The opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) has said the recent by-elections held in Chipinge (Manicaland) and Kariba (Mashonaland West) have confirmed the urgent need for Zimbabwe to implement electoral reforms. In a statement seen by Pindula News, CCC spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere said despite the CCC winning both seats, there were numerous irregularities which need urgent attention ahead of the 2023 elections. Reads the statement
CHIPINGE, KARIBA BY-ELECTIONS CONFIRM URGENT NEED FOR ELECTORAL REFORM
On 23 July 2022, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) conducted by-elections in Ward 16 under Chipinge Rural District Council and in Kariba’s Ward 5. Despite significant odds, the CCC won both seats. No other political party was able to win a seat during this weekend’s electoral contest. We express our gratitude to all citizens who voted emphatically for change despite an electoral environment that was not free or fair.
We note with concern numerous electoral irregularities that were reported by our polling agents who ably manned all voting stations. In Kariba, there were numerous episodes of vote buying by Zanu PF which was giving away cash ranging from US$5 to US$20 in exchange for votes on voting day. Our intelligence team identified homes where money was being disbursed to persons who were said to have voted for Zanu PF. Our polling agents promptly reported these incidents resulting in the bases being dismantled. In the lead-up to voting day, voters were given hampers, sweets, new curriculum school textbooks and other trinkets in exchange for votes. (We are further)
In Chipinge, Zanu PF thugs forced citizens to say they could not vote and instructed them to pose as ‘assisted voters.” They were forced to take pictures of their ballot slips. Those who had voted are being interrogated about who they voted for. Our polling agents made a formal complaint to ZEC. Following our complaints, police officers stepped in to remove Zanu PF thugs from the surrounds of the polling stations. Our polling agents report that those purporting to assist voters have been limited to assisting no more than 2 people each. In the circumstances, we are surprised by ZEC’s press statement denying that persons were being forced to take pictures of their ballot papers, which statement was issued without any formal investigation being conducted at the affected polling stations and without any opportunity being afforded to our polling agents to further shed light on the irregularities. We will be engaging ZEC on this matter and taking further steps to ensure such irregularities do not occur in the future.
We reiterate our demand for electoral reforms. The irregularities pointed to above demonstrate that the electoral playing field is not free or fair. In any election, the margin of victory is critical. The clear attempts by Zanu PF to suppress the CCC vote without any sanction from ZEC is unconstitutional. ZEC must reform and uphold its mandate to act in an independent, professional manner or be disbanded.
Moreover, re-affirm our demand for 7 electoral reforms as a minimum prerequisite to the holding of a free and fair election in 2023.
1. ZEC must give full effect to the right to vote
We call for improved access to identity registration documents, implementation of the diaspora and prison vote in line with the Constitution, better voter education by ZEC to assure citizens that their vote is their secret and ensuring there are mechanisms to curb electoral malpractices when they occur. The voter registration process must be made more accessible to all citizens through the conduct of more blitzes coupled with voter education and awareness campaigns to ensure more eligible citizens register to vote. In fact, voter registration should be automatic when a citizen turns 18 and must take place concurrently when a citizen collects their identity documents.
2. We demand a credible voters’ roll
There is need to ensure that there is a credible voters’ roll in line with regional best practice. Ghost voters must be removed. The unilateral movement of registered voters must not be allowed. We call for the public display of provisional voters’ rolls with pictures at polling stations for inspection. The updating of the voters’ roll must be transparent including evidence to support any movement of voters and fair notice when this takes place. All political parties must be allowed to sign off on the final voters roll. Polling agents must be allowed to verify each voter using the officially issued voters’ roll as they are processed for voting on polling day.
3. We call for a real-time and credible results management system
We advocate for a real-time and credible results management system. The announcement of results must be polling station-based and the results must be displayed publicly and immediately after the election. The said results must be verifiable as required by the Constitution. Polling station results must be collated to arrive at the ward, constituency and national election results. Additionally, the ZEC results transmission process must be publicly tested for functionality and accuracy ahead of the elections. ZEC must make a public assurance that there will be no deviation from the legally prescribed route of transmission of results. Only polling officials, polling agents and accredited observers should be allowed to communicate polling data or election results. Police officers should not be given any polling data or election information for any reason whatsoever. No polling official should be allowed to use their personal phone to communicate polling data or results except as prescribed in the results management system. ZEC should upload all V11 forms to support and verify their final election results. These must be made available to stakeholders that require them during the 6 month period in which election residue should be kept safe.
4. Polling material and personnel must be secure, ZEC must act constitutionally
As is mandated by the Constitution, we demand integrity, independence and professionalism from all ZEC commissioners and personnel. This must include consultative polling station allocation, ballot printing verifiability, transparent polling material procurement and respect for tender procedures, security of the production, printing, transportation, storage of polling material. Polling agents must always be safe from violence and intimidation. The number of printed ballot papers must match with the number prescribed in the Electoral Act. Political parties should be allowed to monitor the procurement, production, transportation, delivery, storage and distribution of ballot papers to verify the numbers and quality printed. All polling officials recruited or seconded to ZEC to support the election process should have their names publicly displayed at the polling stations where they will be displayed for public scrutiny ahead of the election. The recruitment of polling officials including ZEC presiding officers must be public and objections by stakeholders must be carefully considered.
5. Access to media and political reforms
We call for fair and equal access to state media including fair and equal airplay and coverage on all state media including ZBC. We further demand an end to the onslaught against journalists and respect for free speech.
6. Security of the vote
We demand security of the vote and respect for the will of the people. We call for internationally supervised elections, the implementation of transitional mechanisms to ensure the smooth transfer of power as well as independent and credible dispute resolution mechanisms should there be any contest relating to the outcome of the election. We further call for the reform and independence of state institutions including the defence forces, the police service, military, ZEC, the judiciary and traditional leaders. These institutions must be non-partisan as required by the Constitution.
7. Security of the voter
We call for an end to “command voting” including the abuse of the assisted voter procedure as well as voter intimidation, violence and harassment. Citizens must be allowed to express their political choices without fear of any repercussions. Traditional leaders must be independent and not be abused by politicians to pursue narrow political agendas. Food aid must not be weaponized for political purposes. Vote buying should not be allowed. There should be clear sanctions for those who engage in vote buying.
In conclusion, the electoral environment in Zimbabwe is far from free and fair. Key recommendations of observer missions have not been implemented. The electoral playing field has become worse, very uneven as shown by the by-elections where incidents of political persecution, targeted arrests, abductions and political murders have increased exponentially. We continue to put the international community on notice that there is need to ensure that there are long-term observer missions in addition to short-term observers to mitigate against the electoral malpractices that are already at play. We urge citizens to register to vote in their millions to ensure we work together to win Zimbabwe for change. The people deserve a Zimbabwe where there is opportunity, dignity and freedom for all.
Vote for change.