So, it is congratulations to President Emmerson Mnangagwa on winning the Presidential election. His party also controls parliament, which means there will be no excuse whatsoever for non-delivery. Mnangagwa now has his own mandate, in his own right, not one inherited from former President Robert Mugabe.

But the margin with which Mnangagwa won means that the protestations from Nelson Chamisa and the MDC Alliance should now be taken seriously if Mnangagwa's new administration is to have credibility and legitimacy.

Nelson Chamisa's approach was wrong this last week, as he sought to block the announcement of the results while he tried to double-check and tally the totals from polling stations in order to satisfy himself that he has indeed lost. Insistence on continuing to delay the result announcement because he disputed was not the main problem. It was his dishonest concealment of the fact that he was delaying the announcement because he was still double-checking and verifying. This led his supporters to think that ZEC was delaying the announcement just because they wanted to do so.

A public statement from Chamisa on this would even have saved the lives that were lost this week.

But that does invalidate his concerns.

His concern is understandable. The margin just looks too flimsy. And when that margin is attacked with accusations, these have to be put to bed. If the margin had been bigger, from at least 53%, most people would ask Nelson Chamisa to simply accept the result and move on.

But this is different.

It is in the interests of President Mnangagwa, Nelson Chamisa and all their supporters that this result be verified, independently.

It would also be criminal and treasonous for NGOs like ZESN to keep quiet. They were funded by international partners to put polling agents in every polling station in Zimbabwe.

People's lives are at stake, with some already have died. Which means there is moral responsibility on the part of ZESN, other opposition political parties and ZEC to make sure that they each publicly disclose what they got at polling stations and compare it publicly to each other's conclusions, ward by ward, polling station by polling station.

Until this is done, for more than 2 million Zimbabweans, what was announced today remains not an election result, but an opinion.

There is no way, no way whatsoever, we can build lasting institutions, strong, grounded in the rule of law, unless ZEC and other partners immediately and urgently work to verify these results.

Nobody should listen to the MDC Alliance only. And no one should listen to ZEC only.

ZEC themselves should shoulder a large part of blame for where we are now, through their legalistic approach which fueled suspicion and set the wrong impression and narrative with a large part of the population.

Their communication is atrocious, shocking.

Their professionalism is not in any doubt amongst neutral observers. They all recognise that the appalling lack of empathy on the part of ZEC is born out of a too legalistic approach that approached this election with no heart.

Why, if they were interested in protecting the integrity of the final outcome, would they not, for instance, issue a statement notifying the nation just prior to sending out postal votes?

Things like that are basic, Communication/PR 101. It's a no brainer if one understands perception management strategy. Anticipate. Pre-empt.

But that lack of communication skills led to a perception of lack of transparency.

Indeed, they were right to not want to treat the Alliance as an exception, a special entity, especially when it was a new animal, whose support base could had basically not been tested, unlike the MDC-T, which could demand extraordinary attention because it had substantial numbers in the outgoing parliament.

So ZEC chose to instead treat them exactly like Joice Mujuru's coalition, CODE, Elton Mangoma's Alliance, Dr Nkosana Moyo etc. Saying, for instance, that any issues the MDC Alliance wanted to raise should be taken to the Multi-party Liaison platform so that MDC Alliance agrees with other parties how to resolve these issues.

Nelson Chamisa's skillful perception management appears skillful only because of the way ZEC responded to him. Even though some of his demands were ridiculous, when he trimmed them down to focus on the transportation, security and storage of ballot material, some concession should have been made.

If ZEC had done this, we would not have a dispute right now.

So, an audit can not be escaped. The contribution of ZESN and other players can not be escaped.

We would strongly urge that, this time, ZEC involves the services of an independent external auditor as had previously been suggested to them. Resources to pay an external auditor may be problematic, but we should be able to get one of the international partners like the EU or DFID to fund the cost of this exercise. It is an exercise that will obviously involve all parties involved.

There should not be a cloud hanging over Mnangagwa's triumph.

If the President allows this take place, it will also demonstrate to all of us that the President and his party/government have taken us into a new era where we respect the opposition enough to address reasonable concerns they may have.

And the need for an audit and verification is not only reasonable, but inescapable.


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