When I got to the ZEC offices around 10 AM, I was greeted by a truck of armed riot police. We parked our two small cars outside the heavily fortified office. Inside there was no parking space, the car park was fully packed with brand new 4X4 vehicles. You need not be a mathematician to estimate that the value of the vehicles runs into millions of US dollars!
At the gate were four armed police officers in uniform. They asked who we were and the TZ organizing secretary introduced our delegation. As he mentioned that I was Ngarivhume they pointed us to the offices and that we go in and see the police at the reception. I was alarmed, police at ZEC reception?
We went to the reception as directed, there were four police officers at the foyer reception. They asked for our details and questioned us about the reason for our visit. Our organising secretary explained again. We asked to see the chief elections officer.
One policeman lead us into the ZEC reception where there was no one. He gave us chairs to sit in and asked us to wait. After fifteen minutes a gentleman came to speak to us and we explained ourselves again. He went out to call the ZEC Director of public relations and they both sat for a meeting with us.
We obviously raised our great exception to the presence of police at ZEC offices and the various layers of police that we went through to secure the meeting.
They explained to us that it’s for security reasons. Zec had been attacked by hooligans before and so they were taking preventive measures. We highlighted that as it stands ZEC is no longer an office for the people of Zimbabwe but a private security fortification. They noted our concern and promised to raise it to the higher authorities.
The two ZEC officials informed us that we could not see the chief elections officer because he was not in the office nor was any of the ZEC commissioners. We agreed to discuss with them.
We shared our huge frustration of the 2900 people registered to vote in 2021. We informed them that citizens were angry and are calling for the resignation of the chief elections officer for gross incompetence.
We demanded to know the ZEC plan for 2022 as far as voter registration is concerned and the plan for by-elections coming up in April.
We also asked to know when a more massive and aggressive voter registration campaign is starting.
In response, they said that they also are let down by lack of progress to issue National IDs from the Registrar General’s office. They assured us that a more aggressive program with over 900 registration centres was coming in February. Currently, they said registration was only in 73 centres throughout the country.
They also informed us that they were launching various radio programs to promote voter registration which will culminate in a delimitation exercise.
After a one hour meeting, we left. We were led out by three police officers and one ZEC official.
When we got out, I got a harrowing narration of harassment of my team by officers claiming to be CIO and police intelligence. My team informed me that they were surrounded and asked endless questions by plain-clothed men claiming to be CIOs. They were demanding to know what they were doing at ZEC and what Ngarivhume really wanted.
Several 4×4 vehicles came in and occupants were taking pictures of our two very small vehicles. A dozen plain cloth men and women were involved in the harassment operation.
My team took reg numbers of vehicles that had and pictures of some of the CIOs and plain-clothed policemen. Some of them were armed.
I was informed that there was a near confrontation with my team as they were very provocative and agitated.
I was angry to hear this. I realized that this regime has upped the stakes of freeing this nation. If we are to achieve change, that may not at all come cheap. Now they have militarized an office that is supposed to be for the citizens. It’s now a military facility.
Police are harassing stakeholders at ZEC who are supposed to be partners in the roles and responsibilities of Zec. Where are we going as a nation? The CIO identify themselves openly at a ZEC office and show their anger that an opposition official is at the ZEC office. So who is supposed to be there?
As I am writing this I realize that our task ahead is no small. We must be ready to risk ourselves as we seek justice and freedom in this country.
The regime and the captured systems are not ready for free and fairness no they aren’t! I could read that from the heavily condoned ZEC offices this morning.
But our resolve is unshakeable. Aluta continua.