ZEC trains polling agents

Zimbabwe’s Electoral Commission on Tuesday rolled out its training of polling agents, with the body also revealing that the process of designing ballot papers to be used in the forthcoming election is also under way.

ZEC is conducting a Training of Trainers course for individuals drawn from different parties, who will then train their colleagues on what is allowed at stations, including how to spot cheating during the polls, the state media reported Tuesday.

Training for civil society groups who want to conduct voter awareness was done over the weekend, amid concerns that some were still awaiting a response from ZEC regarding their applications.

Civic education groups such as the Election Resource Centre Zimbabwe and the Bulawayo Progressive Residents’ Association (BUPRA) are among those that were left out by ZEC, despite applying.

BUPRA trustee Angliston Sibanda told SW Radio Africa Tuesday that the whole application process was designed to frustrate organisations.

“The whole process is challenging. For example if an organisation stated in its registration papers that it works in governance, ZEC will disqualify it on grounds that it did not specifically say ‘elections’.

“Then there is the requirement for groups to disclose their sources of funding and once that is done, the Commission requires that the funds be submitted to them. How are organisations then expected to account for funds they have not administered,” Sibanda said.

Crisis in Zim Coalition official Nixon Nyikadzino said while it sounds good that ZEC is forging ahead with electoral activities, the issue was not about ticking boxes.

He said: “It is about the credibility of the poll, and that credibility hinges on the conduct of the processes leading up to the voting day itself.

“ZEC is only accrediting civic groups to conduct voter mobilisation education less than two weeks before the end of the registration period. It is clear that the aim was to limit the amount work the NGOs can do.”

Nyikadzino said one of the reasons civil society groups launched the Feya Feya campaign last week was to raise alarm at how ZEC was throwing hurdles in the way of NGOs interested in being part of the elections.

“There has been a malicious attempt by ZEC to frustrate NGOs by making demands that go beyond just the need for compliance. ZEC is even vetting messages that can be used in voter education, so much so that a message such as ‘You can change the feature of Zimbabwe with your vote’ will be deemed political,” said Nyikadzino.

Since the beginning of the election season, starting with the March 16th constitutional referendum, ZEC has been roundly condemned for the shambolic manner in which it has conducted crucial processes, with observers saying this was a deliberate ploy to disadvantage non-ZANU PF supporters.

Nyikadzino said it was not surprising that ZEC and the Registrar of Voters had defied the law by reducing the number of voter registration days from 30 to 3 per Ward.

He said that complaints by the two bodies about lack of funding was only a ruse, adding that if inadequate resources were an issue, they would be open to postponing the elections as suggested by many Zimbabweans.

Nyikadzino’s comments come amid reports that Commissioner Makarau held a meeting with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in which she appealed for funding.

Makarau was quoted in the Daily News newspaper as saying the Commission was prepared for elections but needed urgent funding amounting to $132 million for the July 31st poll.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti is on record as saying the government has no money to fund the forthcoming poll. – SW Radio Africa News

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