Zimbabwe (MNN) — Wednesday’s presidential election in Zimbabwe was declared a “huge farce” by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai at a news conference.
Tsvangirai accused the camp of his rival candidate, current President Robert Mugabe, of rigging the voting process.
“The credibility of this election has been marred by administrative and legal violations which affected the legitimacy of its outcome,” Tsvangirai stated. “It’s a sham election that does not reflect the will of the people.”
According to the largest observer group, around one million citizens were barred from voting. Monitors from the Zimbabwe Election Support Network said voters were turned away from 82% of urban poll booths, areas known as Tsvangirai supporters. But 38% of voters were turned away from the rural voting stations: a population known to back Mugabe’s party.
Mugabe has said he will step down from his 33-year reign as president if he and his Zanu-PF party are voted out. But Mugabe’s camp has already declared a victory and denies the fraud allegations, reports BBC. A lot will depend on whether or not Zimbabwe’s neighbors support the voting results.
Regional observers have said the voting went peacefully. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has started counting the votes and will know results in four days.
Deadly violence followed Zimbabwe’s elections in 2008 after Mugabe was re-elected. Greg Yoder with Christian World Outreach (CWO) says, “They’ve had a lot of problems in the past during elections. Our prayer is that this will be a peaceful election, that things will go smoothly, and that God will put a leader in there that will bring the country forward.”
If neither presidential candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, a run-off will take place on September 11.
Wherever things swing with the presidential leadership, Yoder says Zimbabwe needs more leaders on the individual level. “Our hope is that it will be a change for the better for the country as a whole, that they can start with their communities and that good things can happen there.”
For CWO, it starts with giving Christian leaders the Biblical tools to guide their communities. Yoder says, “I spoke to an African man after a big pastor’s conference that we just had last month and his view was they can tend to go with the wind. So it depends on which way the teaching is, they can go to that way and next time it can go the opposite way. So our big seminar with the pastors was [themed] Back to the Bible.”
Around 450 pastors and Christian leaders attended CWO’s leadership training conference last month in Zimbabwe. This was one of their bigger conferences, but CWO tries to at least have a small conference once a month.
“Our goal there is to train up leaders that really teach from the truth of the Bible and live as the Bible teaches to live so that they can be good leaders in their churches, in their communities,” says Yoder. “The one thing they say over and over is that they didn’t know the Bible applied to everyday life. So we’re hoping that will be a part of changing their lives so that they are seen as good leaders in their country.”
CWO has already seen Zimbabwean Christians step up in their communities. “We started with the leadership development and teaching the pastors, and out of that they said, ‘If we’re going to make a difference in our communities, the one area we need to work in is helping with the AIDS orphan,’” Yoder shares.
1.3 million children are orphaned by AIDS in Zimbabwe. This population makes up one-third of Zimbabwean kids, according to the National Aids Council. 50,000 households are headed by children under 18 who lost their parents to AIDS.
Christian leaders in Zimbabwe work with CWO for an AIDS orphan program called “Our Kids”. Several orphans are now living with families and receiving education in their communities. “Our goal there is to develop young leaders that might someday lead their country and help lead in all areas of life,” says Yoder.
There are over 450 AIDS orphans in the “Our Kids” program. It costs $35 per month to provide school fees, school uniforms, writing books, textbooks, medical care, and food kits.