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Special voting a sham
July 17, 2013
Resource Centre adds its voice to the observations on the shambolic
nature of the special
voting process that was conducted by the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission on the 14th and 15th of July 2013. The election process
for Zimbabwe’s civil servants, including police details and
soldiers who will be on national duty on the actual polling day
on the 31st of July, was fraught with irregularities that have cast
doubt on the ability of ZEC to deliver and conduct an efficient,
free, fair and credible election.
The sum effect
is that less than 10% of those eligible to vote were able to exercise
their democratic and constitutional right to vote. The shortcomings
are unacceptable, coming as they do when Zimbabwe is expected to
conduct a credible election that produces an acceptable outcome.
This wholly unacceptable process continues the same chaotic pattern
that began with the first and second voter registration process
where Zimbabweans were not sufficiently afforded the opportunity
to participate in this crucial election. If this trend continues,
we can be sure that elections on 31 July will be anything but credible.
There were reports
of voting starting late in most polling stations mainly due to the
late arrival of ballot envelopes. In a press conference on Sunday
the 14th of July 2013, ZEC Deputy Chairperson, Joyce Kazembe admitted
that the delivery of ballot envelopes to polling stations on the
first day were delayed because the electoral body had not foreseen
such logistical challenges – that the printers would delay
printing the ballot envelopes. In fact these ballot envelopes ought
to have been in the districts the day before the start of special
voting so that they could be delivered promptly on the first day
or even before that.
also intimated that the delay in the in the printing was a result
of the nomination court challenges that still have to be resolved,
something that impacted on the printing of ballot papers.
by the electoral commission is in contravention of Section 81E (1)
of the Electoral
Act, which states that ZEC has to set up special voting stations
at the district centres, and that these stations must be ready for
voting on the first day fixed for special voting. However, many
voting stations across the country were not ready on the first day,
and on the last day of voting (the 15th of July, the process had
not ended on time, with voting exceeding well into the night.
body also failed to provide adequate information to the public and
to the persons voting during the special voting process because
the body has an obligation to inform the nation on how many people
successfully applied to vote, the number of applications approved
and the number of ballot papers that were reproduced. The provision
of such information serves to nullify unforeseen episodes of confusion.
And such information should be in the public domain.
of the Electoral Act states that persons wishing to cast a special
vote must apply for authorization to the commission at least 14
days before first special voting day. The Chief Elections Officer
must number all such applications for authorization. Added to that,
Section 81D (1) states that the Chief Elections Officer must notify
successful applicants and provide them with written authorization
to cast special votes. He or she must inform applicants when and
where they must cast their vote. Accordingly the late provision
of ballot envelopes to the voters in this process raises more questions
than answers. If ZEC had paid due diligence to fully complying with
the requirements at law, the process of special voting should have
been a smooth sailing affair, with persons whose applications had
been approved just casting their votes without the delays that were
these challenges that ZEC has and is facing as they conducted the
special voting points to one thing – that the election in
Zimbabwe was rushed, without due care being taken to adequately
preparing and laying ground for the conduct of an efficient and
credible poll. The fact that ballot papers were delayed because
some of the challenges with regards to candidate nomination for
some wards and constituencies have not been resolved, point to the
fact that the election itself was fast tracked.
challenges also give credence to the fact that elections in Zimbabwe
should have been process driven, not date driven. Here we note the
words of Justice Malaba in his dissenting comments on Constitutional
CCZ 1/13 that “Choosing the precise date to hold the first
elections is therefore a matter of utmost importance to be handled
with the greatest care.”
challenges also give credence to the fact that elections in Zimbabwe
should have been process driven, not date driven. As it stands,
ZEC now finds itself with a mammoth task of administering these
crucial elections in a sober manner, with the electoral body now
hamstrung and held hostage by acts of political expediency, and
has been overtaken by its inability to put in place mechanisms for
the conduct of a credible poll.
It is also poignant
to point out that the special voting process was conducted amidst
claims by some of the other political players alleging that the
numbers of security personnel in particular, police who applied
for special voting, were excessive given the actual size of the
police. Fears also abound that the security personnel are being
intimidated into voting for one political party.
is not clear what is going to happen to those voters who were unable
to cast their vote from 14-15 July. Are they, like many former “aliens”,
and like those who were unable to register due to the same logistical
failures by election administrators, also going to lose their right
to vote? Who else will be disenfranchised due to operational shortcomings?
Yet we note
that those chosen to be electoral commissioners in Zimbabwe have
been chosen “for their competence in the conduct of affairs
in the public or private sector” Constitution
of Zimbabwe Section 238 (4). Since the beginning of this electoral
process, our electoral administrators have demonstrated a worrying
level of incompetence. And we are left with some questions. If ZEC
failed to print and deliver only 80 000 ballots and operate a few
hundred polling stations properly is it going to be able to print
millions of ballots papers and dispatch them to the 10 000 polling
stations that it has identified for the election? Clearly there
is a procurement problem at ZEC and as election stakeholders, citizens
and voters; we demand full disclosure as to what happened with the
printing of ballot papers and ballot envelopes.
in cases where there were misprinted ballot papers, polling officers
told voters to vote anywhere reflects disquieting conduct which
has been evident even at the highest levels since the beginning
of this process. Namely that our election administrators are more
concerned about legality ‘ ticking boxes’ so that they
can move on to the next step, never mind the quality of the process.
Hence voter registration had to stop even if people were not registered
because continuing it would have broken the law even though terminating
it violated voters’ rights to choose.
we urge ZEC to make sure that they put in place mechanisms and procedures
of ensuring that the harmonised elections are credible, and conducted
in an efficient manner. The ERC notes that the SADC spearheaded
negotiations in Zimbabwe which culminated in the formation of the
of National Unity (GNU), had as its major signpost, the creation
of enabling environment for free, fair and credible elections in
the country, itself the panacea to the long standing challenge of
legitimacy that dogged the governance body-politic of the country
in 2008. We are two weeks away from the Election Day and prospects
for a credible election are diminishing by the day.
embarrassing as it may be we urge election officials and other political
stakeholders such as the government and the courts to seriously
consider postponing these polls until all outstanding issues such
as nomination court challenges and legal challenges to the special
voting have been resolved and until ZEC can show that it is ready
from an administrative and operational point of view to conduct
Here we cite
the example of Nigeria in April 2011 when the Independent National
Electoral Commission (INEC) postponed elections due to logistical
failures not once but twice. In the end that election was one of
the better elections in Nigeria’s history). We urge ZEC to
go back to the president and other stakeholders and request for
a change in the election date in order to deliver a quality election.
Otherwise ZEC risks further shame and embarrassment and the continuing
disenfranchisement of more and more Zimbabweans. Failure to admit
to these challenges and request for such postponement, we are left
with suspicions that ZEC is a complicit actor in all this confusion
In the meantime,
ZEC owes Zimbabweans some answers with regards to the following
questions, and has an obligation to clarify the same
- How many
applications for the special voting were successful, by category?
- How many
ballots were printed?
- How many
ballots were sent to the special voting station?
- How many
votes were cast by polling stations?
The ERC also
implores ZEC, in the name of transparency and accountability, and
taking into consideration the controversy surrounding special voting,
that a transparent process be done when ZEC crosses out the names
on the ward-based polling lists for the July 31st elections as required
by the law (Section 81D (3) of the Electoral Act.
Visit the Election
Resource Centre fact
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