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We need at least one observer at every polling station

Letters to the Editor

THE recently-held Zanu PF primary elections have revealed something that should be of interest to Sadc, Africa and the rest of the world. There was no single assisted voter in these elections. This is a true reflection of the level of literacy among Zimbabweans.

Soon after attaining independence, government embarked on a deliberate effort to ensure that every Zimbabwean had essential reading and writing skills.

In addition to ensuring that every child of school-going age went to school, government also introduced the adult literacy programme everywhere, including in rural areas so that those who missed the opportunity to learn during the Rhodesian time had the chance to make up for the loss.

Forty-three years after independence, it is a fact that every Zimbabwean below the age of 80 can read and write, so there should be no cases where people should be assisted to vote, except for a few adults over the age of 80 who missed the opportunity provided through the adult literacy programme.

Despite the high literacy levels, the political leadership in Zimbabwe makes people wonder what has happened to all the investments made in education because during elections, an unacceptably high number of voters are assisted to vote because they have been told by a chief, headman or some Zanu PF honchos that they should pretend that they cannot put an X on a ballot paper so that they are assisted to vote.

This is done because Zanu PF suspects they will vote for the opposition, so people in rural areas known or suspected to be anti-Zanu PF are told they will be killed if they do not pretend they cannot cast their votes by themselves.

This practice by Zanu PF is not hearsay as there is video footage of  Zanu PF officials addressing meetings where they gave the instruction that certain people should pretend that they cannot vote by themselves.

In some cases, the Zanu PF officials tell the terrorised audience that this is an instruction from President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a case in point being in Gokwe-Sesame, where a video, available on the internet, provides the evidence.

An unacceptably high number of voters have been assisted to vote in elections held since 2000, and the number is on the increase. In by-elections held in March last year, some rural polling stations recorded up to 50 assisted voters, when the total number of voters at that polling station was less than 500.

As we approach this year’s general elections, there have been numerous reports from the rural areas that headmen and chiefs who recently received lucrative payments and gifts from government have been telling people, whom they suspect may not vote for Zanu PF, to claim they are illiterate so that they are assisted to cast their vote.

This year, the plan is for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to recruit teachers who have been mobilised into a pro-Mnangagwa group known as Teachers for ED, and were given various incentives to subvert the will of the people.

But there is no problem without a solution, and my suggestions for a solution are as follows:

  • Citizens in rural areas targeted for assisted voting must record the names of the people giving those instructions, and seek the assistance of whoever they choose to help them to report the matter to Zec officials, and the police, and copy the incident report to Sadc, the African Union and the United Nations;
  • People who were forced to claim illiteracy and had to be assisted to vote in previous elections should similarly report their cases so that Sadc can investigate these claims in a bid to establish their authenticity;
  • With the assistance of the international community, Sadc should consider sending one observer to every polling station to ensure that there are no unjustifiable cases of assisted voting;
  • A register should be created for assisted voters at every polling station. The register should contain the details of the assisted voter such as their national identification number as shown on the identity document used to vote, their name, date of birth, address and the polling station at which they voted. Audits can be carried out after the election if the number of assisted voters is suspiciously high, or just to prove the authenticity of the process;

All pro-human rights organisations in Zimbabwe are encouraged to support this call.

  • Parliamentarians are encouraged to include a clause that creates a register for assisted voters at each polling station in the Electoral Amendment Bill;
  • Disputed election results are the major cause of lack of investment in Zimbabwe because they erode investor confidence. We need to ensure that our elections are credible to attract investment and improve the economy and create an environment for all to prosper. - Kennedy Kaitano
Elections: Our children deserve better

A FEW months before Zimbabweans go to another election, the country is once again on edge.

After another five years of relative stability and commendable peace, at least at the political level, the drums of war are once again at our doorstep.

We could actually lose it in the end. The hope that was built after November 18, 2017 and the outpouring of emotions by a collective citizenry weary of political conflict may come to naught.

We need to build on this and work to set up the second republic. But dark forces are once again stalking our national soul.

The opposition is demanding transparency and accountability, but the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), a Chapter 12 institution that must act as referee at this critical juncture in the life of our nation, seems deliberately “deaf and blind” to the dictates not only of moral suasion, but also our national governance charter.

Section 62 of the Constitution indicates: “Every Zimbabwean citizen or permanent resident, including juristic persons and the Zimbabwean media, has the right of access to any information held by the State or any institution or agency of government at every level, in so far as the information is required in the interest of public accountability.”

And to cement this even further, in chapter 1 section 3(2)(g) under the founding values of our Constitution, as part of the principles of good governance binding the State and all its institutions, there must be transparency, justice, accountability and responsiveness by all governmental agencies.

Therefore, the demand for a clean and complete voters roll is not outlandish. Zec must simply comply! The demand by the opposition and other stakeholders, in particular aspiring candidates across the board, for access to the printing of ballots while not provided for in our laws, is covered by sections 62 and 63 as indicated above.

Given the fact that Zanu PF is a participant in this election and President Emmerson Mnangagwa as well as most of his Cabinet ministers are candidates in the election, is it not unfair that they have undue advantage because they have unfettered access to information relating to the election.

Surely, Mnangagwa should also have an idea of the answers to these simple questions. Is it too much then for opposition parties to ask for some form of access to such vital information?

No doubt the credibility of our electoral process hangs in the balance. Mnangagwa has previously promised a free, fair and credible election.

General principles of accountability, fairness and transparency dictate that Zec opens up a little more. What is it that it has to hide? If none, it should, for God’s sake, allow opposition parties access to such information and let’s get this election done.

Our country deserves better and Mnangagwa needs to do something now if we are to avoid another slide into that black hole we were sucked into not many years ago. Our children deserve better. - Mwana Wevhu

Mid-season dry spell threatens food production

ACCORDING to the Meteorological Services Department of Zimbabwe (MSD), most of the country received precipitations of at least 200mm during the month of February 2023.

Tropical Storm Freddy drew moisture away and brought significant dryness across most of the country between the last weeks of February into early March, except in peripheral parts of Masvingo and Manicaland, where the storm brought heavy rain.

The highest accumulated precipitation was reported in Nyanga with 1 341mm and Mukandi with 1 295mm; while less than 400mm were recorded in parts of Beitbridge, Mwenezi and Chiredzi.

When compared to the long-term average, a greater part of the country, received accumulated seasonal precipitation that is categorised to be “normal” and a few areas slightly “above normal”.

The World Food Programme (WFP) Southern Africa Seasonal Monitor for February 2023 indicated a generally positive outlook for the remainder of the season across most of the southern African region, including Zimbabwe, with normal to above-normal rainfall forecasted throughout the remainder of the season.

The report also notes some significant flooding in the region during February, including parts of Zimbabwe, where up to 33 806 hectares of cropland were flooded.

As a result, water logging was reported in some flood-affected areas, increasing the risk of soil leaching — which results in crops requiring more top dressing fertilisers.

According to HungerMap LIVE, about 31% of farming communities faced input shortages in February. Reports of weed infestation and outbreaks of pests were also received and this might to some extent affect yield.

The report confirms the crop conditions in the north to be ranging between “fair” and “good” as this region has received consistent rainfall.

Meanwhile, the southern parts of the country mainly within agroecological zones IV and V, experienced mid-season dry spells between December and the start of January, which resulted in moisture stress and in some cases permanent wilting for early planted crops.

According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network Food Security Outlook for February to May, favourable rainfall in the northern surplus-producing areas during the second part of the 2022/23 rainy season has generally improved crop conditions.

Access to agricultural inputs needed for the current stage of the cropping cycle (mainly top dressing fertiliser and pesticides) beyond those distributed by the government was reported to be poor due to financial constraints.

Despite positive prospects for increased agricultural casual labour opportunities during the coming harvest season, casual labour opportunities in other sectors are expected to remain below normal due to liquidity challenges.

Petty trade remains the dominant livelihood activity, particularly among urban dwellers.

Terms of trade for livestock are likely to be in favour of the buyer due to low demand caused by liquidity challenges faced across the country.

Additionally, domestic and foreign remittances are expected to remain below normal due to liquidity challenges and the residence and work permit difficulties faced by some Zimbabweans in South Africa. - WFP

IN response to Zanu PF withholds election results, ENOS CHIKATI says: It’s obvious that Zanu PF is busy rigging results of its own elections. How shameful!

MNTUNGWA MANGETHE BALAKHULU says: Zanu PF is a cursed party. Now they are rigging their own polls.

ERIA ELLANO VUTUZA says: Imagine  if they are rigging during primary elections, what more in the national elections.

IN response to Depleting dam levels trigger Byo water crisis, BEN HORE says: Where are we with the Gwai-Shangani Dam project? Is there any intention to speed up the process? By all means necessary, let’s avoid politicising important issues.

MARTHA PHIRI says: Can the Gold Mafia use the proceeds from the sale of the mineral to fund the Gwai-Shangani Dam project.

IN response to Outrage over Moyo’s provincial hero status, MUNYARADZI MUCHABAYIWA says: We are the only country the world over that is obsessed with hero statuses as if it helps with anything considering our situation.

EPHRAIM MAKARA says: A hero is anyone who “donates” themselves for the benefit of others. Zipra ex-combatant David “Sharp Shoot” Moyo did just that. He was a pioneer of our liberation. I do not understand how such a great liberation hero is equated to Soul Jah Love in terms of hero status. Surely, it’s heartbreaking to see people of a lesser status being honoured at the expense of those really deserving. I wonder if there are men and women of character in the politburo when it comes to choosing our genuinely deserving heroes.

IN response to As guns flow into Zim, armed robberies spike, HENRY KUNENE says: When will those who were looting gold and manipulating the exchange rate pay for their crimes?

BONGANI HUBERT MNETHWA ZULU says: Having an unlicensed gun is not big offence compared to what the Gold Mafia is doing.

RYAN MAGANGENI ZITHA says: Let’s value our lives, our resources and our votes. I will vote against a certain party so as to safeguard the future of our children.

IN response to Paul Rusesabagina: Hotel Rwanda hero set free, THELIGHT CHIPOFYA says: It is no surprise from the way the American government is involving itself that it is up to something. Paul Kagame should sleep with one eye open.

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