Only about 29,000 out of the 69,000 voters from the civil service and uniformed forces voted in the special vote reserved for those will be on election duty on July 31. The exercise was marred by a shortage of ballots and lengthy delays.
Intelligence, police and military sources confided in The Zimbabwean that the poor show by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission had unsettled the security sector – which is banking on uniformed forces’ votes to secure a victory for President Robert Mugabe and Zanu (PF).
“What happened during the special vote is being considered as a security matter. There is a joint investigation by CIO (Central Intelligence Organisation), MI (Military Intelligence) and the police because it is believed some people sabotaged it,” said a middle rank army officer on condition of anonymity.
Army and police bosses openly campaigned for Zanu (PF) at barracks and law enforcement stations ahead of the special poll, threatening their juniors with dismissal, loss of housing and other forms of retribution if they dared vote against Mugabe’s party.
In the weeks before to the poll, the uniformed forces embarked on intensive registration of officers, as reported in The Zimbabwean.
“The witch-hunt is targeting ZEC, Fidelity Printers and RBZ (Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe). There are also suspicions that some senior CIO members might have played an active role in frustrating polling as there are factional fights within that organisation, with some top ranking intelligence officers opposed to Mugabe’s continued rule,” said the source.
Fidelity Printers and Refiners, a subsidiary of the central bank, had the core responsibility of printing ballots, as has been the case in prior elections, but ended up subcontracting to other companies, which failed to produce the ballots on time.
A CIO contact confirmed the probe, saying it had been initiated by the pro-Zanu (PF) Joint Operations Command that comprises heads of the uniformed forces and the CIO, following a complaint by Zanu (PF) via justice minister Patrick Chinamasa that the botched special poll might cost Mugabe the July 31 poll.
“There is a lot of uncertainty over how Mugabe will fare against Morgan Tsvangirai and the strategy was to get as many votes from the special vote as possible to ensure that a run-off would be necessary again (as in 2008),” he said.
“There is concern that the security sector failed to do its job well as it is part of the think tank gunning for a Zanu (PF) victory. A lot is also at stake for the bosses if Zanu (PF) loses because it is not certain what will happen to their wealth if MDC-T wins,” he added.
It is likely that the ZEC secretariat will be reshuffled as operatives who had been seconded to the commission are being accused of sleeping on duty and failing to advise their principals of the impending special vote disaster.
Rita Makarau, the Chairperson at ZEC, Joyce Kazembe, her deputy and Lovemore Sekeramayi, the commission’s head, will stay in order to avoid a leadership crisis and also because it would be legally difficult to remove them at this stage.
There were claims during the constitutional referendum in March that ZEC sent names of civil servants seconded as polling officers for vetting to the President’s Department that houses the CIO.
As a counter strategy, The Zimbabwean was told, security sector servicemen are being deployed to work as polling and presiding officers during the general election, with numerous details from the army already seconded to ZEC.
Political parties say ZEC officials are already campaigning for Zanu (PF), in contravention of their legal obligation to be impartial and independent. Police sources said top officers who queued with the rank and file during the special vote accused ZEC of deliberately frustrating them.
“Our chefs thought they would get special treatment during voting but they were made to stand in the same queues as constables. They complained openly that ZEC was humiliating them and their situation was made worse by the fact that some of them failed to vote completely while juniors managed to do so,” said one of the police officers.
At polling centres like Town House, she added, the seniors tried to form a separate queue but failed because the ballot envelopes came in batches and belonged mostly to the juniors.
The probe has reportedly sent shockwaves through ZEC, with senior officials battling to find scapegoats. Makarau has come up with a conspiracy theory, telling a state-owned newspaper:
“The major problem was the printers. But we are still investigating what really transpired. One of the printers (Printflow) did not inform us on time that they had a breakdown. We are still looking into the matter. If we discover that there was some form of sabotage and it was a criminal offence, then definitely, the law will take its course whether it was sabotage by ZEC, Printflow or sabotage by outsiders. We do not really care who it was. If it was sabotage, we will let the law take its course.”
While no comment could be obtained from Patrick Chinamasa, Didymus Mutasa, the Zanu (PF) Secretary for Administration, denied that his party had complained about the bungled special vote.
“As a party, we have not complained about the chaotic special vote,” he said, but Chinamasa has already indicated that Zanu (PF) would change the law to do away with it if it wins the coming election.
Sydney Sekeramayi, the minister in charge of state security, refused to comment and passed the buck to Shupikai Mashereni, the ZEC Director of Information, but he was not responding to calls from this newspaper.
A lady who responded to our queries at Printflow, which is also subject to the investigation, and refused to divulge her name, said the Director, whose name could also not be established, was “out on ZEC business”.
Another highly placed military source said the usual operatives who got election assignments had been replaced with new faces. “A lot is happening here as the old guard that used to be automatically seconded for election duties has been replaced with new and trusted ones,” he said.Post published in: News