Chaotic Special Vote exposes ZEC’s lack of readiness for polls

The two-day Special Vote was engulfed by massive irregularities that have exposed the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s lack of readiness to conduct credible one –day harmonized elections in two week’s time.

ZEC confirmed the Special Voting failed to take place in Masvingo on Sunday because there were no voting materials at all. The electoral body only distributed just over 6,000 Special Vote ballots to the other nine provinces.

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights reported that 81,000 special vote ballots had not yet been distributed by 5 pm on Sunday and printing was still being done, resulting in many polling stations opening late countrywide.

Many organizations criticized ZEC’s lack of preparedness, with the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) expressing concern over ZEC’s inability to conduct a two day special vote election of only 89,000 people.

The monitoring group raised questions as to how the electoral body will be able to run credible presidential, parliamentary and council elections with at least six million registered voters expected to cast the votes in one day, if it couldn’t manage a two day poll for just 89,000.

The group also noted that voting was conducted at an extremely slow pace that resulted in many people being unable to cast their votes. At Lupane Primary School in Matabeleland North for example, voters could not cast their ballots on Monday because their special vote envelopes had not yet arrived by lunchtime

ZESN noted inconsistencies with the voters’ roll availability, with some polling stations having informal handwritten lists such as at Mt Pleasant Hall and Town House in Harare. In addition they also received reports that some senior police officers were bringing their own lists for use at some polling stations. The law says each polling station should have an approved list coming from the Chief Elections Officer.

ZESN board chairperson Solomon Zwana said the two-day poll also exposed inadequate resourcing for ZEC.

“I think if they are willing to learn from the mistakes that have been committed; I think it’s still possible for them to run a credible poll. But a lot also depends on other factors like adequate funding that should enable them to carry out their responsibilities,” Dr. Zwana told SW Radio Africa.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti has repeatedly said the government is broke and has no money, although he has said if there was political will President Robert Mugabe could mobilize resources from the country’s diamonds to enable the elections to take place smoothly.

Meanwhile the MDC-T filed an urgent High Court application on Sunday to have the special ballot nullified. The party accuses ZANU PF of attempting to manipulate the national vote through this voting system for police, soldiers and election officials.

The party said more police officers are registered to vote than are actually in the force, a similar discrepancy that was uncovered on the general voters’ roll which shows there are more people who applied to vote in elections than the actual people who reside in most of the country’s 210 constituencies.

MDC-T lawyer Harrison Nkomo said there are 44,113 police officers but police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri made an application for 69,322 special votes.

Nkomo said the voting for security and election officials was fraudulent. The former opposition party argues that there is a voters’ roll for the special group which all contesting parties should have access to. They also want the electoral body to remove the people who voted in this early round from the final voters roll, so that officers won’t vote twice in the general elections.

The MDC-T application is expected to be heard in the High Court on Wednesday.

However ZEC deputy chairperson Joyce Kazembe told reporters it was not the electoral body’s responsibility to justify the police’s 69,322 figure. She admitted they “underestimated the process” but said all ballot papers will be ready for the month-end election by next week.

“I wish to advise that the printing of ballot papers delayed even beyond our expectation. This was due to a number of reasons, chief of which was the delay in finalising the designing of ballot papers in those wards and constituencies where nomination was under challenge.

“We were hoping that the printer providing printing services to us would complete the printing of ballot papers on time, but this has not happened as printing is still in progress,” Kazembe said.

Journalist Innocent Chofamba Sithole said: “It's now quite clear that Zimbabwe isn't ready to hold credible elections on July 31ST. The woeful experience with special voting is a taste of bigger chaos to come when the whole country goes to the polls. Was all this chaos unforeseen, or is it all deliberate?” - SW Radio Africa News

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