RESPONSE BY THE ZIMBABWE ELECTORAL COMMISSION TO VARIOUS ALLEGATIONS RAISED ON ISSUES RELATED TO THE 26TH OF MARCH 2022 NATIONAL ASSEMBLY AND LOCAL AUTHORITY BY-ELECTIONS
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission wishes to respond and to set the record straight on various allegations that have been made against it by certain stakeholders regarding its mandate and other issues related to the 26th of March 2022 National and Local Authority by-elections.
The Commission is concerned that some stakeholders have gone on an overdrive to peddle misinformation and falsehoods in order to scuttle the smooth conduct of the by-election concerned.
Contrary to allegations that have been extensively reported both in some of the print media and the social media the correct state of affairs is as follows:
1. Changing of Party Symbols
The Commission categorically denies changing any symbol of any political party and wishes to advise all stakeholders concerned to dismiss these assertions with the contempt they deserve.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has always printed party symbols and pictures of candidates on ballot papers for elections in black and white.
All candidates have always been treated the same with no exception. This is done to ensure fairness to all and that no candidate is prejudiced or given an unfair advantage over others.
As already stated before, there is no law that obliges the Commission to print ballot papers or party symbols or candidate pictures in colours that correspond to contesting candidates or parties.
In conducting elections, the Commission is guided by a given legal framework and not by logic. The Commission is not averse to any changes in the law that will accommodate their concerns but it would be quick to remind them that they are the responsible parties for the enactment of laws in this country through their representatives in Parliament.
They are therefore encouraged to use the correct channel in so doing and not to allot blame where it should not be simply because certain legal positions do not satisfy their expectations.
Currently, the law only obliges the Commission to distinguish the colour of ballot papers where two elections coincide in line with Section 5 of the Electoral Regulations, 2005, SI 21 of 2005 and this has been the practice all along.
The assertion that ZEC has changed a political party symbol is therefore false and misleading.
2. The Voters Roll
The voters roll that will be in use during the forthcoming National Assembly and local authority by-elections scheduled for the 26th of March 2022 are those that closed in line with the provisions of Sections 26A and 121A(3) of the Electoral Act [chapter 2:13].
The voters’ rolls for the National Assembly by-elections closed on the 8th of January 2022 in line with the Presidential Proclamation No. 1 of 2022 while the closure for local authorities’ voters rolls varied depending on as and when the vacancies for the respective wards arose in line with the stated provisions.
For the avoidance of doubt and to clear the matter once and for all regarding the issue raised by a certain candidate and which has been extensively discussed on social media, the Commission confirms that she is a registered voter and this has already been communicated to her.
However, the Commission is still awaiting her submission of the voters roll allegedly furnished to her by the Commission wherein her name is missing. Despite numerous requests made to her, nothing has been furnished.
3. Alleged stringent requirements for Polling Agents
The Commission has indeed received a complaint from a stakeholder that it has received information to the effect that it will be recording names of polling agents for the purposes of contact tracing in the event of COVID-19 cases and that it has barred the bringing of cellphones, pens, notebooks and torch cells in the polling stations by polling agents.
The Commission wishes to place it on record that indeed names of people visiting or deployed at the polling stations will be recorded.
However, such recording will not be restricted to polling agents only but to every person who visits the polling station for whatever reason.
This is to enable contact tracing in the event of any detected cases of COVID-19 pandemic and the Commission has enlisted the help of the Red Cross Society of Zimbabwe and other qualified health personnel to assist in that endeavour.
Further, it is also important for the public to know that all polling officials, visitors, observers and polling agents are always recorded in the protocol register during polls and this has been the practice even prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With regards to the second allegation, the Commission has written back to the stakeholder concerned indicating its ignorance of the source of the instructions it purportedly issued.
The stakeholder concerned has failed to disclose the source of its information and the Commission has also verified with its respective offices which have indicated that no such instructions were ever issued.
The prohibition of the use of cellphones in the actual polling station has always been a standing procedure as this may lead to disruptive activity in the polling station if not controlled.
However, agents or other electoral officials are not prohibited from using their gadgets outside the polling station.
4. Alleged Ballot Box in the hands of ZRP St Peters in Murewa South
There is also a story doing rounds concerning an alleged ballot box that is now in the hands of the ZRP St Peters in Murewa South. We urge the Zimbabwean public to ignore the story.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission does not use such ballot boxes for election purposes. The country has been using translucent ballot boxes since 2008.
Those who have voted since 2008 are now familiar with the ballot boxes that are being used for purposes of elections in this country. We urge the public not to view the story seriously.
It is critical for stakeholders to disseminate accurate and correct information to their supporters. Collectively, we are all nation builders and it is critical to exercise responsibility in whatever we do.
It is in the national interest for all stakeholders to promote a conducive political environment that will result in peaceful electoral processes.