Zimbabwe election: Voters set for first ballot without Mugabe

Vote counting has started in Zimbabwe's first general election since long-term President Robert Mugabe was pushed out of office a year ago.

Mnangagwa faces the country's main opposition party the Movement For Democratic Change (MDC), which has a new leader in the form Nelson Chamisa, who took over from Morgan Tsvangarai following his death in February 2018.

On the eve of Zimbabwe's first election since his ouster in a de facto coup, the 94-year-old said he hoped his former allies in the "military government" would be voted out of power.

A presidential runoff will be held on September 8 if a candidate does not secure more than 50 percent of the votes.

Mnangagwa has repeatedly declared Zimbabwe "open for business" since he took office, but a credible election is key to lifting worldwide sanctions and opening the door to badly needed investment in a country whose economy has long collapsed.

Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga who was at the time of the intervention Defence Forces Commander, has declared that Operation Restore Legacy will only conclude after Mnangagwa's election for a full five-year mandate.

Since 2000, there have been huge food shortages in Zimbabwe because of rules that Mr Mugabe brought in to give farms back to black people.

On 19 November, he was removed as the leader of Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu-PF party and ex-vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa was made president in his place.

"Who in their normal senses would need to be reminded of how the people of Zimbabwe in their multitudes cast out Mugabe from power? We ask his family to concentrate on creating a Mugabe foundation and stop influencing the old man to issue comments damaging his legacy".

An ally of Mugabe said state security assigned to Mugabe at his private residence was withdrawn after Sunday's press conference, and soldiers had vandalised his property.

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"I said I can't vote for those who have caused me to be in this situation, so there is Chamisa left".

For Zimbabwe to be welcomed back into the worldwide fold, end painful sanctions and secure the donor funding programme it needs to stem chronic cash shortages, it needs the observers to at least sign off the vote as credible.

For the first time since 2002, election observers from the European Union and United States were allowed to monitor the process.

People had to re-register for this year's poll as the electoral commission introduced a biometric system to eliminate any "ghost voters" - though the opposition still alleges there are irregularities in the voters' roll.

The ZEC has repeatedly defended its independence.

"It is clear to all that Chamisa has forged a deal with Mugabe, we can no longer believe that his intentions are to transform Zimbabwe and rebuild our nation", he said.

Mnangagwa has made a big effort to win over foreign opinion; hosting Western ambassadors, courting investors and patching up relations with white commercial farmers who were violently evicted from their farms under Mugabe.

"Let him finish what he started".

Chigumba warned journalists and election agents against interviewing voters on their way to and out of the polling stations, adding that the actions could lead to the withdrawal of accreditation.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)

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