THE MDC Alliance yesterday raised a red flag over a litany of electoral irregularities which it claimed were part of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec)’s choreographed scheme to scupper coalition presidential candidate, Nelson Chamisa’s chances of winning the July 30 presidential race.
BY STAFF REPORTERS
This came as the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights also threatened to sue Zec for establishing a polling station at the Presidential Guard Barracks in Dzivarasekwa, Harare, in contravention of provisions of the Electoral Act.
“In our pursuit to advance the rule of law, we have established that there is a polling station that has been set up at the Presidential Guard army barracks in Dzivarasekwa Extension, Dzivarasekwa constituency.
“The polling station is identified as the Presidential Guard tent on the voters’ roll. After perusing the voters’ roll we have established that at least 1 635 voters have been registered to vote at the polling station,” ZLHR said.
Section 51 (1a) and (1b) of the Electoral Act provides that a polling station must be accessible to the public, including people with disabilities and that “no polling station shall be established at a police station, barrack, cantonment area or other place where police officers or members of the defence forces are permanently stationed”.
ZLHR gave Zec until end of business today to act or face legal action.
Under ex-President Robert Mugabe security personnel were reportedly forced to vote under the watch of their superiors in violation of their right to vote in secrecy.
Addressing journalists soon after meeting Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba in Harare, Chamisa’s chief election agent Jameson Timba said they had unearthed a litany of irregularities which he claimed were designed to give Zanu PF leader Emmerson Mnangagwa an unfair advantage over his rivals.
He said Mnangagwa’s name had been suspiciously put on top of all the presidential candidates’ list, instead of being placed on position 15 in accordance to the alphabetical order.
Timba demanded that printing of the ballot paper be stopped forthwith to address the anomalies, “or else there will be no election”.
He also accused Zec of barring them from observing the printing of the ballot paper.
“We had an understanding with Zec which they publicly announced that stakeholders will be invited to observe the printing of the ballot papers, but that didn’t happen,” he said.
“An invitation was extended to Zec and parties did go to Fidelity Printers where the ballot papers are to be printed. When parties went there, they were put in a gallery or should I say a balcony and pointed 20 meters away from the balcony through a glass that is where printing is taking place.
“That cannot be described as observing the printing of the ballot paper. In normal circumstances, what is expected is that you walk into the printing area and Zec will then give you the plant print run showing that they are going to print ballot papers from such a serial number to such a serial number, giving us the quantity.”
Timba said Zec was supposed to give stakeholders a specimen of the ballot paper, but that did not happen, adding “political parties were reduced to tourists visiting a printing facility, but didn’t observe the printing of ballot papers”.
Instead, Timba said they were given an A4 piece of paper supposedly representing the sample paper which would be used for the printing of the ballot paper.
Chamisa’s chief election agent alleged they were called in to observe the printing on Friday, but only learnt that printing had started three days earlier.
“Why Zec decided that they were going to start the printing and then invite people to observe makes the whole process questionable,” Timba said.
As a result of copious irregularities surrounding the printing of the ballot papers, Timba who had a meeting with Chigumba yesterday morning said all the printing must be stopped.
“We demand that this printing currently taking place without consultation with stakeholders as previously agreed be stopped. In this regard, we will be calling for the convening of the multi-liaison forum where all political parties meet with Zec so that we can determine the way forward,” Timba said, adding they will not be railroaded into sanitising a shameful process.
But, Chigumba at a Press briefing said Zec could not allow political parties close to the ballot paper because it was being printed next to high security documents which belong to other clients.
“However, the commission has noted with concern demands by some political parties to get very close to the printing machines which are located in an area with high security documents belonging to other clients. The commission views such demands as an abuse of the right to transparency,” she said.
Chigumba declared war on the opposition, saying they wanted to usurp the powers of Zec and tamper with its independence by challenging the designs of the ballot paper. The opposition argued that the ballot paper was designed to favour Mnangagwa.
“According to section 239 (g) of the Constitution, the designing and printing and distribution of ballot papers are the sole responsibility of Zec. Anyone else other than the Zec demanding to be involved in these functions directly or indirectly is deemed by the commission as one attempting to grab powers and independence of the electoral management body,” Chigumba said.
Timba, however, also accused Zec of reneging on its promise to provide a complete biometric voters’ roll to opposition parties. He added that the MDC Alliance had identified a number of discrepancies such as people in the age range of 150 years old, discovered many houses that have tens of people registered, but the houses do not exist, discovered many people with the same ID numbers, but with different names.
Responding to reports of discrepancies, Zec said the addresses which were being flagged were home to many people, citing the case of Stand number 100086 of Chitungwiza Unit G, which she claimed was an apostolic shrine.
“The commission would like to categorically deny that there are addresses with 400 registered voters. The stand number 100086 Unit G, Chitungwiza, alluded to by some Press reports is, in fact, a church shrine with 122 voters which is contrary to some Press reports that it has 400 voters,” she said.
The alleged irregularities were raised as the United States government was also pulling the rug off Chamisa’s feet by withdrawing funding to several pro-democracy groups believed to be the main funders of the opposition party.
The US embassy in Harare confirmed withdrawal of the funding to pave way for investigations into allegations of financial mishandling.
“Earlier this year as a result of irregular internal oversight USAid became aware of possible misuse of US assistance funding. When USAid learned of the situation an investigation was immediately launched and several issues were brought to light. Those issues have been dealt with accordingly,” the US embassy said.
The embassy added: “We remain committed to assisting the people of Zimbabwe and invest millions of dollars each year to support a wide range of programmes to benefit them. Attempts to divert US funds from their intended use is unacceptable under any circumstances.”
MDC-T spokesperson Tabitha Khumalo initially professed ignorance over the matter.
“I really don’t know about the party working with non-governmental organisations in any election related programme. I remember the Get Out and Vote programme was aimed at urging youths to register and then vote in the election, but we were not involved.
“However, as regards finance issues you need to talk to (Theresa) Makone (MDC-T treasurer-general). She would have a much better understanding of issues,” Khumalo said, adding that the drastic decision by the US was a body blow to opposition prospects in this month’s general elections.
“Civil society occupies an important space in the election and we would now as the opposition have to up our game and take that up along with our normal role. It’s not easy, but we have no choice. Normally, we are supposed to complement each other,” she said.
MDC Alliance spokesperson Welshman Ncube admitted the road ahead will not be rosy.
“For ZimRights there might not be any direct effect on the opposition because it worked with all people across the board, but the ERC (Election Resource Centre)’s work in analysing data and providing technical support will be missed.
If the ERC fails to get alternative funding then the country will be the poorer, especially the body of electoral knowledge. The CSU (Counselling Services Unit) has helped victims of political violence from all parties and their absence in the area of psycho-social support will have a negative impact on the welfare of victims,” Ncube said.
Meanwhile, Chamisa has withdrawn a court application where he sought an order to bar his rival Thokozani Khupe from using MDC-T party symbols, logo and trademarks.
Khupe had already successfully filed her nomination papers to contest, this year’s harmonised elections set for July 30, as MDC-T presidential candidate.
“The matter was removed from the roll by consent and what it means is that Khupe will continue to use the name, symbol, logo and trademarks of the MDC-T. In fact, she is the only candidate who is using the name MDC-T and its only presidential candidate. Just to set the record straight, what this means is that at the moment, Khupe will be the MDC-T party’s leader and until such a time when Chamisa will decide to revive the matter,” Khupe’s lawyer Lovemore Madhuku said.