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  • 2008 harmonised elections - Index of articles

  • Be patient, stand back and watch
    April 10, 2008

    Usually when Mugabe steals an election, all the preparation for the theft is done before hand, and it is largely an inside job. The voters- roll is pumped up with the dead and fictitious to allow for ballot box stuffing and the manipulation of voter numbers. Those known to be unsympathetic to the despot are quietly removed or not given the chance to register in the first place. Villagers are told where their next meal is coming from and if they are able to feed themselves the ability to do so is removed smartly, either by breaking an arm or destroying a small holding. The voting process is kept firmly under ZANU PF control.

    Despite all the usual preparation for the theft, Mugabe failed to come away with the booty. Had he done so, you may be sure the results of the March 29th election would have been crowed from the roof tops in short order. Instead, we are being told to be patient while he has a second attempt to steal the election. This time the theft is being done in broad daylight. And we have been asked to stand back and watch, presumably agog with admiration like the SADC leaders, while the master shows them how to steal an election without doing anything as crass as Kibaki.

    Basic Stalinist tenet: it is not who votes that counts but who counts the vote. So make sure the ZEC personnel appear sufficiently retarded for their claim that the Act does not say how many days they have to add up a column of 210 figures seem plausible.

    But do they not have 2 388 381 votes to tally? No. ZEC, the vote counters themselves, published an advert in the state media to say the vote counting would be done in the following way.

    Ballots are counted at a polling station for all four elections, including the presidential election. The counting begins "immediately" after polling ends. The results for all four elections are entered on the polling station returns and each party-s polling agent invited to sign the same. The results are posted outside the polling station for all to see. The polling station return goes to the ward polling centre where all polling station returns are verified by the local government candidates. The verification process simply requires that they may check with their polling agents that the numbers on the return received at the ward polling centre match the ones their polling agents certified and signed for at the polling station. The returns are added together for all the elections "without delay" including the presidential election and the local candidate with the most votes in that election is then and there declared the winner. The results are posted outside the ward polling centre. The returns from the nearly 2000 wards are sent "immediately" to the constituency elections officers. After just under 100 returns from the ward polling stations have been received by each constituency elections officer, each constituency elections officer informs the candidates of the time (not date) when they can come and verify the return and observe the addition. The legislation assumes that the constituency officers can do this while the candidates are standing there even though the number of ward returns exceeds the number of their collective fingers. It thus does not stipulate any number of days for the process. As the counting is done in the "presence" of the candidates they would collapse from lack of food or sleep if the process was to take days as suggested. The results for the three remaining elections are posted outside the constituency command centre and the constituency election officer not ZEC announces the House of Assembly candidate duly elected for that constituency. This latter point has been conceded by ZEC who said they were just announcing the result at national level to help out - despite the fact that their announcement always ended with the fact that the candidate was thus declared duly elected. Why it took them several days to make the announcement at national level when the job was already finished, klaar and done by the constituency elections officer is not too deep a mystery.

    After the returns have been added together by the constituency elections officer, they are "forthwith" sent to the Chief Elections Officer in terms of the Second Schedule to the Electoral Act. This contradicts the amended section 65 to some extent. In terms of that section the constituency returns also need to be collated at provincial level for the Senate results. ZEC thus indicated that the returns are tallied at provincial level by the senatorial elections officer for elections to the Senate before being sent to the Chief Elections Officer. The result is announced by the senatorial elections officer. However, a summation of the presidential results from the 10 provinces must still be made and according to ZEC posted for the public to see. This means that the after the senatorial results have been collated there are 60 figures which can be added together to determine the presidential result. Hence the reluctance to release these results.

    However, the Electoral Act is clear that the constituency officers (not senatorial elections officers) must forthwith send their returns to the Chief Elections Officer to tally for the presidential count. In any event the Chief Elections Officer does his tally from the 210 constituency returns. To reiterate, this process was outlined by the Chief Elections Officer himself and thus should not be controversial.

    The Chief Elections officer then sets a time (not day) for the collation and verification of the constituency returns (not polling station returns). This must be done "on receipt of the constituency returns". Not when he feels like it or when Mugabe says so. The Chief Elections Officer tallies the votes from the 210 constituency returns for a single election, the least onerous stage in the process. And if he has any anxiety about his numerical skill he can check his total against those 60 numbers posted at senatorial level. However, ZEC still seems wonder why the Electoral Act is silent on the number of days the Chief Elections Officer has to add up a column of 210 figures.

    The collation and verification is done in the presence of the candidates, so again it must be taken that the legislature assumed that the Chief Elections Officer is sufficiently numerate not to require days for the process. Once the constituency returns are added together the Chief Elections Officer shall forthwith declare the person with the most votes (provided the majority is absolute) duly declared elected president with effect from the day of such declaration i.e. immediately. The President assumes office immediately after taking the oath of office but in any event not later than 48 hours. Not after Grace has had enough time to remove all her ferrogama shoes to Malaysia. Immediately.

    The Chief Elections Officer must inform the candidates of the time and place of verification and collation. The Act does not specify when this time must be. However, by using "time" rather than day, given that this is the penultimate act in a series which all take place "forthwith" "immediately" or "without delay", and given that there are no further acts to be completed before convening the verification and collation, one can assume that the legislature contemplated hours rather than weeks as is the current position. Furthermore, if there is no candidate with an absolute majority, a second election must be held within 21 days of "the previous election". The legislation does not say 21 days from the date the result is announced. And if it had meant such it would have said so. "Previous election" cannot mean from the day a person was elected as president, as in the case of the need for a run off this will not have happened. It can only refer to election day; i.e. 29th March 2008. This fact supports the contention that the legislature expected each of the electoral processes to take place one after the other and immediately after the preceding one is completed. The time for the process is not stipulated in days. By the use of the words immediately, forthwith etc, the legislature expects each process to commence immediately and the next to commence without delay after the previous one is completed. Accordingly, the time allowed for the completion of the process is implied and cannot be stipulated specifically. The legislated deadline is as long as it takes to undertake the steps outlined by the Electoral Act, all of which must be done without delay.

    Thus the time given for announcing the presidential result is as long as it takes to verify 210 constituency returns and then add them together. The announcement is made immediately that is done. Not when Mugabe says if the results are OK it can be done. Not when ZEC says when we are ready. Not when ZEC says we want to check out what happened in a polling station in Chitungwiza, not when the CIO says when we have finished ferreting around amongst ballots which are supposed to be sealed and finished cooking the books. Not when the Mugabe-s thugs indicate they have had enough time to soften up the rural populace before observers arrive for the run off. Immediately.

    ZEC-s excuse for not following the procedures it outlined and which are set out in the Electoral Act is that section 67A says they can investigate any complaint of a miscount. Indeed they can. But the complaint raised by ZANU PF relates to the House of Assembly count and must be made within 48 hours of the result being announced. Not only was ZANU PF-s complaint raised one week later but the result of the Presidential Election, as we all know has not been announced. The alleged miscount must be large enough to affect the result. ZANU PF claims a few hundred votes missing here and there. Accordingly, ZEC cannot act under section 67A.

    We, however, are supposed, says Mr. Mbeki, to be patient, stand back and watch the master thief violate the clear provisions of the Act. If Tsvangirai has won with an absolute majority, which may well be the case, then the failure to announce the result can be described in one word: coup. QED.

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