‘Zec has changed our party symbols’

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Nelson Chamisa

BY HARRIET CHIKANDIWA/BLESSED MHLANGA
THE opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) has sensationally accused the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) of changing its party symbols on ballot papers to be used in the weekend by-elections.

The Nelson Chamisa-led party also lodged a complaint over the printing of ballot papers in black and white, saying this was meant to confuse its supporters on election day.

In a letter addressed to Zec chief elections officer Utoile Silaigwana dated March 21, 2022, CCC national secretary for elections Ian Makone said it was disturbing to note that the election management body changed its party symbols after being provided with distinctive samples.

The CCC said its  symbols had an inscribed description of a “yellow square background, circular words surrounding Chamisa’s face with letters CCC inside a black triangle”.

“In view of this, the CCC wishes to express its concern regarding the variation in its party symbol. The yellow background is not reflected on the party logo as witnessed by the party candidates during the ballot paper verification exercise,” Makone wrote.

“The sample ballot paper is not an exact depiction of our party intent, hence a violation of our party identity. It is in this regard that Zec considers such concerns seriously and rectifies them as per the requirements of the law of the land.”

During a Press briefing in Harare yesterday, Makone said CCC wrote to Zec on February 24 demanding answers over the printing of ballot papers.

“What we wanted from them was an assurance that there is a process of consultation even at local level and district multi-party liaison officer which enables us to proofread the specimen ballot papers,” he said.

“They never got an opportunity to do that and only found that a number of our candidates could not even recognise the picture that is on the ballot paper. We need to know which voters roll will be in use on Saturday,” Makone said.

The revelations came at a time when Zec has been taken to task over a number of anomalies on the voters roll, among them the alleged transfer of over 170 000 voters from their wards without their consent. The commission has, however, disputed the allegations, claiming the alleged anomalies were picked from a “leaked” draft roll, and have since been rectified.

The printing of ballot papers in the past elections has always been shrouded in secrecy, raising concerns over credibility of the polls,

Contacted for comment yesterday, Zec spokesperson Jasper Mangwana said they were not obliged to print ballot papers in colour.

“Zec is not obliged to print ballot papers in colour/s that correspond to contesting candidates or parties. The applicable provisions that relate to printing of the ballot paper are in section 52A of the Electoral Act and section 5 of the Electoral Regal SI 21 of 2005,” Mangwana said in a series of tweets following concerns raised by the CCC that its symbols had been tampered with.

“The sections do not at all bind the commission to print any ballot papers in the manner the party is alleging. What is important is to distinguish the colour of the ballot paper depending on the type of election as envisaged by section 5 of the electoral regulations.”

“The law does not require the commission to print the photograph or symbol of the party in colour. It is unfortunate that the party went on to educate its supporters without consulting with the commission on the contents and form of (the) ballot paper.”

Zec recently announced that it had printed 594 300 ballots for the by-elections.

Ballots for the National Assembly were printed by Fidelity Printers and Refiners while those for local authorities were printed by Printflow, both government-owned entities.

A total of 813 659 people were registered to vote for National Assembly elections while 678 260 were registered for local authorities’ by-elections.

Zimbabwe Election Advocacy Trust executive director Ignatius Sadziwa said the secrecy surrounding the printing of ballot papers made verification and auditing difficult.

“The issue of the ballot printing has been contentious for quite a long time and we had hoped that Zec was going to address it this time around. Now that is problematic since the printing process is shrouded in shadowy secrecy making verification and auditing by political parties and civil society difficult,” Sadziwa said.

There are 28 vacant parliamentary seats and 105 council seats emanating from deaths of some legislators, recall of MDC Alliance legislators and councillors by Douglas Mwonzora’s MDC-T and diplomatic postings.

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