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5 million register to vote
Tandayi Motsi, The Herald (Zimbabwe)
March 24, 2005
A TOTAL of 5 789 912 people countrywide have
been registered as voters in the updated and credible version of the voters’
roll ahead of next week’s parliamentary election, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission
(ZEC) chairman Justice George Chiweshe said yesterday.
Briefing hundreds of local and international
election observers on the poll preparations, Justice Chiweshe said the
process of compiling the voters’ roll had been completed.
"The voters’ roll can now be accessed
by political parties and members of the public at a fee. Our preparations
for the election are at an advanced stage and printing of ballot papers
is expected to be completed today (yesterday)," he said.
"Processing of postal ballots is currently
on under the watchful eyes of all the contesting candidates."
Justice Chiweshe said the training of
constituency election officers had been completed while presiding officers
would be trained on Saturday and polling officers on Sunday.
The election officers would be deployed
to the all the 120 constituencies next Tuesday while a total of 50 000
translucent ballot boxes had already been dispatched to the provinces
for onward delivery to the constituencies.
Responding to questions from the observers
on concerns by the MDC on the state of the voters’ roll, Justice Chiweshe
said contrary to the claims by the opposition party, evidence on the ground
so far showed that the roll was not in shambles.
"We have written to the MDC asking how
we can conduct an audit of the voters’ roll and we have also asked them
to give us an example of a country that has done such an audit and how
it has done it. We haven’t heard any response from them on that particular
matter," he said.
The audit of the voters’ roll, Justice
Chiweshe said, was normally done in the form of inspection of the roll.
He assured the observers that the commission
was neutral, adding that although it had received complaints from the
contesting political parties, it would not jump to conclusions as there
were rules and regulations that needed to be followed.
Justice Chiweshe said the ZEC had not
faced any political problems as it was an independent body conducting
its duties professionally.
He said one of the political parties
— which he said he was not at liberty to disclose -- had written to the
commission indicating its intention to pull out of the national multi-party
"One of the political parties has written
saying it does not want to participate in the committee and we are going
to talk with them over the issue," Justice Chiweshe said.
The national multi-party liaison committee
is made up of all the political parties and independent candidates contesting
the election. Its role includes acting as a safety valve in conflict resolution.
The ZEC national logistics committee,
Justice Chiweshe said, had assessed the situation on the ground in four
provinces and indications were that peace was prevailing.
The commission had visited Mashonaland
East, Manicaland, Masvingo and Midlands provinces and would soon go on
a similar mission in the remaining provinces.
Justice Chiweshe said the commission
had established a national results centre at the Harare International
Conference Centre where incoming results of the election would be announced
to the media.
"We should be able to get all results
within 48 hours after the close of the polling stations," he said.
Addressing the same gathering, Electoral
Supervisory Commission (ESC) chairman Mr Theophilus Gambe urged the observers
to conduct themselves in an objective and impartial manner.
"The ESC is ready for the elections.
It will bank on your observations and would like to learn from you. You
should conduct yourselves objectively and in an impartial manner that
will enhance democracy in Zimbabwe," he said.
Observers, Mr Gambe said, were not allowed
to interfere with the electoral process and should not wear regalia likely
to associate them with any of the contesting political parties.
They were also not allowed to interview,
obstruct or accost voters.
Any irregularities noted by the observers
should be brought to the attention of the ESC election monitors.
Mr Gambe said observers were expected
to submit a preliminary report covering the pre-election period and a
post-election comprehensive report.
There would be 32 000 election monitors
drawn from the civil service with two monitors being deployed inside each
polling station, while another two monitors would be outside every polling
In addition to this, there would be provincial
co-ordinators and supervisors in each of the country’s provinces.
Mr Gambe commended Zimbabweans for the
political tolerance and peaceful atmosphere prevailing in the country
ahead of the poll.
He briefed the observers on the electoral
reforms that are in line with the Southern African Development Community
guidelines governing democratic elections.
Mr Gambe said the political playing field
had been levelled with all contesting parties and candidates having equal
access to national radio and television.
Responding to questions from some observers,
Mr Gambe said there was no evidence to support allegations that some traditional
chiefs and headmen were threatening their subjects with expulsion in the
event that they would not vote for Zanu-PF.
One of the local observers, Mr Paddington
Japajapa, had alleged that some chiefs and headmen in several parts of
the country were threatening to expel their subjects in resettlement farms
if they voted for the opposition.
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