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Zec ill-prepared for elections

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THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has been urged to put its house in order following the Bikita West by-election, which was marred by irregularities, casting doubt on the credibility of future polls.

BY NQOBANI NDLOVU

Independent election watchdog, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn), following its observation of the poll, said it had uncovered “several irregularities” that Zec must attend to as a matter of urgency.

Zesn said potential voters were turned away, a significant number were assisted to cast their ballots, while voter intimidation was rife.

“Zec should put in place mechanisms and measures to reduce the number of redirected voters, as in some instances, voters are redirected to polling stations several kilometres away.

“Zec should invest in more comprehensive voter education programmes to improve voters’ understanding of key electoral requirements in order to reduce numbers of turned away and assisted voters,” Zesn said in its recommendations to Zec.

Elections Resource Centre also called for the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) and Zec to investigate the unusually high number of assisted voters.

ERC director, Tawanda Chimini, in a statement, said although some assisted voters were genuine due to old age, others were suspicious.

“Although the bulk of the assisted voters were genuine owing to old age [illiterate, and/or visually impaired], there were isolated cases of young people, who claimed illiteracy, and upon investigations it turned out that they are literate, but were coached to claim otherwise,” he said.

Zanu PF’s Beauty Chabaya won the Bikita West by-election with 13 156 votes, with Kudakwashe Gopo, who came second, getting 2 453, while the other four contestants including National Constitutional Assembly’s Madock Chivasa got less than 1 300 votes combined.

Zesn added that Zec needed to continuously monitor and collect data on special groups in order to prepare and provide for their needs.

“Zec should devise voter education programmes that lure the youth to fully participate in electoral processes as the level of participation of youths in electoral processes remains low,” Zesn said.

The elections’ watchdog said sanctions must also be slapped on political parties that violate the Political Parties Code of Conduct during elections.

“Enforceable sanctions must be introduced for political parties and candidates that violate the Political Parties’ Code of Conduct,” Zesn said.

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