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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Special vote a pilot test for rigging by Zanu PF
    Tapiwa Chininga
    July 20, 2013

    The special vote meant for civil servants ended Tuesday drowned in massive irregularities amid a lot of questions and aspersions regarding the numerous glitches and bungling that were observed across the country. While fingers pointed at ZEC, that it has become a cat’s paw incompetent handling a credible, free and fair election, the truth is that there is an invisible hand to the chaos that we witnessed. The chaos were deliberate and part of Zanu-PF shenanigans to manipulate the electoral process.

    For those who do not know, the just ended elections were a special vote that replaced the postal ballot system and a special plebiscite was organized for allegedly about 80,000 government personnel, who will be on duty during the July 31 national elections. Many personnel were unable to cast their ballots according to officials. Voting was supposed to take place at 210 polling stations but the process was slow and delayed ostensibly due to what electoral commission deputy chair Joyce Kazembe said the problem was the printing of election papers.

    Joyce Kazembe acknowledged the slow pace of voting but blamed the delays in printing and dispatching of ballot papers. While some people may accept Kazembe's explanation of logistical problems, it is foolhardy to ignore Zanu-PF’s underhand and thickening plot in this process.

    Police spokesperson Charity Charamba admitted the election was shambolic. "Indications on the ground are that it is now clear that members and officers of the Zimbabwe Republic Police have been unable to exercise their constitutional right to vote", she was quoted saying.

    Although ZEC found itself in the frying pan for "poor logistical coordination and lack of readiness to conduct a credible poll," following chaos witnessed during special voting, the failure by the police, soldiers and officials to vote across Zimbabwe due to a range of problems like shortage of ballot papers, ballot boxes and other materials not delivered in time, there is every reason to suspect foul of the whole process. The people of Zimbabwe must therefore carefully scrutinize all the events of the voting days and avoid being diverted from the real issue of "rigging in the process and that is actually being rehearsed for July 31 elections". That is what was happening on the ground and we must not keep the eye away from the ball.

    The real issue is actually not whether ZEC was unprepared to conduct a special voting process let alone a national process in just two weeks time to come from now but to Zanu-PF, the special vote exercise was a carefully planned pilot test on how to manipulate the forth coming harmonized elections while the whole world is watching. But as always Zanu-PF will always find something to take the eye away from the ball that’s why the focus is now on ZEC instead of the day light theft of a crucial election we have just witnessed as a harbinger of what will visit this country on 31 July.

    ZEC have literally been hijacked by the military establishment pushing for Mugabe's victory and the officials at ZEC were simply following instructions from their political principals in Zanu-PF to make sure that the process is disorganized and the majority of people are disenfranchised. This pattern of events will be scaled up nationally on 31 July particularly in areas dimmed to be MDC-T strongholds like in cities and towns. This strategy will be complemented by a deliberate go slow process, starving areas deemed to be MDC strong hoods polling stations, technical glitches in the distribution of ballot boxes and papers and in extreme cases MDC polling agents will be chased away so that Zanu -PF moles can staff their own votes in the ballot in order to make sure Mugabe wins by hook and crook.

    MDC-T secretary general and Finance Minister, Mr. Tendai Biti was spot on, when he accused the military junta of having a hand in what was happening within the electoral body alleging that some officials in the electoral body who where in the field were not acting under instructions from their superiors.

    'There is another master they're reporting to and in our respective view, it is the junta, who have clearly taken over the running of these elections,' Biti said.

    Zimbabwe Election Support Network chairperson Solomon Zwana also alluded to this chaos scenario when they said the national elections will be a sham if irregularities noted in the two-day special voting exercise are repeated come July 31. The group was quoted saying they are "seriously concerned that the chaos that prevailed during the special voting process serves as a telling and worrying indicator that could repeat itself" on election day, scheduled for 31 July. "We foresee doom in the upcoming election, and if anything that occurred within the past two days was anything to go by", they added.

    The Southern African Development Community (SADC), also chipped in saying the parties must "exercise restraint and avoid frustrating voters".

    I will try and unpack how Zanu-PF rigged this special vote so that we all understand as events unfold. It is important for all forces fighting for democracy in Zimbabwe to anticipate this and quickly come up with proactive strategies to stop them in their tracks and ensure that measures are put in place so that all the people who registered actually vote and the vote is not manipulated in any way.

    By analyzing the matrix in the official numbers that were given by ZEC as eligible for voting and what actually transpired during the voting process, it is easy to see that Zanu-PF used the two day election as a pre-run to rig the coming harmonized elections. To put this in context of our suspicion, people must remember that Police commissioner; Augustine Chihuri previously confessed that he is a loyal Zanu-PF member.

    The election comes on the eve of a court hearing to stop the process because Tsvangirai's MDC party says police numbers were inflated. The state electoral commission says 69 000 police officers, 2 000 prison officers, 164 soldiers and thousands of election officials were taking part in a two-day special vote starting on Sunday but MDC queried the police figures. Prime minister Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change, in charge of the finance ministry and government payroll says the government has just over 40 000 police officers on the official payroll against the 69 000 whom the election commission says have applied for the vote. Police spokesperson Charity Charamba said the other 30 000 police force members are auxiliaries, reservists and part timers that have been roped to provide national security during the election. Suspicion however, heightened as police officers who constituted the majority of those who have applied for special voting, were either turned away or found their names absent from the register as logistical challenges blighted the poll.

    It would obviously defy logic that for some reason the numbers are inflated and yet barely half of those said to be eligible to vote are unable to vote.

    It therefore becomes clear that Zanu-PF inflated the figures to accommodate their youths, mostly Border Gezi graduates who were deceitfully included on the police roll by Commissioner Chihuru on the pretext that they were a police reserve so that they could vote for Zanu-PF. The actual police officers could not vote because they were viewed with suspicion and they were deliberately frustrated and some of their names were missing from the roll. The strategy also comes into form when we start to consider that ZEC later on announced that the same officers will be allowed to vote. That move by ZEC is a legal nullity but we can only understand it in the part of Zanu-PF agenda to rig. If they are allowed to vote, it will be precisely double voting.

    I will also give you another example one polling station. Similar reports were received countywide. An observation by settlement Chikwinya, a former MDC MP, and the outgoing parliament and aspiring candidate for MDC in Kwekwe was tellingly clear. He said he observed special voters casting their ballots at Kwekwe High School since Sunday. According to him 220 out of 723 managed to cast their votes. The majority left the polling station when it became apparently clear that they were no longer going to vote. He further observed that most of officers who received their voting packages are members of the " Special Constabulary" vana Ndini Ndamubata or ma Neighborhood as some call them.

    Chikwinya concluded by noting that it appears Zanu-PF realized that these professionals have the same grievances with the system just like any other worker and they identify their problems with Zanu-PF. Their families are starving due to low salaries, they cannot equally pay fees in time, they have been reduced to professional corrupt officers so as to make ends meet, they cannot feed their parents in the rural areas and they have been denied promotion at the expense of incompetent war veterans and some political zealots promoted on the basis of political patronage. The officers cannot be trusted, that is why they were not allowed to vote. The regime does not trust them.

    It is clear what we witnessed over the weekend during the special voting is what many political analysts has long been saying and an extension of what happened during the shambolic constitutionally guaranteed 30 day voter registration period were thousands of people where deliberately disenfranchised after they failed to register because of huddles placed on the way.

    It goes to heart of the reform agenda in Zimbabwe. There were no meaningful reforms during the period of the transitional GNU to protect democratic gains of 2008 elections and Zanu-PF still controls he levers of power. Right now they are abusing that power full throttle to retain power and they will abuse it again to arm twist all state institutions come 31 July.

    This has been and is still part of a Zanu-PF grand plan, to have rapid, hurried and ambushed national elections without reforms, adequate funding and adequate preparations that will be easy to rig.

    When president Mugabe declared elections on July 31, it was part of their plan to disenfranchise voters, as there would be limited time for proper voter registration and verification. Prospective voters were systematically frustrated so that they fail to register. There were few registration centers, and workers from registrar general 's office were reportedly on a "go-slow". Some reports say people perceived to be MDC-T supporters have been deliberately removed from the voters' roll. Prime minister Tsvangirai wanted the polls delayed to give the nation enough time for preparations and the amendments to electoral laws that critics say have led to vote-rigging in the past.

    The other thing is that Zanu-PF is afraid of the people. They don't trust anyone. They have not forgotten when Simon Khaya Moyo was outpolled with the collusion of their own in the vote for the speaker of Parliament some years ago. They know the party has been rejected long time ago by the masses and they don't want elections. They don't want people to vote and vote them out. The party never wanted a free and fair election and will not allow the same to happen now. They don't know how to do away without elections and the best they can do is to have sham elections that will be carefully managed to retain power. This time they will avoid outright violence for now unless their plan "A " has failed to work.

    It is important to realize that ZEC has not been reformed. Despite cosmetic changes during the GNU, It is still the same institution that failed to announced results in 2008 amid allegations that they tempered with the results to avoid an outright win by Morgan Tsvangirai. There are allegations ZEC secretariat is still filled by president Mugabe's henchmen and CIO. In other words it is still partisan and it will be foolish for anyone to think otherwise. In terms of the special vote and the coming election, ZEC is therefore part of the plan, in other words a one-sided player or referee who will score for Zanu-PF.

    But these are not new tricks at all as Zanu-PF has been doing it all these years. Like I wrote some few months ago, the strategy involves a massive mobilization and registration of Zanu-PF supporters as voters, removing known MDC supporters from the voters roll, frustrating MDC supporters from registering as voters through a go slow process, out rightly denying MDC supporters to register using petty reasons like proof of residence and other bureaucratic measures that are meant to disenfranchise the people and cause apathy or low voter turnout in known or perceived MDC strongholds.

    This practice was rampant in 2002 elections. According to a ZESN report at the time, in rural areas, chiefs/headmen's were reportedly used to record the names of their subjects who were then required, against their will, to go and queue behind their chief and headman on voting day and vote in a predetermined sequence and in the process creating an unfortunate impression to the voters that they could be detected if they did not vote for Zanu-PF.

    Polling stations will also be skewed in favour of areas that are deemed to be Zanu-PF strongholds while those of the MDC are starved.

    These threats and strategies that are crafted in the run up to the election to ensure that all voters comply and vote for a Zanu-PF presidential candidate would be followed to the letter, voters under specific instruction to bring the serial numbers of their ballot papers, supporters or known opposition supporters ordered to profess illiteracy even if they could write, as well as registering their names with Zanu-PF officials after voting.

    The MDC must move to address all these issues now and it is our duty all of us as Zimbabweans to fight together in order to prevent this election being rigged in broad day light in the fashion of the just ended special vote.

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