Heads roll over ‘leaked’ voters’ roll

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Zec acting chief elections officer (CEO) Jane Pamhidzirai Chigidji

BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA

THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has suspended an unspecified number of officials on allegations of leaking a copy of the national voters’ roll and sharing the “tampered” document with an unnamed stakeholder “so as to suit that stakeholder’s narrative”.

Addressing journalists in Harare yesterday after independent election watchdogs had poked holes on the roll and exposed serious anomalies, Zec acting chief elections officer (CEO) Jane Pamhidzirai Chigidji claimed the document was obtained without following procedures and was heavily tampered with to discredit the country’s electoral processes.

“As a result of that incident, the commission has suspended some officials involved in the production of the voters’ rolls while investigations are being carried out to establish the circumstances under which the alleged ‘2020 voters’ roll’ was issued without following proper procedure and without the authority or knowledge of the CEO. The commission views the matter seriously and urges all stakeholders to adopt a professional approach when dealing with it,” Chigidji said.

She said stakeholders were free to request for a “genuine” voters’ roll as provided for under section 21(3) of the Electoral Act [Chapter 2:13].

“The commission wishes to dissociate itself with the copy of the alleged voters’ roll that was allegedly issued to the stakeholder concerned for the reason that it was not procedurally issued and for the record, it has reason to believe that there was connivance between certain members of its staff and a representative of the stakeholder to issue a tempered copy so as to suit that stakeholder’s narrative.

“There is no record or information confirming that the CEO sanctioned the issuance of that alleged voters’ roll. In fact, what has been established is that the alleged voters’ roll was issued on a verbal request to an officer in the department concerned without the approval or knowledge of the CEO. The request document upon which it was issued does not bear any signature from any Zec official.”

She added: “Stakeholders are, therefore, advised to follow due process in making requests to avoid disappointment. In as much the voters’ roll is a public document, the Legislature was not blind to the fact that it contains people’s confidential information which is security related. It is unlawful for any stakeholder to without prior written consent of the commission to make use of information therein for any purpose unconnected with an election. The publication of voters sensitive information in social and other media circles as was happening is an offence punishable by law. The commission will publish its own voters’ roll analysis in due course for public information.”

Election watchdogs, among the Team Pachedu, have since poked holes on the leaked document and unearthed several discrepancies, including the alleged movement of 170 000 voters from their constituencies and wards and creation of additional polling stations under unclear circumstances.

Zec has been under pressure from political parties and civic society organisations for allegedly tampering with the voters’ roll to rig the election in favour of the ruling Zanu PF party.

Last month, Zec was forced to revise upwards the number of new voters registered last year after the public disputed its claim that only 2 000 new registrants were added to the voters’ roll last year.

In the same month, Zec triggered another storm after announcing plans to remove 35 085 names of deceased persons from the voters’ roll, two months after identifying only 22 000 deceased voters on the roll.

Team Pachedu last week accused Zec of illegally moving 170 000 voters from their original constituencies and wards in the voters roll to be used for the March 26 by-elections.

This came as the opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change also accused Zec of over-registering several voters under non-existent residential addresses.

In a statement , the Election Resource Centre (ERC) called on Zec has to avail the voters’ roll to disprove fears that there were attempts to rig the polls.

“The ERC reiterates that Zec must maintain the integrity of the voters’ roll  while also working to ensure that stakeholders are not intimidated when questioning the credibility of the roll,” ERC said in a statement on Thursday.

“The commission is on record stating that the automated fingerprint identification system and the deduplication exercises are used to clean errors in the voters’ roll. In adherence to the principles of transparency , ERC calls on the Zec to avail evidence and information necessary  to restore the public in the voters’ roll, which includes addressing the changes to the polling stations without due notification.”

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