Dear SADC and African Bodies,
I recently wrote to SADC requesting that there should be at least one observer at every polling station to witness Zimbabwe’s harmonised 2023 elections. My suggestion was based on the ploy by Zanu PF to coerce persons suspected to be opposition supporters to make them pretend that they were illiterate and therefore need to be assisted to vote and request to have their vote placed on Zanu PF. Pro Zanu PF presiding officials will have been deployed to assist these “illiterate” persons in voting. I suggested in that article that a register for assisted voters be introduced in the Electoral Act to enable verification of whether the supposedly illiterate people are really illiterate. The register should include details such as the person’s name, address, and contact details that match what is on the voters’ roll. Now I will add that the register should also include the assisted voter’s qualifications, and audits can be carried out after the elections to prove the authenticity of illiteracy claims in the event of a dispute.
Another ploy by Zanu PF has also been confirmed. This is a practice Zanu PF has used over the years and involves intimidating and threatening opposition polling agents so that in selected polling stations there is no opposition polling agent. At the polling stations where opposition polling agents will have been threatened and not turned up, ballot stuffing will take place, giving Zanu PF a win.
As this ploy has been exposed, it becomes imperative for observer missions to deploy more polling observers, and for observer groups to be coordinated by an independent body to ensure that observers are spread out to cover all polling stations. This is a suggestion which Government of Zimbabwe should readily accept to prove the transparency of the vote and enable the country to gain credibility.
Political parties whose polling agents are intimidated to bar them from carrying out their duties must encourage their prospective agents to report such cases to the police and copy them to the Zimbabwe Elections Commission (Zec), SADC the African Union, the United Nations, and other relevant bodies. It is reported that the police in Zimbabwe have failed to take action when such reports have been made before, so alerting other bodies will enable those organisations to investigate the claim.
Zec, as a supposedly independent body, should also be mandated to independently handle cases of intimidation and violence. From what I have heard, Zec cannot act on reports of violence unless there is a police report. But the police are under instruction from Zanu PF and Government to ignore cases of violence reported by members of the opposition. Legislators must ensure that a clause that empowers Zec to investigate reports of violence brought to its attention is included in the Electoral Act.
Opposition parties intending to contest in the forthcoming elections should also think outside the box and craft solutions to counter this strategy by Zanu PF. It is even better if opposition parties can work together and pull resources together in order to achieve in this regard.