BY BLESSED MHLANGA
TWO traditional leaders in Zaka East, Masvingo Province defied the Constitution in the just-ended parliamentary by-election by openly declaring allegiance to the ruling Zanu PF and intimidating voters, independent elections watchdog Zimbabwe Elections Support Network (Zesn) has said.
Zesn, which deployed observers for the Zaka by-election won by Zanu PF candidate Clemence Chiduwa said there were electoral violations by a headman, who openly wore the ruling party regalia to the polling station, while the other doubled as a polling agent.
“Zesn is, therefore, concerned that at Vhurumuku Primary Scchool, in ward 25 of Zaka East, a well-known headman was serving as a Zanu PF party election agent.
In ward 32, a village head turned up to vote at Machiva polling station wearing Zanu PF regalia. Though he removed the cap and put on a jacket to conceal the Zanu PF T-shirt upon Zec’s instruction, the village head went out and sat at the gate of the school, where the polling station was located, within the vicinity of the polling station, in Zanu PF party regalia,” reads part of the report.
The Constitution prohibits traditional leaders from being members of a political party or participating in active politics.“While freedom of association is provided for in the Constitution, traditional leaders are bound by the same Constitution (Section 281) not to support any political party or cause.
In terms of this Section (281)(2) traditional leaders must not — (a) be members of any political party or in any way participate in partisan politics, (b) act in a partisan manner, and (c) further the interests of any political party or cause,” reads part of the Zesn statement.
The wearing of party regalia on election day is also prohibited and is a criminal offence, which could lead to arrest of those who violate it.Zesn said Zec could have done more to deal with the headman instead of just asking him to conceal his party regalia.
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“Putting on party regalia on election day is prohibited in terms of the code of conduct for political parties, candidates, and other stakeholders, schedule 7 (1) (d) of the Electoral Act which stipulates that “No political party or candidate may, from midnight twenty-four hours before polling day in any election or referendum until polling stations are closed on that day — campaign or display campaign material within 300 metres of a polling station or counting centre.
Zesn commends Zec for taking action. However, the commission could have done more, possibly by turning the voter away for turning up at a polling station displaying a party’s campaign material,” Zesn said.
MDC secretary for elections Jacob Mafume said they also had incidence of violence with one of their polling agents being assaulted by Zanu PF members, a report confirmed by Zesn.
“Zesn also received a report of a worrying incident of assault of an MDC Alliance agent who claims he was beaten and had his phone seized by Zanu PF supporters who accused him of taking photos of them busing redirected voters to other polling stations.
Zesn strongly condemns any form of violence, particularly in elections as it has a potential to impact on the credibility of an election,” Zesn said.