Zec in fresh storm over polling booths

A WAR of words has erupted between the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) and political parties over the redesigning of polling booths for the upcoming elections, with stakeholders arguing that the new design threatened the secrecy of the ballot as voters would be casting their ballots facing Zec officials.

BY RICHARD CHIDZA

Opposition political parties have threatened to sue Zec over the matter.

The electoral body yesterday confirmed the new design, but insisted the secrecy of the ballot was still guaranteed.

Acting Zec chief elections officer, Utoile Silaigwana, said the new design was meant to ensure that voters would not take pictures of their ballots after voting, which they would subsequently publish on social media.

“The booths remain the same. We have not designed any transparent polling booths… The secrecy of the voter is still guaranteed, but we have made sure that whoever goes into the polling booth and makes a mark does so in view of officials to avoid people abusing this to take pictures of how they have marked a ballot to put them on social media. I must emphasise that whoever is marking a ballot does so in secret,” he said.

The Nelson Chamisa-led MDC-T secretary-general, Douglas Mwonzora, said Zec was breaking the law and his party would take legal action.

“This is extremely illegal because in terms of the Constitution, voting must be in secret. The moment someone watches over how you are marking the ballot, it becomes a violation of the law and we are going to take Zec to court over this,” Mwonzora, a lawyer by profession said.

“It is not criminal because the secrecy of the vote concept protects the voter. If, therefore, the voter decides to share, it’s their choice because they have a right to forego the protection provided for by the law,” he added.

However, Sitembile Mpofu, a political analyst, said Zec’s move was a global best practice that could benefit political actors.

“Despite the high levels of tension existing between Zec and political parties, Zimbabweans must appreciate that the ban on taking selfies in the ballot box is standard procedure for electoral commissions around the world. Political parties must be aware that taking pictures of ballots is a double-edged sword that may work for them or be used against them,” Mpofu said.

Maxwell Saungweme, a political analyst, described the actions by Zec as “medieval”.

“This is wrong and causes unnecessary apprehension. It’s a very backward proposition by Zec. They should allow people to vote freely. People can publish photoshopped marked ballot papers. This proposal is nonsensical and medieval. Zec has to know they are running the poll in 21st century where social media is the order of the day,” Saungweme said.

Coalition of Democrats (Code) presidential candidate Elton Mangoma said the arrangement was problematic.

“We have a big problem with this arrangement. Even if pictures are taken, we don’t think it would solicit this drastic action. The pictures published on social media are not enough to change people’s mindsets,” he said.

Thokozani Khupe’s vice-president Obert Gutu who said the move was a “serious attack on democracy”. “Given the history of intimidation in our elections, especially under (former president Robert) Mugabe, particularly in rural areas, the exposure of people to snooping from electoral officials will increase fear in villages across the country,” he said.

Gutu, however, warned this could be a “double-edged sword”.

“Taking a picture could indeed be a form of campaign, but at the same time it’s an exercise of people’s rights. We should just encourage responsible use of social media,” he said

Another lawyer, Jacob Mafume, who doubles as People’s Democratic Party spokesperson, said Zec was “majoring on the minors” while ignoring the issues raised by political parties.

“Nobody has complained about publication of marked ballots on social media. Zec has greater problems to deal with including the issue of the ballot and voters’ roll instead of seeking to police citizens,” he said.

Zec is already under pressure over the design, quality and manner of distribution of the ballot paper to be used in the election.

The MDC Alliance has threatened to picket at Zec’s head office in Harare until the July 30 elections if the electoral management body fails to address the coalition’s demands for transparency in ballot printing.

19 Comments

  1. LUV MY COUNTRY ZIM

    uku ndokupererwa manje why not make it a must that no phones are allowed int he booth and poita more of ma phone counters ane ma number ye booth yacho kuti wakupinda unosiya phone and get a card,when done wodzosa card and get your phone that violating the secrecy of the voter asi kunyange ndakatarisa ani ndovote pandoda ini kungotyira vamwe

    1. Brilliant suggestion. Why couldn’t such an idea occur to the ZEC officials/commissioners? Or simply ban the operation of a cellphone (by voters) inside a polling station.

  2. ZEC ZEC ZEC ZEC whats wrong with you guys?

  3. Comment…this time muchanya mazanuz majaira zverigging zvipachena izvi zec irikushaya kuti yoita sei pressure. chigumba chi chawapiwa namnangagwa chinokosha kudarika nyika yese yeZimbabwe or vakati vachakuita vp after elections.? If is that u are a fool indeed

  4. hapana chakashata apa,vanhu tionenda pa ATM kunoisa pin number vamwe vari kumashure wani,hapana anoonerwa pin wani

    1. shunguhadziurayi mangarayi

      Taura hako wena even munhu akaona kuti ndaisa x vangu apa zvinochinja chii zvine effect yeyi? Imwe noise ndeyekupererwa iyi.

  5. bheveni sibanda

    zvimwe zvacho zvinenge zvine musoro but kungoti everything chaitwa ne ZEC chiri kuitirwa ZANU Pf ndizvo zviri wrong izvozvo. chero vanhu vakavhotera mudzimba dzavo Mnangagwa arikutora chitanda bedzi

  6. Comment…hazvina kana musoro izvi 2013 kwanga kusina ma camera here .saka kana achitora chitanda chacho chirikuku rwadzai chii majaira kugvinyirirwa zvekuti chero zvinhu zviri abnormal kwamuri zva normal .ED ngatore chitanda chacho sezvangoita Mugabe ma polling booth asina kuchinjwa.

  7. Kutotyira hama dzedu dzekumisha, ini kana ZEC yacho ikati huya tikumakire ndotovaudza kuti isayi pa spaghetti apo aaa

  8. shunguhadziurayi mangarayi

    Haaa yaaaa kkkkkkkkk kune vanhu vanonzi hawana njere asi wema opposition emuZimbabwe zvakatonyanya shuwa. Kugarira kushoropodza ZEC zvekusvika pakuwa zvitunha zviri kufamba here vakomana? Surely even the writer of this article must be ashamed of himself by calling mwonzora a lawyer by profession. A lawyer by profession who cant even differentiate between a good and a bad thing? Surely what is wrong even if someone is to vote in front of 1000 people? Does that change on’s mind to vote for someone he/or she don’t like to vote for? Manje ZANU PF inokurwadzayi zvekuti hamupore varume becoz ini chero ndakanongedzwa nepfuti x ndinongokanda pana ED chete and hazvichinji. ED Pfeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

  9. maitiro enyu aya

  10. MAKAKURA MUCHIGEZERA KURWIZI MAAKUTYA KUVHOTA. MA-MDC ARI KUPANIKA.

  11. whats really wrong with this chigumba person……God ngenanai shoo

  12. Ukaona munhu achiri kuenderera mbira achivhotera nekutsigira zanu pf nhasi uno uyo zimbabwe yakaparadzwa ngevanhu vezanu pf,yei hausi mhunhu wakakwana uri muroyi mhondi muurayi chaiye. zec ibato rezanu pf nekuti rakavapo ngezanu pf.Nekudaro zimbabwe icharamba ichinetseka zvakanyanyisa ichizosununguka chete kana vanhu vasiya kutsigira vafokozana ava. Zanu pf ino farira kutambura kweruzhinji ivo vashoma vana ED Mnangagwa vachidya nemhuri dzavo vachiguta imi vanhu muchifamba netsoka dzisina shangu muchibaiwa nemwinza. Vanhu vhurai pfungwa nemaziso enyu muzive zvakakufukidzai.

  13. Saka chii chakashata pakugezera kurwizi? Tsve zviri kutaurwa iwe nezvako mata!!

  14. tototyira vamwe esp kumisha uko isu kana vakati maofficials ezec acho anenge akamirira kuona zvandavhota pachinja ipapo handiregi

  15. The Movement of Democratic Change has finally morphed into the Movement of Delusional Complaints. Rohwayi tiende vakomana, haikona kuti pedzera nguva.

  16. Comment…They are cowards who survive in chaos. There is also a war for political positions among them and this is why they are many for presidential race. Vote #ED Mnangagwa for economic development.

  17. Chigumburo Zec

    Nhaimi kuti ZEC haisi yakatotanga kurima nekusvuta mbanje here nhaimi? Koo ndave mwana mucheche here anomama akamirirwa?

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