The Republic of Zimbabwe held a presidential election along with a parliamentary election on March 29, 2008. The three major candidates were incumbent President Robert Mugabe of the Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), and Simba Makoni, an independent. As no candidate received an outright majority in the first round, a second round was held on June 27, 2008 between Tsvangirai (with 47.9% of the first round vote) and Mugabe (43.2%). Tsvangirai withdrew from the second round a week before it was scheduled to take place, citing violence against his party's supporters. The second round went ahead, despite widespread criticism, and led to victory for Mugabe.
Because of Zimbabwe's dire economic situation the election was expected to provide President Mugabe with his toughest electoral challenge to date. Mugabe's opponents were critical of the handling of the electoral process, and the government was accused of planning to rig the election; Human Rights Watch said that the election was likely to be "deeply flawed". After the first round, but before the counting was completed, Jose Marcos Barrica, the head of the Southern African Development Community observer mission, described the election as "a peaceful and credible expression of the will of the people of Zimbabwe."
No official results were announced for more than a month after the first round. The failure to release results was strongly criticized by the MDC, which unsuccessfully sought an order from the High Court to force their release. An independent projection placed Tsvangirai in the lead, but without the majority needed to avoid a second round. The MDC declared that Tsvangirai won a narrow majority in the first round and initially refused to participate in any second round. ZANU-PF has said that Mugabe will participate in a second round; the party alleged that some electoral officials, in connection with the MDC, fraudulently reduced Mugabe's score, and as a result a recount was conducted.
After the recount and the verification of the results, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced on May 2 that Tsvangirai won 47.9% and Mugabe won 43.2%, thereby necessitating a run-off, which was to be held on 27 June 2008. Despite Tsvangirai's continuing claims to have won a first round majority, he initially decided to participate in the second round. The period following the first round was marked by serious political violence. ZANU-PF and the MDC each blamed the other's supporters for perpetrating this violence; Western governments and prominent Western organizations have blamed ZANU-PF for the violence. On June 22, 2008, Tsvangirai announced that he was withdrawing from the run-off, describing it as a "violent sham" and saying that his supporters risked being killed if they voted for him. The second round nevertheless went ahead as planned with Mugabe as the only actively participating candidate, although Tsvangirai's name remained on the ballot. Mugabe won the second round by an overwhelming margin and was sworn in for another term as President on June 29.
The international reaction to the second round have varied. The United States and states of the European Union have called for increased sanctions. On July 11, the United Nations Security Council considered imposing sanctions on the Zimbabwe. The sanctions were vetoed by Russia and China. The African Union has called for a "government of national unity.
Preliminary talks to set up conditions for official negotiations began between leading negotiators from both parties on July 10, and on July 22, the three party leaders met for the first time in Harare to express their support for a negotiated settlement of disputes arising out of the presidential and parliamentary elections. Negotiations between the parties officially began on July 25 and are currently proceeding with very few details released from the negotiation teams in Pretoria, as coverage by the media is barred from the premises where the negotiations are taking place. The talks were mediated by South African President Thabo Mbeki.
A final deal was reached on September 11, 2008, possibly with Tsvangirai chairing the council of ministers and Mugabe chairing a new national security council.
In 2006, ZANU-PF National Chairman John Nkomo was one of the first to announce he would be ready to contest the election for ZANU-PF if Mugabe chose to retire. Abel Muzorewa, the only prime minister of Zimbabwe Rhodesia, suggested on 21 June 2007 that he might run, claiming that people were urging him to do so.
Mugabe was chosen by acclamation as ZANU-PF's presidential candidate for the 2008 election by delegates at a December 2007 party congress. John Nkomo said that he "did not hear any dissenting voices" and that the congress had "fully and unreservedly" backed Mugabe.
On January 25, 2008, the date of the election was announced as March 29. A spokesperson for the faction of the MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai denounced this as "an act of madness and arrogance", while the leader of the other MDC faction, Arthur Mutambara, said that a free and fair election could not be held under the existing conditions, calling for a new constitution to be adopted prior to the election. Talks between the MDC and ZANU-PF collapsed following the announcement of the election date; the MDC had wanted the dialogue to affect the election, while ZANU-PF wanted to hold the election on schedule in March and for any changes agreed in the talks only to take effect afterwards.
Simba Makoni, a former Finance Minister who was a leading member of ZANU-PF, formally announced on 5 February 2008 that he would be a candidate. He is running as an independent. Joseph Chinotimba from the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association threatened Makoni, and ZANU-PF declared Makoni to be expelled from the party; it said that anyone supporting him would be expelled as well. On 11 February, Tsvangirai confirmed that he would be the candidate of his faction of the MDC in the election, ending speculation that he might rally behind Makoni's candidacy. Although Tsvangirai said that Makoni was a patriot, he was otherwise sharply critical, saying that Makoni had "been part of the establishment for the last 30 years" and therefore shared responsibility with Mugabe for Zimbabwe's situation. He furthermore expressed his view that Makoni intended to merely "reform an institutionalised dictatorship" and was "old wine in a new bottle".
On 15 February 2008, Mugabe, Tsvangirai, and Makoni filed their nomination papers and were confirmed as candidates by Ignatius Mushangwe, the Electoral Commission's presiding officer. Mugabe's papers were submitted by Emmerson Mnangagwa, while Tsvangirai's were submitted by Nelson Chamisa; Makoni submitted his papers in person. A fourth candidate, Langton Towungana, was also confirmed, running as an independent. William Gwata of the Christian Democratic Party attempted to run, but his papers were rejected because they were judged as not meeting the criteria, while Daniel Shumba, formerly of ZANU-PF, appeared too late to submit his papers. Zimbabwe People's Party Justine Chiota also attempted to run, but the Electoral Commission rejected his nomination papers. Mutambara announced on the same day that he would not run for President and would instead back Makoni, while contesting the parliamentary election in Zengeza West. Makoni nevertheless stressed that he was running alone and was "not in an alliance with anyone".
Mugabe spoke about Makoni's candidacy for the first time on February 21, calling it "absolutely disgraceful", comparing Makoni to a prostitute, and saying that Makoni had a self-important attitude. Mugabe also said on the same occasion that Western countries would not be permitted to send observers for the election. Also on February 21, the MDC factions said that their dialogue with ZANU-PF, which collapsed after the announcement of the election date in January, had failed. The factions said that the outcome of the election would not be legitimate.
There were about 5.9 million registered voters and about 11,000 polling stations, compared to about 4,000 polling stations in the 2005 parliamentary election. The Zimbabwe Election Support Network said that there were insufficient polling stations in urban areas, where the opposition is considered stronger, while the availability of polling stations was better in rural areas, where ZANU-PF is considered stronger. According to the Electoral Commission, it planned to deploy 107,690 polling officers to oversee voting.
The Public Holidays and Prohibition of Business Notice 2008, published on March 17, declared March 29 to be a public holiday. This was accompanied by the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Amendment of Electoral Act) (No. 2) Regulations, 2008, which allows police to enter polling stations. This ended a previous law, put in place in 2007 as a result of talks between ZANU-PF and the MDC, that required police to stay 100 meters away from polling stations. The regulations amended Sections 59 and 60 of the Electoral Act, providing for electoral officers and police officers to assist illiterate voters (in the case of Section 59) and physically incapacitated voters (in the case of Section 60). The change was criticized by Tsvangirai and Makoni.
Other changes agreed upon in the talks between ZANU-PF and the MDC included the posting of results outside of polling stations and the provision that, if state television aired any candidate's advertising, then it had to also air advertising from other candidates. Security laws that could be used to prevent MDC rallies were also moderated. The new rules also stipulated that presidential results may only be announced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.
Mugabe, voting in Harare, said: "We are not in the habit of cheating. We don't rig elections." According to Mugabe, his conscience would not let him sleep at night if he tried to rig the election. Tsvangirai also voted in Harare, saying that he was certain of victory "in spite of the regime's attempt to subvert the will of the people"; he also claimed that the election could not be considered free and fair even if the MDC won. For his part, Makoni predicted that he would win with a score even higher than the 72% he had previously predicted.
The MDC said that ballot papers ran out at a polling station in Mt Dzuma constituency and in Wards 29 and 30 of Makoni South constituency (both constituencies in Manicaland). It also claimed that the indelible ink used for voting could be removed with detergent. Biti said that there was "absolutely no doubt we have won this election".
Some Zimbabweans living in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa held protests and mock voting in response to their exclusion from the election.
The ZEC allegedly contravened the Electoral Act by failing to make available to the MDC a hard copy of the roll.
On March 30, Tendai Biti claimed victory for the MDC at a news conference, saying that the party held the lead based on partial and unofficial results and that the trend was "irreversible". According to the MDC, results from 35% of polling stations (as posted on the doors of the polling stations) showed Tsvangirai with 67% of the vote. Leaders of the security forces and government officials had warned the opposition against announcing unofficial results. Presidential spokesman George Charamba said that if Tsvangirai's next step, after announcing unofficial results and declaring himself the victor, was to declare himself President, then that would be considered "a coup d'état and we all know how coups are handled". Meanwhile, the Electoral Commission expressed concern at the MDC's announcement of "purported results of the poll when in fact the results are being verified and collated", and it urged the people to be patient. Biti said that the MDC did not wait on the Electoral Commission's results because it did not trust the Commission and did not consider it to be independent.
Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa called an emergency meeting of SADC leaders for 12 April to discuss the post-election impasse. According to Mwanawasa, Zimbabwe's "deepening problems" meant that the issue needed to be "dealt with at presidential level". Jacob Zuma, meanwhile, said that he thought results should have already been announced, and he described the failure to release them as "unprecedented".
According to Chiweshe, Zanu-PF candidates in 23 constituencies lodged complaints within the prescribed 48 hours after the end of voting, and therefore their complaints could be considered under the Electoral Act. However, on April 13, Welshman Ncube, who as an MDC negotiator was involved in rewriting some contentious laws with Zanu-PF in 2007, disputed this, calling the complaints "concoctions after the fact". He accused Chiweshe of being a "blatant liar and a fraudster" and alleged that the Electoral Commission was working with ZANU-PF to change the outcome of the election, saying that the Commission had the ballot boxes for over two weeks and could have tampered with them. MDC Secretary for Legal Affairs David Coltart said: "The delay between the expiry of the 48-hour period and the writing of the letters of complaint by ZEC is inexplicable, unreasonable. The only inference one can draw from the delay is that the commission has connived with Zanu-PF and therefore acted illegally." He requested proof that the complaints had in fact been made within the acceptable timeframe.
The High Court on April 14 dismissed the MDC's petition requesting the immediate release of results, and the party was ordered to pay the court costs. Although he denounced the ruling, Tsvangirai said that the MDC would not appeal it because the party did not want to contribute to any further delay by doing so. Meanwhile, Rindai Chipfunde-Vava, the Director of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, which projected that Tsvangirai had received 49% of the vote, was arrested when arriving at the airport in Harare. He was held briefly for questioning before being released.
On April 15, the High Court's Judge Antonia Guvava deferred hearing an MDC legal challenge regarding the recount of ballots, saying that she needed time to read Uchena's ruling dismissing the request for the release of results on the previous day. She also said that she needed time to consider whether the MDC could file new evidence that was not included in the original affidavits.
The recount of votes in 23 constituencies began on April 19, with party representatives and foreign electoral observers present. It was initially expected to take three days, but due to delays on the first day at some polling stations, Utoile Silaigwana, the Electoral Commission's deputy chief elections officer, said on April 20 that it might take longer. Silaigwana attributed the delays to lengthy "initial consultations" and to polling agents arriving late. According to Silaigwana, the recount was "not a small exercise and we want to ensure that there are no mistakes this time around"; he said that it was going well and that there had been no complaints from either of the parties. However, MDC spokesman Chamisa denounced the process as "flawed and criminal", saying that it was a "circus" and that the government was "playing games with the people".
On 21 April 2008, a South African member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) observer team, MP Dianne Kohler-Barnard, said that the recount was "fatally flawed". She reported repeated miscommunication of venue addresses, protocol registers at several counting stations missing, ballot box seals holding the keys for the two padlocks on each box broken. One set of ballot boxes was missing a book of voting papers from the presidential election box, although all the other books were locked inside. Loose ballot box seals with serial numbers identical to those on already-sealed boxes were easily available.
Electoral Commission Chairman George Chiweshe said on April 23 that he expected presidential results to be released during the forthcoming weekend (April 26–27).
On April 17, Tsvangirai, speaking from Johannesburg, said that Mbeki should be "relieved of his duties" as mediator, and that he had asked Mwanawasa to "lead a new initiative, an initiative that will expand beyond that of Mr Mbeki". Meanwhile, in an interview with the BBC on the same day, Tsvangirai claimed that presidential envoys had approached the MDC on March 30, immediately following the election, and proposed the formation of a government of national unity. According to Tsvangirai, the MDC had been willing to consider this and had also been willing to guarantee that Mugabe and other leading members of ZANU-PF would not be prosecuted; however, he said that the resistance of ZANU-PF hard-liners caused the talks to collapse after a few days. Furthermore, Tsvangirai said in the interview that, if he became President, Mugabe could be placed on trial, either by the regular courts or by a potential "justice and truth commission". He said that, although he was staying outside the country for the time being, he was not in exile and planned to return to Zimbabwe.
On April 18, High Court Judge Guvava dismissed the MDC's application to stop the recount that was requested by ZANU-PF, ruling that the application was without merit and requiring the MDC to pay court costs. On the same day, in South Africa, the ANC backed SADC's decision to keep Mbeki in his role as mediator, despite Tsvangirai's call for him to be replaced.
In a report on April 19, Human Rights Watch alleged that "Zanu-PF members are setting up torture camps to systematically target, beat, and torture people suspected of having voted for the MDC", both to punish them and to pressure them into voting for Mugabe in a potential second round. The group asserted that there must be high-level complicity in this and criticized SADC and Mbeki for inaction. According to Human Rights Watch, it interviewed over 30 people who had suffered injuries in the camps.
Biti, speaking at a press conference in Johannesburg on April 20, described Zimbabwe as a "war zone" and urged the mobilization of UN organizations in the country, saying that the situation was no longer merely a political crisis, but a humanitarian crisis as well. According to Biti, 500 MDC supporters had been attacked, 400 had been arrested, and ten had been killed; he also said that 3,000 families had been displaced. Because key members of the administration of the MDC had been arrested, the party was unable to function, according to Biti. Like Tsvangirai, Biti was staying outside of Zimbabwe, expressing fear of arrest. On April 21, Deputy Information Minister Matonga dismissed the allegations of violence against the opposition as "lies that are being peddled by the MDC". He said that the purported ZANU-PF vigilante groups were "imaginary".
On April 21, 2008, Enos Nkala, one of the founders of the Zimbabwe African National Union and a former Defence Minister, appealed to Mugabe to retire because he had been rejected by the people. "I have information from very reliable sources that on April 1, everyone had the results including those of the presidential elections," he said. "The President wanted to go but there are people surrounding him who have committed heinous crimes against the people of Zimbabwe and they are afraid of a change of guard... Zanu PF was formed in my house in Harare and what is happening now is not one of the reasons why it was formed... It has been hijacked by criminals and people who can not be employed if they leave government. They are also holding Zimbabweans to ransom. Meanwhile, Dabengwa, who had backed Makoni, said that Makoni's campaign had accomplished its mission by preventing either Mugabe or Tsvangirai from winning a first round majority; he opposed holding a run-off and favored the formation of a transitional government of national unity followed by a new election.
Also on April 21, UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband, speaking in the British Parliament, described the situation as a "constitutional crisis" and said that Mugabe was trying "to steal the election"; he also said that Mugabe and ZANU-PF had "unleashed a campaign of violence" against opposition supporters. He furthermore described the pace of vote counting as "ludicrously slow" and said that the recount could not be trusted. Meanwhile, Zuma, who described the delay in results as unacceptable, called for African leaders to "move in to unlock this logjam" by sending a mission to talk to the parties and the Electoral Commission; he said that, while Mbeki was the mediator, the "gravity of the situation" made it desirable to send other leaders to assist in resolving the situation.
On April 21, the East Africa Law Society called an emergency Pan-African Citizens consultative meeting to be held in Dar es Salaam. It was to urge the African Union to take action on the election crisis in Zimbabwe. It brings together representatives of civil society, the legal fraternity, trade unions, academia and others.
Tsvangirai met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at a meeting of the UN Conference on Trade and Development in Accra, Ghana, on April 21, and he urged intervention by the United Nations and African Union.
In a joint statement on April 22, the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference, and the Zimbabwe Council of Churches called on SADC, the AU, and the UN to act to prevent the situation from deteriorating further, warning of the possibility of "genocide" if they did not. The statement alleged that "organised violence" was being employed against those suspected of supporting the MDC and that MDC supporters were being forced to repeat ZANU-PF slogans; it appealed for an end to voter intimidation.
At a press conference in Accra on April 22, Tsvangirai asked African leaders to acknowledge his claimed victory and said that Mugabe needed to make a "graceful" and "honourable" exit. The Herald published an opinion piece by Obediah Mukura Mazombwe on April 23 that called for negotiations mediated by SADC that would lead to the establishment of a transitional government of national unity, including both ZANU-PF and the MDC. Mazombwe argued that the political and economic situation made holding a second round unrealistic, and that the best solution would be the formation of a national unity government that would organize an entirely new election, with Mugabe remaining President during the transition. Chinamasa said, however, that Mazombe's article did not represent the position of ZANU-PF or the government, and he reiterated that ZANU-PF was opposed to a national unity government.
Also on April 23, Zuma said that there were other countries urging South Africa to use force in Zimbabwe, but that South Africa believed in resolving the situation through "quiet diplomacy" and negotiations. He also said that a national unity government was something worth considering and that it was not premature to discuss it as an option. In London, Zuma and Brown issued a joint statement in which they described the situation in Zimbabwe as a crisis and called "for an end to any violence and intimidation and stress[ed] the importance of respect for the sovereign people of Zimbabwe and the choice they have made at the ballot box." Brown, along with Amnesty International, additionally said that an arms embargo should be imposed on Zimbabwe, but Zuma said that he did not think that was necessary. Meanwhile, Joaquim Chissano, the former President of Mozambique, said that he and the Africa Forum, of which he is chairman, would be willing to get involved to help resolve the situation if regional leaders requested it.
Various attacks on farmers have been reported; in one instance, 10 farm workers were reportedly ambushed and beaten by ZANU-PF supporters, and in another instance a farmworker was reportedly stabbed to death. One farmer said that his family was held hostage on April 23 by war veterans seeking to force them off their property. Zimbabwean officials, however, alleged that activists of the MDC, disguised as ZANU-PF members, had perpetrated violence against the population, mimicking the tactics of the Selous Scouts during the liberation struggle. They alleged that there was a "predominance" of Selous Scouts in the MDC. The Sunday Mail published an article which claims that former Selous Scouts are training MDC youth activists in violent tactics, at locations near Tswane (Pretoria) and Pietermaritzburg in South Africa.
On 24 April, Jendayi Frazer, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, said at the beginning of a tour of Zimbabwe's neighbouring countries that Morgan Tsvangirai was the "clear victor" of the election. However, she also said that a "negotiated solution" might be necessary. Chinamasa described Frazer's utterances as "patently false, inflammatory, irresponsible and uncalled for". In Zambia on April 27, Frazer said that if a government of national unity was formed, it should be led by Tsvangirai.
On April 28, the Harare High Court ordered that all of the people arrested at the MDC headquarters be released. The police did not immediately do so, but Bvudzijena said that 29 people had been released, most of them women, the elderly, and infants; he also said that the police had asked those who had suffered from political violence to identify the individuals who were responsible for the violence. The police released the remainder of those who were arrested at the MDC headquarters on April 29, in compliance with the High Court's order, without charge, although it continued to hold three others. Meanwhile, U.S. President George W. Bush criticized Mugabe, saying that he had "failed" Zimbabwe, and accused the Zimbabwean government of intimidating the people; Bush also said that it was the responsibility of other countries in the region to "step up and lead" with regard to Zimbabwe.
The verification and collation of presidential results was scheduled to begin on May 1 at the Harare International Conference Centre. On April 30, Agence France-Presse reported that "sources close to the electoral commission" claimed that Tsvangirai had received about 47–50% of the vote, but not a majority. On the same day, the MDC alleged that the number of people killed in post-election violence had risen to 20, while Human Rights Watch's Africa director, Georgette Gagnon, alleged that "the army and its allies... are intensifying their brutal grip on wide swathes of rural Zimbabwe to ensure that a possible second round of presidential elections goes their way".
CNN reported on April 30 that a "unidentified senior official" credited Tsvangirai with 47% and Mugabe with 43%. Matonga said on May 1 that the government had its own results, and that according to these results a second round would be necessary, although he gave no specifics. A spokesman for Tsvangirai, speaking in Johannesburg, stated again that Tsvangirai would not participate in a second round: "If Robert Mugabe cannot accept the real results now, what's the guarantee he'll accept the real results after a runoff?" He said that the claims that a second round would be necessary were part of a government strategy to steal the election. Meanwhile, Tsvangirai said that he would return to Zimbabwe after the verification exercise is complete.
At the collation meeting on 1 May, the MDC presented their figures, which gave Tsvangirai 50.3%, thus avoiding a run-off; the ZEC tally, however, showed him with 47.8% to Mugabe's 43.2%. Emmerson Mnangagwa represented Mugabe at the meeting and Chris Mbanga represented Tsvangirai; Makoni was present in person. Talks were to continue on May 2. MDC spokesperson George Sibotshiwe said that the MDC wanted the Electoral Commission to account for 120,000 votes which, according to the Commission, went to Mugabe, although Sibotshiwe said that ZANU-PF had not claimed those votes. According to Sibotshiwe, if Tsvangirai was credited with these 120,000 votes, he would have a first-round majority.
Senegalese Foreign Minister Cheikh Tidiane Gadio met with Mugabe on May 1; afterwards, he said that Mugabe would participate in the second round and that Mugabe had pledged to "unhesitatingly accept the results of the second round and urged the opposition to take the same approach. Tsvangirai said in an interview with France 24 on the same day that a second round could not be held in an atmosphere in which Mugabe was "unleashing violence, death squads and violence against our structures".
On the same day, U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey expressed skepticism regarding the potential for a free and fair second round under the circumstances, alleging that "the government has done everything it can to both delay and obscure the results" and that it was intimidating and abusing the opposition. Similarly, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband demanded an end to "violence and intimidation" and said that "any second round must be free, fair and open to international monitors". Meanwhile, Makoni said that Zimbabwe could not afford to hold a second round and that "the way forward for this country is for the political leaders to work together".
Mbeki met with religious leaders on May 2 and expressed displeasure with what he described as interference by the United States and the United Kingdom that he said was subverting his attempts at mediation. On May 4, the U.S. embassy and the British High Commission in South Africa expressed their support for the role of Mbeki and SADC in mediating the situation.
At a meeting in Harare on May 3, the MDC leadership did not make a decision on whether to contest the second round; Tsvangirai participated in the meeting from Johannesburg through video link-up. On the same day, MDC Vice-President Thokozani Khupe described a run-off as "unlikely", but vowed that if one took place, the MDC would win "by an even bigger margin".
On May 4, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace said that the Electoral Commission could not be relied upon to handle the second round, and it called on the UN and the AU to supervise it instead. Meanwhile, the Progressive Teachers Union alleged that violence was being directed at teachers because they often served as election officers, with the intent of deterring them from acting in that role in the second round, and threatened a strike. Jean Ping, the Chairman of the African Union Commission, arrived in Harare late on May 4, along with the AU's political affairs commissioner, Julia Dolly Joiner, and its peace and security commissioner, Ramtane Lamamra. Ping was reported to have had "very constructive" discussions with Mugabe, as well as a "working meeting" with Chiweshe in which they "reviewed the entire electoral process from the start" and "look[ed] at all the scenarios for the coming weeks".
On 5 May 2008, Tsvangirai's spokesman George Sibotshiwe stated that the MDC had reached a decision, but that it would only be announced once the date for the run-off had been set. A meeting of SADC's political, defense and security committee in Angola resulted in a statement on May 5 calling on the Zimbabwean government to ensure security in the run-off. Meanwhile, ZANU-PF spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira called on all party members to vote for Mugabe in the second round, describing him as "a man who has transformed this country from being a colony to an independent, sovereign and dynamic state". According to Shamuyarira, many ZANU-PF supporters neglected to vote in the first round because they were sure that Mugabe would win. The party also called on its members, as well as opposition supporters, to avoid violence. The MDC alleged that five more of its supporters were killed on May 5, bringing its claimed death toll to 25.
Chiweshe suggested on May 6 that the second round might be held after the 21-day period following the announcement of results that is specified in the Electoral Act, noting that the Electoral Commission could extend the time if necessary, although he said that the Commission intended to hold the second round as early as possible. Matonga has said that it could potentially be delayed by as much as one year. British Prime Minister Brown said on May 6 that "there must at least be an immediate end to violence and international observers must be put in place now, well ahead of the vote itself", if it was "to be considered free and fair".
On 7 May the Pan African Parliament (PAP) Observer Mission said that the ZEC had long lost control of the electoral process and its constitutional obligation has been gravely compromised. The Observer mission questioned voter registration, and the excess of ballot papers printed, and called for a "timeous intervention" by the AU and the Southern African Development Community before the situation got "out of control". On the same day, the AU released a statement calling on "all the Zimbabwe political actors to conduct their activities in a free, transparent, tolerant, and non-violent manner" and urging "Zimbabwe to implement the conditions set out in the Declaration on the Principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa".
Kingsley Mamabolo, the head of South Africa's delegation to the SADC observer mission, said on May 7 that the second round could not take place in the existing atmosphere of violence. According to Mamabalo, Mbeki had sent a team to investigate the violence. On May 8, the MDC raised its claimed death toll to 30, while Gertrude Hambira, the General Secretary of the General Agriculture and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe, said that her union had recorded 40,000 people who had been displaced since the election. According to Hambira, the displaced persons were accused of supporting the MDC and were "attacked by a group of militias wearing army uniforms". Also on May 8, the President of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), Lovemore Matombo, and its Secretary-General, Wellington Chibebe, were arrested for allegedly inciting rebellion when speaking at a rally on May Day.
The BBC reported on May 9 that a Zimbabwean policeman had told it that there were plans to have war veterans present in polling stations during the second round, while dressed in police uniforms, in order to intimidate opposition supporters. On the same day, Mbeki arrived in Harare for talks with Mugabe and was met by Mugabe at the airport. Mbeki returned to South Africa after about four hours of talks.
Also on May 9, the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights said that in the violence following the election, 22 people had been killed and 900 had been tortured. However, the group said that it had become "impossible to properly document all cases" due to the scale of the violence, which the group claimed had seriously worsened during May.
Tsvangirai announced at a press conference in Pretoria on 10 May that he would contest the second round, calling for it to be held within three weeks of the announcement of results. He said that the MDC had consulted its supporters before making this "very difficult" decision and that its supporters would have felt "betrayed" if he chose not to participate. However, he made his participation conditional on "unfettered access of all international observers", the "reconstitution" of the Electoral Commission, and free access for the media, including the international press. Additionally, he wanted SADC peacekeepers to be present. He expressed his intention to return to Zimbabwe soon. Later on the same day, Tsvangirai met with Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos; he told dos Santos that, if he won the election, Mugabe would still be highly regarded as the "father of the nation", apparently retreating from his suggestion in April that Mugabe could face trial.
In an interview with the Sunday Mail published on 11 May 2008, Chiweshe stated that the run-off round would not be held within the three weeks, but at a later date. He said that the Electoral Commission still needed money to be allocated by the government. Meanwhile, Chinamasa stated that the government would not consider admitting Western observers unless Western governments revoked their sanctions against Zimbabwe. Also on May 11, 58 opposition activists in Shamva were arrested for alleged public violence. Meanwhile, speaking to the press in Harare, Chinamasa said that ZANU-PF would only consider the possibility of a national unity government after the second round was held, and he questioned why Tsvangirai would support such an arrangement if he had truly won a majority. He said that ZANU-PF was "eagerly waiting for the date so that we can put the election behind us and forge ahead with our programmes", stressing the importance of unity among the people and the need to put an end to "the current polarisation" but also drawing a sharp contrast between ZANU-PF and the MDC. According to Chinamasa, the government would pay for the second round itself, without any external assistance.
Heya Shoko, an elected MDC MP, was arrested on May 12 in connection with violence in his constituency, while the President and Secretary-General of the ZCTU appeared in court for the first time and were denied bail. Regarding Tsvangirai's anticipated return, Matonga said that any threat to Tsvangirai could be dealt with by the police, but he said that he was not aware of any such threat, remarking that "as far as we know he is on holiday, at the same time trying to drum up support for his campaign to demonise Zimbabwe."
On 13 May 2008, Tsvangirai stated that he would be willing to compete in the run-off if at least SADC election observers would be present, softening his previous demand for free access to all international observers. He also said that if a delay was necessary, the second round still needed to be held "within a reasonable period".
On the same day, a number of diplomats, including U.S. Ambassador James McGee, were questioned by police for about 45 minutes at a checkpoint near Harare; they were also questioned when visiting a rural hospital and meeting with people who had been injured in violence following the election. The U.S. government criticized this as "harassment". On May 14, The Herald alleged that the diplomats were engaged in a "spirited campaign to demonise the government ahead of the presidential election run-off" and said that they had "circumvent[ed] diplomatic protocol" during their trip by going more than 40 kilometers from Harare without obtaining the Foreign Ministry's approval.
SADC Executive Secretary Tomaz Salomão said on May 14 that SADC intended to send 200 or more observers (possibly over 300) to Zimbabwe for the second round. He also said that SADC would not send any peacekeepers and urged the parties to behave responsibly. According to Salomão, SADC could not describe the situation as safe or fair for the time being, but he hoped that SADC could "create a conducive environment for everybody to be confident".
In a statement from Chinamasa on behalf of the Electoral Commission that was published in a special government gazette on 14 May 2008, it was announced that the period in which the second round must be held was extended from 21 days to 90 days after the announcement of results. The MDC denounced this as "illegal and unfair", intended to "give Mugabe and ZANU-PF time to torment and continue a campaign of violence on the MDC". The ZESN also asserted that holding the second round after 21 days would be illegal. Chinamasa, expressing confidence in a victory for Mugabe, also announced on 15 May that ZANU-PF would start campaigning for the run-off, under the theme "100 percent empowerment: Total Independence", as soon as ZEC set the date for the second round. According to Chinamasa, the campaign theme was based on ZANU-PF's view that true independence must include economic independence and that, despite the existing economic crisis, the ultimate reward for pursuing this path would be full empowerment of the people.
Amnesty International said on May 15 that violence was approaching "crisis levels", alleging that MDC supporters were being attacked in a district in Midlands Province as well as in a district in Mashonaland Central; the group placed the death toll from post-electoral violence at 22. According to Amnesty International, "local youths" were being recruited by war veterans for such attacks and the police seemed "unwilling to stop the violence", although they did arrest MDC supporters suspected of engaging in violence. On the same day, Biti also claimed that violence was increasing and placed the death toll at 33, while saying that Zimbabwe could not afford for the situation to continue for another 90 days. He said that Tsvangirai would return to Zimbabwe in the forthcoming weekend so that he could be present for an MDC campaign rally and a caucus of elected MPs. Meanwhile, Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri met with church leaders and told them that ZANU-PF and the MDC were both orchestrating violence from rural bases, but he said that the police were working to dismantle these bases.
The ZEC published an announcement in the government gazette on 16 May 2008 stating that the run-off would be held on 27 June 2008. In an interview with The Herald on the same day, Chiweshe said that additional time was needed for the second round because "resources were depleted during the first election"; he stressed that the second round would be "just as big as any general election" and that "substantial" resources would be required. Speaking at a liberal conference in Belfast in Northern Ireland, Tsvangirai said that the June 27 date was illegal and that the government was "changing goal posts to suit themselves" but reiterated his intention to participate; while expressing confidence in victory, he described the MDC as "a government-in-waiting that is not prepared to wait anymore".
Addressing the ZANU-PF Central Committee on May 16, Mugabe was sharply critical of his party's performance in the election, describing the first round result as "disastrous". He said that ZANU-PF had gone into the election "completely unprepared, unorganised" and that the entire party leadership from the national to the local level had to share the blame. Mugabe also accused the MDC of terrorizing ZANU-PF supporters in rural areas and warned the MDC that it was "playing a very dangerous game".
Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi stated on May 16 that all observers who had been invited for the first round would automatically qualify to observe the second round, as well; this includes the AU, the Pan African Parliament, SADC and the East African Community, among others.
The ZESN alleged on May 16 that its observers were being attacked by ZANU-PF supporters and that some had been injured to the point of requiring hospitalization. According to ZESN Chairman Noel Kututwa, some of the group's observers had reported that it was "no longer safe to observe the election", but he nevertheless said that ZESN planned to "have as many polling stations covered as possible".
Although Tsvangirai had been expected to return to Zimbabwe on May 17, MDC spokesman George Sibotshiwe announced on that day that his return had been delayed due to information the party had received regarding a claimed plot to assassinate Tsvangirai. Some observers suggested that Tsvangirai's failure to return called into his question his leadership qualities and made it appear that he was afraid of Mugabe and unwilling to risk coming to harm despite the risks taken by his supporters remaining in Zimbabwe.
On May 18, The Guardian reported that political dissident Gibson Nyandoro had been tortured to death in military barracks - one of over thirty dissidents killed by ZANU-PF supporters, according to the British newspaper.
At a news conference in Nairobi on May 19, Biti said that the military intelligence directorate was in charge of the alleged plot to kill Tsvangirai and that 18 snipers were involved; he claimed that military intelligence had a hit list composed of 36 to 40 names, beginning with Tsvangirai, himself, and Chamisa. Nevertheless, Biti said that Tsvangirai would return soon. Matonga said that the government had no knowledge of such a plot and that Tsvangirai was "playing to the international media gallery".
ZCTU leaders Matombo and Chibebe were released on bail on May 19 by Judge Ben Hlatshwayo. Along with other restrictions, Hlatshwayo ordered that they "not address any political gatherings" until the conclusion of their case. In a statement on the same day, Human Rights Watch called on the African Union to "publicly demand that the Zimbabwean government halt its campaign of violence, torture and intimidation", alleging that at least 27 people had been killed. Meanwhile, US State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack said that the US was working with countries in the region "to help ensure that there are the proper conditions for a free and fair runoff election", including the independence of the Electoral Commission, the presence of international observers, lack of intimidation of the opposition by the army, free media access, and the ability for the opposition to move around the country peacefully.
On May 20, ZANU-PF Secretary for Youth Absolom Sikhosana called on the youth to vote for Mugabe. He said that many people in the first round "voted with their stomachs", hoping Tsvangirai could bring economy recovery, but according to Sikhosana "the same foreign interests who are promising an overnight turnaround in the event of a Tsvangirai presidency are the same who have destroyed the economy". Sikhosana said that, while Tsvangirai promised employment, Mugabe was offering more: "he is giving the youth the opportunity to own the means of production" and "have full charge of their environment and control their resources", which Sikhosana described as a prerequisite for national wealth. In The Herald on the same day, ZANU-PF spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira denied the existence of any plan to kill Tsvangirai, saying that it had "no foundation whatsoever except in his own dreams". Similarly, Matonga said that the claim of an assassination plot was "stupid". U.S. Ambassador James McGee called on Tsvangirai to return, noting his security concerns but saying that "as a strong leader, he should be back showing his people that he cares every bit as much for them as they do for him.
Also on May 20, in response to Chinamasa's proposal in the previous week to establish joint ZANU-PF/MDC committees to bring an end to the violence, Chamisa said that the MDC was willing to participate in these committees, but he nevertheless strongly criticized ZANU-PF. He said that ZANU-PF had made this offer only due to international pressure, that the violence was ongoing (by this point the MDC placed the death toll at 43), as part of a "grand plan to rig the elections" by attacking MDC supporters and displacing them from their constituencies, and he doubted that ZANU-PF would stop.
MDC MP Ian Kay was arrested on May 20 for alleged responsibility for violence in Mashonaland East, while another MDC MP, Amos Chibaya was arrested on May 21 for allegedly inciting junior officers in the police to rebel.