Observer team fails to witness postal ballot casting

HARARE - Zimbabwe police on Thursday prevented a Pan African Parliament (PAP) election observer team from witnessing junior officers forced to vote for President Robert Mugabe at police general headquarters in Harare, sources told ZimOnline.

Police across the country began voting by postal ballot on Tuesday this week ahead of the June 27 presidential run-off election because they will be on duty on the actual day of voting.

But several police officers have complained that they were forced to vote for Mugabe by their commanders who physically watched over as their subordinates marked their ballots to make sure they voted for the veteran leader who is fighting for his political life after losing the first round poll in March to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Communications chief for the PAP mission Khalid Al Dahab confirmed that a team of observers went to police headquarters wishing to witness police casting their postal ballots but were unable to do so. The junior policemen who met the PAP team could not assist and instead referred the observers to senior officers who were nowhere to be found.

Al Dahab said: “We went there and could not find anybody to talk to. There were just ordinary junior officers who couldn’t help. All the senior officers who could help us were nowhere to be found.After waiting and waiting for a significant time without success out team left. But there was no sign of voting when we were there. It seemed ordinary business.”

However, ZimOnline can reveal that as the PAP observers were being told that there were no senior officers to help them, Deputy Police Commissioner General Barbara Mandizha was present at general headquarters in room 50, keeping an eye on junior officers as they marked their ballots for Mugabe.

Obviously allowing observers to room 50 would have spoiled the whole plan, said a source at general headquarters who declined to be named for fear of reprisals.Police spokesman Oliver Mandipaka confirmed that police cast their postal ballots this week but denied knowledge of officers being forced to vote for Mugabe.

“I have no knowledge of that. As far as I am aware the process is above board and everything is running smoothly I am not aware of the (PAP) observers issue either,” he said.But sources said police officers voted under the watchful eyes of their commanders at general headquarters, Harare Central police station and at other stations across the country.

The voting, which was not witnessed by observers, took place in the absence of both Mugabe and Tsvangirai’s election agents, while a local newspaper reported on Friday that Southern African Development Community observers who visited Harare Central police station on Wednesday to witness the voting process were turned away.

Selby Hwacha, a lawyer for Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party said the opposition party was preparing a court application to challenge the validity of postal ballots.Hwacha said: “I am working on a challenge. Those votes should not count because the whole process was clandestine and we know that police officers were forced to vote for Mugabe.”

It was not possible to get immediate comment on the matter from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission that is in charge of elections in the country. – ZimOnline

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