‘Low voter turnout vindicates calls for reforms’

A voting officer demonstrates what to do with the ballot paper when one is finished voting.

THE opposition MDC-T yesterday said the low turnout at most polling stations in all the 16 constituencies where by-elections were held confirmed that the electorate had heeded its call for a boycott of the polls.

By Staff Reporters

In a statement yesterday, MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said the unexpected low figures had sent a clear message to Zanu PF and the international community that the country needed radical reforms in its electoral system.

“The low voter turnout and the paltry votes for the so-called winners tell their own sad story,” Gutu said.

“The by-elections have largely vindicated our position as even these polls were fraught with the massive irregularities we have highlighted such as vote-buying, abuse of traditional leaders and disenfranchisements as some voters found their names not on the voters’ roll.”

MDC Renewal Team spokesperson Jacob Mafume said the irregularities justified the call for radical reforms.

Zanu PF won by a landslide all the 16 by-elections where apathy and allegations of electoral irregularities were cited.

The Harare East constituency which caused serious divisions in Zanu PF was won by Terrence Mukupe who polled 4 605. A total of 5 618 people voted in the constituency.

The only strong contest was in Hurungwe West where Keith Guzah won the hotly contested seat after polling 5 997 votes to beat bitter rival and independent candidate, Temba Mliswa, who garnered 4 255 votes.

In Headlands previously held by axed former Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa, Christopher Chingosho polled 11 104 votes, while Albert Mukaratirwa an independent got 897 votes and David Mukunda (NCA) got 117 votes.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network (Zesn), Heal Zimbabwe and many observer groups claimed there was voter intimidation, bussing of voters and unorthodox practices such as recording voters by Zanu PF groups.

Pre-election period in Hurungwe West resembled a war zone as Zanu PF threw all it could to stop Mliswa from winning the seat.

Transform Zimbabwe spokesperson Sungai Mazando, whose party participated in the polls, said they had written to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) and the police over the alleged irregularities and selective application of the law.

Zesn board member Irene Petras told a Press conference yesterday that it was too early to judge if the election were free and fair.

“We have just highlighted that there is need for electoral reforms. There is need that the voter registration exercise be 100% in control of Zec. More should be done on voter education,” Petras said.

Analyst Dewa Mavhinga also said: “The results also demonstrate that boycotting elections alone will not bring reforms, it only gives Zanu PF free reign.”