A recount of ballots in the Zimbabwe presidential election may be completed by Monday, leading to an announcement of the results nearly a month after voting took place, the chairman of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said Saturday.

“As I speak, 18 constituencies have completed the recounting exercise, leaving a balance of five constituencies,” Chairman George Chiweshe said at a news conference. “These are on the verge of completion.”

“We trust that by Monday, this process will have been concluded, and immediately the ZEC will invite the four presidential candidates or their agents to verification … leading to the announcement of the results of the presidential election,” Chiweshe said. However, he added, “I cannot say exactly when [presidential results] will be announced.”

The election was held March 29. In initial results, the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, declared a majority of parliamentary seats, but the electoral commission began recounting — by hand — ballots in 23 voting districts last week after President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party complained of count irregularities.

Zanu-PF needed to reverse the vote in at least 14 districts in order to keep a majority in the parliament; however, none of the first 13 seats recounted was changed, according to the electoral commission’s Chief Operations Officer Utolile Silaigwana, meaning the opposition majority was assured.

Chiweshe said of the recount, “there are no major changes so far. There are only variations in figures.”

The Movement for Democratic Change has said that the recount was illegal because it was outside the 48 hours immediately after the initial count.

Saturday’s announcement of the results came the day after hundreds of armed police raided opposition offices and independent election observers.

The police seized computers and documents from the Movement for Democratic Change party headquarters and arrested about 360 people, the majority of whom were refugees who had fled the countryside, Secretary-General Tendai Biti said from South Africa.

Biti said those arrested included “pregnant women and very young children, babies. Those arrested also include key members of staff and some of our politicians.”

He said he had received his information from eyewitnesses.

A police spokesman said that 200 people were picked up at Movement for Democratic Change headquarters, known as Harvest House.

“We haven’t arrested them officially. We are busy screening them and keeping those whom we are interested in,” Wayne Bvudzijena said.

Biti called the police account “a fiction and a lie.”

“They brought heavily armed personnel to the office of an unarmed civilian organization, and I ask you, why are they going there? And what is the legal reason? They brought in hundreds of policemen to arrest the civilians, basically refugees,” he said.

Biti also said police were not writing up reports of complaints from the opposition “for fear of documenting this, for keeping records.”

A journalist, who asked not to be named because of threats to his safety, said police arrived in several trucks and a bus and took away several people from the opposition offices in Harare who were “limping and in pain.”

Referring to those people, Bvudzijena said, “What are they doing at Harvest House if they were injured? It is not a hospital. It’s folly on the part of the MDC to keep people who have been injured. Those cases should be reported so that investigations can commence.”

Tags: