KADOMA – The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) yesterday said it was not responsible for the delay in releasing the 2008 presidential election results and laid the blame squarely on the shoulders of politicians who announced them prematurely.
Report by Blessed Mhlanga/ Moses Matenga
Responding to questions from journalists yesterday, ZEC deputy chief election officer Utoile Silaigwana said: “The 2008 delay in announcing the Presidential poll results was not our fault. There was interference from political players who started announcing unofficial results putting the whole system into disrepute.
“We, therefore, had to go back to 10 000 polling stations where we collected a total of 40 000 source documents and had to verify each one of them from one centre. This is what caused the delay and not ZEC.
“We also had cases of civic society organisations who were camped at a local hotel announcing results of elections that were not correct.”
MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai narrowly beat President Robert Mugabe in the first round of polls, but did not garner the outright majority to assume office, necessitating a runoff that Tsvangirai pulled out of, citing violence.
Acting ZEC chairperson Joyce Kazembe said the commission was currently computerising the process to avoid the 2008 mistake of wrong results announcements.
“In this day of technology, we are also computerising so that we are able to transmit results speedily. We realised that the issues that happened in the past were as a result of human errors and we can’t rule out mischief as well. We had to manually count ballots in 23 constituencies,” she said.
Silaigwana said the commission could not be blamed for issues beyond their control, including political violence and the delay in announcing results of elections. Most of the criticism was unfair, he said.
“Quite often you ask ZEC if it is ready to deliver a free and fair election, but you should equally ask the question to political players whether they are ready to create a level political playing field,” he said.
Silaigwana said the authorities should move to change the laws first for ZEC to run elections as per everyone’s expectations.
“If there are people who don’t like the way ZEC conducts the elections, then they simply have to change the laws because we will run the elections in line with the existing laws,” he added.