THE Southern African Development Community election observer mission (SEOM) has said Zimbabwean elections held on Wednesday did not meet regional and international standards on the holding of free and fair credible polls.
Speaking at a Press conference held in Harare, the SEOM said the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) lied to observer missions that it was prepared for the elections.
In their interim report, the SEOM poked holes into the whole electoral process, much to the anger of Zanu PF activists who went ballistic on X (formerly Twitter) attacking the observer group.
There was chaos on election day across the country, with some polling stations having no ballot papers as polling stations opened at 7am. In other centres, ballot papers ran out.
“64% of the voting stations observed opened on time, 36% did not open on time for the 7am stipulated opening time,” SEOM head Nevers Mumba said.
“Some polling stations opened more than 12 hours after the stipulated time.
“The reason provided by Zec for this unprecedented development was the unavailability of ballot papers, particularly for the local authority elections, and also due to previous litigation.
“This challenge was, however, specific to Harare and Bulawayo provinces.”
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Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) leader Nelson Chamisa on Wednesday said the disruptions in Harare and Bulawayo, the opposition party’s strongholds, were meant to deliberately frustrate his supporters from voting.
“Prior to election day, Zec had assured our mission and other stakeholders that all necessary voting materials, including ballot papers, were available and ready for use before election day,” Mumba added.
“This communication was made in the context of section 52A(2) of the Electoral Act, which requires Zec to provide information on the number of ballot papers and publication of details regarding them.
“On the basis of these two considerations, the subsequent information from Zec that they did not have adequate ballot papers has the unfortunate effect of creating doubts about the credibility of this electoral process.”
Mumba said the elections, while generally peaceful, failed the constitutional test.
“... the mission noted that some aspects of the harmonised elections, fell short of the requirements of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the Electoral Act, and the Sadc Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections (2021),” he said.
Sadc also raised concern over Zanu PF’s affiliate group, the Forever Associates Zimbabwe (FAZ), which the ruling party deployed across the country to intimidate voters.
“Our mission confirmed the existence of this group and they were easily identifiable. The group intimidated voters,” Mumba said.
The SEOM, however, urged political parties and other stakeholders, including the general citizenry, to allow Zec to announce the final results as legally mandated.
The African Union-Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa observer mission led by former Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, also red-flagged irregularities that characterised the polls.
“The mission further notes that Zec was not fully prepared. This disenfranchised voters from voting in the first place,” they said.
AU said the delay in delivery of ballot papers cast doubt in the credibility of polls.
AU further raised concern over the presence of FAZ near polling stations, before urging Zimbabwe to respect the rule of law and democratic principles.
“Enhance the enforcement of the electoral code of conduct and also address issues of intimidation of voters so that the elections are credible,” the AU EOM said in a message directed to Zec.
The CCC welcomed the SEOM report, with party spokesperson Promise Mkwananzi saying this confirmed their fears that the elections were not credible.
“We welcome the interim report of Sadc and the issues that they have raised which we have consistently raised. It is clear that the credibility of this election now has an indelible link,” Mkwananzi said.
Later in the day yesterday, the CCC tweeted that: “We have received multiple reports that Zec is summoning our agents, claiming they have made mistakes regarding the presidential ballot boxes in nearly all rural provinces.
“Zec intends to reopen the ballot boxes without a court order. We will resist any actions that violate the law and undermine the will of the people. Zec should not engage in behaviour that further undermines the credibility of this election. #DefendTheVote.”
Zimbabwe has a history of disputed elections dating back to 1980 when the country gained independence from British colonial rule.