Station-based polls slammed

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Christian Legal Society director Gerald Matiba says Zimbabwean elections have never been free and fair as they have always been marred by violence.

Matiba was addressing a think-tank meeting on electoral reforms held under the topic: “The merits and demerits of the constituency based, ward and polling station based voter’s roll”.

The meeting was organised by Habakkuk Trust, a Christian organisation that seeks to empower communities to participate in decision-making through research, advocacy and capacity building.

The organisation has worked with communities in Gwanda, Mangwe, Matobo, Tsholotsho and Bulawayo.

Matiba said the proposed the Electoral Amendment Bill sought to make polling station-based.

“This also poses a major challenge in that if registered voters are subjected to violence and displaced then they would not be able to vote elsewhere.

“Their right to vote is then lost. Elections in Zimbabwe have always been characterised by violence, intimidation and repressive legislation such as the Public Order and Security Act,” said Matiba.

He said the country has regularly held elections without fail, but this did not mean the elections had been held “in accordance with democratic principles and norms”.

Matiba said since independence, elections had been constituency-based until 2006 notwithstanding the “high incidents of violence and legal disputes as most of the outcomes of the results have been challenged”.

Matiba said one of the disadvantages of constituency-based voting was the fact that voters managed to “cheat” and voted twice within the same constituency.

He said the highly disputed 2008 elections that led to the formation of the inclusive government were held under the ward- based voting system.
“Seats for members of the House of Assembly were also increased to 210 while the senate seats went up to 93,” said Matiba.

He said the major challenge during the 2008 elections was that “some voting stations were not accessible by road”.

President Robert Mugabe is on record saying elections should be held by March next year so as to bring the inclusive government to an end.