled the country for nearly 40 years before he was ousted in a military takeover in 2017.

The ruling Zanu-PF party announced that Mugabe’s remains would be interred at a hilltop monument outside Harare on Sunday, after a ceremony at the nearby national stadium on Saturday, where dozens of prominent African leaders would be present.

However, friends and allies of Mugabe’s wife, Grace, have said he made clear he would prefer to be buried in Zvimba with only close relatives in attendance. They said Mugabe did not want his death to be exploited by his successors for political gain.

A meeting on Thursday between Mugabe’s family and officials at his home in Harare ended without agreement. Walter Chidhakwa, a spokesman for the family, said the funeral would go ahead but not the planned burial.

Earlier, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who succeeded Mugabe as president, said he had appealed to the family to set aside any bitterness. They are reportedly unhappy about his treatment of the former leader.

“Let bygones be bygones. The family is going to lead the programme, that’s why we haven’t released anything. We haven’t agreed how he will be buried,” Mnangagwa said.

The president, a veteran of the ruling Zanu-PF party and a decades-long close associate of Mugabe, said: “We will have to sit down first with Grace. As the government, there’s nothing we will do to go against your wishes. Let’s unite, he was our father.”

Mugabe died in a clinic in Singapore last week, aged 95. His body arrived on Wednesday, on a government-chartered private jet, at Zimbabwe’s main airport, where thousands of supporters had gathered.

On Thursday his casket was taken to a sports stadium in Harare, where thousands of onlookers packed the stands to see Mugabe lie in state for public viewing.

Several people were injured in a crush as they surged forward to try to view the casket. Some people were carried away on stretchers. The severity of their injuries wasn’t immediately clear.

Riot police later restored order, at times using batons to strike those waiting in a line.

Grace Mugabe sat on the podium to the side of the sports field while Mugabe’s casket was under a tent at the centre of the field. A military helicopter later landed on the field and took off after the coffin was placed inside.

Though much of his 37 years in power were marked by violence, economic mismanagement and corruption, the former guerrilla fighter is still revered as a liberation leader. Many in Zimbabwe see him as a national hero, remembering his role in the war against white rule. The Guardian

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Stampede at Mugabe’s memorial at Rufaro Stadium

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Stampede at Robert Mugabe’s memorial

Several people have reportedly been injured in a stampede at the viewing event for founding Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, as those in attendance jostled in an attempt to see the late leader’s body.

Prior to this, it was reported that Mugabe’s body had arrived at Rufaro Stadium in Harare where the ceremony is taking place on Thursday afternoon.

Earlier, the body was taken to Mugabe’s Harare villa, known as the Blue Roof for its blue pagoda-style structure, where family and supporters gathered to mourn.

His body has since been laid out for the public at the stadium and will later be transported to his homestead Zvimba for a wake.

Thousands are in attendance to pay tribute to the former leader.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared Mugabe a national hero after his death, indicating he should be buried at the National Heroes’ Acre monument.
These plans were rejected by the late former president’s family, who say the body will be displayed in his home village of Kutama on Sunday night, adding that he will then be buried in a private ceremony.

“His body will lie in state at Kutama on Sunday night followed by a private burial – either Monday or Tuesday – no National Heroes’ Acre. That’s the decision of the whole family,” Mugabe’s nephew Leo told the AFP news agency.

In a statement, the family said: “We note with extreme concern the manner with which the government of Zimbabwe has developed the programme for the funeral of the late Robert Gabriel Mugabe without consulting his immediate family, who were tasked with communicating his last wishes in regard to his funeral and burial.

“As his immediate family, we have also observed with a shock that the government of Zimbabwe is attempting to coerce us to accept a programme for the funeral and burial of the late Robert Gabriel Mugabe, which is contrary to his wishes on how he wished to have his mortal remains interred.

“As the immediate family of the late Mugabe, we are ready and willing to work with the government of Zimbabwe to develop a programme for the funeral and burial of the late Mugabe which is in conformance to his wishes on how his mortal remains will be interred.

“One of the wishes that Mugabe indicated was that his wife, Dr Grace Mugabe, must never leave the casket bearing his remains for the duration of the funeral proceedings while in Zimbabwe up until his mortal remains have been interred.

“To that end, we confirm that honourable Walter Chidakwa may communicate our position with relevant authorities to ensure that we develop a programme that conforms to the wishes of the late Mugabe. We have also tasked honourable Patrick Zhuwao to disseminate this statement.”

Mugabe died on a medical trip to Singapore, where he had been travelling regularly for treatment. A delegation including a vice president flew to Singapore to bring him home.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, former Cuban leader Raul Castro, and a dozen African presidents, including South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, are among those expected to attend Mugabe’s state funeral on Saturday in Harare, said Zimbabwe’s presidency.The Citizen

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