The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has been accused of moving 170 000 voters from their original constituencies and wards ahead of the March 26 by-elections.
The move is seen as being deliberately aimed at affecting the outcome of the elections.
Activists, Team Pachedu, an opposition political activism online group, expressed concern over the development, saying ZEC was illegally changing electoral boundaries without notifying voters as stipulated by the law.
Critics say the move could disenfranchise many voters.
Team Pachedu said a total of 170 867 addresses that were in the 2018 voters roll have been edited by ZEC between 2018 and 2022, with Glen View South having the highest number of edited addresses (19 758), followed by Mangwe, Lupane East, Zaka East, Luveve, Kuwadzana and Chiredzi North. Said Team Pachedu:
Zec has also moved many people from Glen View South constituency to Harare South constituency. The mass movement of voters across constituencies and wards when addresses have not changed implies that Zec is illegally changing electoral boundaries.
One typical illegal movement involves hundreds of voters from Zvimba East to Glen View South (Chirangano Car Park Tent).
For multiple voters in Chitungwiza South constituency, Zec has changed their former 2018 wards, yet their residential addresses have not changed at all. Who did Zec inform before making these sweeping changes in wards as required by the law?
After the 2018 elections, Zec created new polling stations and some of them are 6301HRE2807 C, Glen Norah (728 voters), 6301HRE3103 C, Glenview South (671 voters), 6301HRE3202 C, Glen View South (669 voters) and 5801KWE1402 C, Kwekwe Central (669) without informing anyone as required by the law.
ZEC chief elections officer, Utoile Silaigwana, said citizens or organisations affected by the changes should approach ZEC district offices. He said:
Can we see the claims because we haven’t received any complaints to date? You are very aware that the voter registration exercise is still underway, and so we can only have the correct information when it has been completed.
On its official Twitter handle, Zec said polling stations are allocated according to proof of residence provided by the voter. The commission added that a voter has an option to transfer his/her registration to an area of preference provided they submit the requisite documents.
Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) board chairperson, Andrew Makoni, said the trends were worrying as it could disenfranchise voters. Makoni added:
Yes, it disfranchises voters as many will fail to vote because their wards have changed. Only Zec can provide the reasons why some voters may have been moved from one constituency to the other, and in this case from Glen View to Harare South as alleged.
Makoni also echoed ZEC’s remarks that it is possible for a voter to change his ward or constituency adding that they have to be the ones approaching ZEC seeking a transfer.
Election Resource Centre (ERC) programmes manager Solomon Bobosibunu said they were analysing the voters’ roll to establish if reports are accurate adding that ZEC cannot move registered voters without their consent.
ZEC has in the past been accused of being biased towards the ruling ZANU PF, allegations the commission refutes.