Zec feels the heat over voters roll

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Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba

BY PRIVELEDGE GUMBODETE
ZIMBABWE Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson Priscilla Chigumba yesterday went ballistic during a Multi-Party Liaison Committee (MPLC) meeting in Harare after she was grilled over anomalies in the voters roll.

Pressure group Team Pachedu have unearthed a number of discrepancies after analysing the voters roll, including changes to 156 polling stations, movement of
177 000 voters and registration of voters with unknown or unnamed residential addresses.

The exposure comes after the electoral management body released differing statistics on the number of deceased people it removed from the voters roll and the number of new voter registrants in 2021.

Critics have raised concerns of vote rigging, and argued that the discrepancies could undermine the credibility of the March 26 by-elections and 2023 polls.

Zec has since disowned the voters roll it released, claiming it had been tampered
with.

But opposition parties were not convinced and at the MPLC meeting, demanded that Chigumba provides answers.

“Chairperson, we have issues and I was delighted to note that you have brought several people to deal with queries around the voters roll. We have issues with the voters roll,” Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) member Jacob Mafume tried to ask a question before Chigumba exploded and interjected him.

Chigumba said: “Can I just, with respect, interrupt you there? Are you aware that our administrative process at Zec is that if you have queries, no matter how big or
small, your remedy is to write to the office of the chief elections officer (CEO)? Put your queries in writing and you will be guaranteed that the CEO, who is operational, will respond in seven days.”

Chigumba said the MPLC members had no authority to ask her questions about the voters roll.

The MPLC, as mandated by section 160B of the Electoral Act, is operationalised by Zec with its aim and functions being to mediate and resolve disputes arising from the electoral process.

“There is no need for you to be articulating your queries to me on this forum if you haven’t put your queries in writing to the CEO. If you haven’t written to the CEO, I don’t want to hear about it in this forum,” Chigumba charged.

“You can talk about the other issues. Follow the Zec laid-down procedures because if you don’t follow these procedures and you abuse this forum to give mileage to whatever it is that you want to say is unacceptable.”

Chigumba said Zec would only respond to questions on the voters roll in Parliament.

“We have seen a lot of queries about the voters roll on social media and the blanket response is we will respond to those issues to Parliament, which is the forum that we account to, not in this forum. So could we skip the voters roll issues?” she said.

“They have already been brought to our attention and we will respond in due course. Other issues, not voters roll issues. I am not giving mileage to attention by social media. We are still waiting for formal notification or formal request to respond. Write to us, come and sit down face-to-face with us. Do not hide on social media, where you slander us.”

Chigumba accused opposition parties of grandstanding after Mafume raised a question on the uneven electoral playing field, where the police has been accused of disrupting opposition activities including door-to-door campaigns.

“When you are unhappy with any electoral malpractice or alleged malpractice, you already know that lawyers have sued the police. Let’s not use this platform for grandstanding,” she thundered.

Meanwhile, Chigumba claimed that the country has the best electoral resolution mechanisms which are being undermined by the toxic political environment.

“While Zimbabwe has one of the best electoral dispute resolution mechanisms on paper, again in my very considered view, the polarised political environment often clouds the good that has been achieved to date,” she said.

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