ZEC officers foot by-election costs

Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) officers are carrying out government duties at their own expense as the country’s cash-strapped election body has not paid any allowances for the by-elections.

The officers have been deployed in various constituencies around the country to prepare voters for the forthcoming by-elections, but no allowances have been paid. They conducted voters’ registration in April and inspection of voters’ roll and voters’ education early last month. They were deployed again last week, ahead of the June 10 by-elections.

This has been exacerbated by the fact that ZEC workers have been battling salary delays since January – with their April salary only paid on May 15.

Concerns have been raised whether the by-election will be conducted in a free and fair manner as the deployed officers are vulnerable to daring candidates – as they have to scavenge for their food, transport and accommodation.

Moreover, ZEC’s supervisory role before and during the by-elections has further been handicapped as officers do not have adequate fuel to reach all constituencies.

“The situation here at ZEC is pathetic. Officers have not been paid a single cent in allowances since the by-election programme started,” confirmed a senior ZEC official who requested anonymity. “Imagine someone from Masvingo being deployed to Mt Darwin without pay and allowances, how then can you expect that person to carry out their duties in such a case? They are at the mercy of school heads where they are seeking shelter and begging food from well-wishers. Already their duties are compromised and they are vulnerable to bribes not to mention the fact that they are demoralised, which compromises the entire by-election,” said the source.

He wondered whether President Robert Mugabe and the ZEC commissioners were aware of the situation. The MDC-T is on record criticising the by-elections owing to ZEC’s current financial situation.

“ZEC lacks adequate human, material and financial resources to undertake any form of a voter registration programme… ZEC is critically understaffed and financially ill-equipped to conduct elections that will pass the test of legitimacy,” the party said in a statement early this year.

Meanwhile, the electoral body has been sued over non-payment of a debt amounting to $147,000 it owes a private printing company called Century Technology. Court papers indicate that ZEC bought jumbo envelopes and tents, which would be paid for upon delivery in 2013.

The electoral body wrote a letter to Century Technology dated January 23, 2015 acknowledging the debt, which has not been settled.

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