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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Update 1: Zimbabwe election July 2013
    Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
    July 31, 2013

    Most of you may be following the general election in Zimbabwe through various means. We bring to you the first of our series of updates from the ground in Zimbabwe. We have observers on the ground: Local and regional, drawn from not only the coalition's membership and solidarity partners from the SADC region, but we are benefiting immensely from updates and input from fellow CSOs more grounded in terms of numbers and coverage.

    In this update we bring to your attention the following:

    • This election is again being referred to as harmonized because of the three tier simultaneous voting to choose the councillor, the house of assembly representative and the President. Previously (before 2008), the president had a six-year term while the other two tiers (council and parliament) had a five-year term, thus "un-harmonized" in terms of years the elections would be held (just a reminder).
    • Today, voting started generally on time at most polling stations, with potential voters having streamed in from the early hours of the day.
    • Generally, the environment was calm, reminiscent of the environment we witnessed on 29 March 2008, an environment which fundamentally changed for the worst when the nation went for the run-off presidential election on 27 June 2013. There is therefore no cause yet for celebration of this election as having been "peaceful".
    • By yesterday, political parties were still raising fundamental concerns as to why the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and the Registrar of Voters had failed to provide them with the updated voters roll on time. ZEC had to convene a special meeting yesterday to try and "resolve" this dispute although that may not be ZEC's mandate to deal with emerging electoral disputes. At the time of writing this update, ZEC had availed hard copies of the voters rolls for inspection at their national office and district offices, just 24 hours before voting, with a further pronouncement that voters would be allowed to inspect the voters roll at the polling stations today, something clearly impracticable. Reports are that the updated electronic voters roll, supposedly produced after closure of mandatory voter registration on 9 July 2013, was never availed to political parties and any other interested stakeholders, raising fears of the possibility of the use of a "shambollic" voters rolls prone to manipulation.
    • ZEC, through an advert in the local daily newspapers from 2 days ago to today, managed to account for, through listing, 9735 polling stations. However, the same ZEC has consistently over the past day or so, reported that there are 9760 polling stations across the country. Media reports have also captured this. This gives credence to fears of there being "unknown" and therefore unmonitored and unobserved polling stations. From this official statistic, these are 25, there could be more.
    • From information on the ground, there was an alarming number of people requiring voting assistance even through they were visibly not handicapped and literate enough to vote without assistance. Reports indicate that this may have been the trend in some parts of Masvingo province.
    • There were incidents of voters being turned away after turning up at the wrong polling stations. Polling stations were only advertised about 48 hours before the election. This has the potential of disenfranchising a good number of potential voters.
    • Several of our network of grounded observers reported that there was a heavy presence of Police Officers on duty at most polling stations (inside and outside). Although this is now permitted under our electoral laws, in some instances the presence was too heavy and presenting an intimidatory environment in a country where policing is associated with human rights abuses. Rusununguko primary school polling station in Goromonzi District (peri-urban inclining more towards rural) is reported to have had a total of 19 police officer on duty.
    • Special Vote: There have been incidents of police officers arriving at polling stations to vote and finding their names already crossed out from the voters roll. If names are crossed out, it means one would have voted already. Reasons for this could be that either the police officers were attempting to vote again, after voting during the shambolic special voting process or that ZEC was just inefficient and did not have a foolproof mechanism to deal with "removing" those who would have had voted already under special voting from the roll. Probably the process ended up random.

    Colleagues, as we post this, please note that there are still about two hours to go before closure of polling stations. We are interested in reports about whether or not those who would still be on queues would be allowed to void as in some instances the process was reportedly very slow. Harare South constituency reported some "abnormally" slow voting process. Tied with this, we are interested the environment after announcement of full results and we would wish for a situation where the general calmness associated with the voting process remains. Please note that some of our network partners who monitored the environment well before voting reported isolated incidents of election related violence. We have remained alive to this in our assessment of not only voting today but the entire electoral process.

    Finally, please note that whereas we have tried our best to verify information we receive from grounded observers, we can not guarantee its total accuracy, although this is fairly reflective of the report and situational assessment.

    We will be back with regular updates until after announcement.

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