Zimbabwe president promises ‘free and fair’ election

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday vowed that general elections expected later this year will be free and fair but issued a warning to “rogue” civic society organisations during an independence day speech.

The southern African country is due to hold presidential and legislative votes, expected to be in August, but no date has been announced yet.

The 80-year-old leader, who is seeking re-election, urged Zimbabweans to “say no to violence, before, during and after” the upcoming crunch vote.

“My government has put measures in place to ensure free, fair and credible elections”, he said in a speech delivered at an event to mark 43 years of independence from Britain.

The celebrations were held in the small town Mount Darwin, around 155 kilometres (around 100 miles) northeast of the capital Harare.

Mnangagwa’s ZANU-PF party has been accused in the past of using violence and intimidation to instil fear in opponents during elections.

Two days after the 2018 polls, soldiers killed five people when opposition protestors alleging fraud took to the streets of Harare, burning tyres and pulling down street signs.

Mnangagwa also warned of “voices, foreign or local, inclusive of rogue NGOs” sowing “seeds of division and disharmony among us”.

In early February the country’s parliament approved a bill banning civil society organisations from engaging in politics.

Under the new legislature, the state can intervene in the governance and activities of charities and civil groups, including making changes to their internal management and funding.

The law, which caused outcry from rights groups and the global community, states that violators would risk up to a year in jail.

The president has been accused of cracking down on political opponents.

In 2018 Mnangagwa won disputed elections that his main rival Nelson Chamisa insists were rigged.

The two will face off for a second time in the upcoming polls.

Nicknamed “the Crocodile” for his ruthless cunning, Mnangagwa replaced strongman ruler Robert Mugabe in 2017 after a military-led coup.

He faces widespread discontent as he struggles to ease entrenched poverty, end chronic power cuts and crippling unemployment.

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