When Emmerson Mnangagwa pushed long-time friend and fellow revolutionary Robert Mugabe out of the Zimbabwean presidency last year, he promised to deliver far-reaching political and economic reforms to a tired, run-down nation.
Part of that package included a commitment to holding a “free and fair” election.
When Mnangagwa and his fellow Zanu-PF party members swept the contest in July he told supporters “our democracy has indeed come of age”.
“In just nine months we’ve birthed a new Zimbabwe,” the 76-year-old stated at his inauguration ceremony in the 60,000-seat National Stadium in the capital of Harare.
But critics from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) say very little has changed in Zimbabwe.
According to MDC leader Nelson Chamisa, “the result was stolen” through, “fraudulent, illegal, illegitimate means”.
International observers also had concerns, with the EU criticising the “unlevel playing field and lack of trust in the process”, and the US highlighting a failure to protect basic human rights.
Sky News discovered evidence of election-related intimidation and harassment when we met opposition members hiding in safe-houses and hostels in the capital.
They told us they had been forced to flee their homes in rural Zimbabwe by members of the ruling party.
Happyness Mutata, who farms a small plot in a place called Uzumbamarambapfungwa, signed up as an MDC election monitor at the polling station in his local village.
He said he witnessed widespread intimidation by local Zanu-PF leaders on election day and instances of Zanu officials filling out ballot papers for residents who were capable of doing it themselves.
“I saw Zanu provincial members who live in our community, loitering in the queues of people, influencing them to vote for Zanu and promising that if they do not do that they will not stay peaceful in those areas,” he said.
“They were filling out forms for constituents. They were forced to be assisted by Zanu supporters.
“They had no choice.”
Mr Mutata said that later that evening, 20 members of Zanu-PF turned up at his door and threatened to kill him.
“I was very afraid because they had already beaten me [during the election]in 2008,” he said.
“That is why I ran away [for]my life with my family.”
Among the hundreds of activists and organisers who have been hiding in Harare is a 52-year-old farmer from eastern Zimbabwe called David Chamanga.
Mr Chamanga said he was targeted by Zanu-PF supporters when he put up MDC election posters – the only person in his area who was prepared to publicly endorse an opposition party.
“After I put some posters up, Zanu-PF people started harassing me and my wife, saying they were going to kill me,” he told Sky News.
On the evening of election day, Mr Chamanga said three members of the ruling party burnt down his house and outbuildings while he and his family were at church.
Sky News accompanied Mr Chamanga and his eldest son as they returned to what remained of their home.
The allegations of vote-rigging, intimidation and election-related violence matter because Mr Mnangagwa’s ‘reformed’ Zimbabwe has approached the international community for assistance in the form of billions of pounds of loans and financial guarantees.
Countries like the UK – and organisations like the International Monetary Fund – must now decide whether Zimbabwe is a country they want to invest in.
From – SkyNews