Monday, 23 July 2018

POSTAL VOTING SPARKS HUGE DEBATE

Serious concerns have been raised over the just ended chaotic postal voting process across the country with reports emanating that junior members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) received ballots from their superiors and voted in their presence.

Special voting in Zimbabwe has always been contentious because it has traditionally been shrouded in secrecy amid allegations that junior members are commanded to vote in specific ways.
Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) director Rindai Vava-Chipfunde said these allegations are in violation of Section 75(1)(a) of the Electoral Act which guarantees the secrecy of the postal vote.

“In the spirit of transparency and open data, Zesn is calling upon Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to publicise the regulations and procedures for postal voting in order to diffuse the confusion and speculation around the process.

“In addition, the specific number of ballot papers dispatched to the diplomatic corps, uniformed forces and electoral officers must be made public,” said Vava-Chipfunde.

Zesn reiterated its calls for Zec to ensure that secrecy of the vote and freedom of choice are respected and upheld given that voting by members of the uniformed forces is by postal ballot.
The Daily News caught up with social and political analysts to hear their views on the controversy surrounding the postal voting which has already closed down.

Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said the battle lines on postal voting and the voters’ roll are drawn between MDC Alliance and Zec.

“It’s now a matter of interpretation of the law and court verdicts on the one hand, and political pressure and possible Sadc and AU mediation on the other.

“The outcomes are clear, either a disputed Mnangagwa electoral victory or a negotiated government of national unity for the next five years, to give enough time for electoral reforms to be done to level the playing field,” said Saungweme.

Political analyst MacDonald Lewanika said Zec’s continued intransigence only serves to discredit it and the electoral process.

“Given the head of steam that the opposition is building, Zec’s failure to address issues of concern is setting Zimbabwe up for an immediate election and post-election crisis.

“The best chance that Zec has to avoid a 2008 type crisis is to respectfully deal with challenges, listen and address what can be addressed. A mini-poll of 4 000 where Zec doesn’t have to preside is a small task to repeat if Zec had conducted it wrongly but because every vote counts and should be cast and counted freely and fairly an exception to the law may be granted depending on Zec’s approach and possible legal outcomes,” said Lewanika.

Election Resource Centre (ERC) director Tawanda Chimhini said the matter of the postal vote or any other aspect of the election is never over until all legal matters have been addressed.

“Zec persistently states that it operates within the confines of the law. The law explains what Zec should do in terms of postal ballots. Have all provisions been met? Is Zec prepared to share all registers relating to postal voting as suggested by the law? Has Zec allowed observation for all processes pertaining to postal ballots as provided for by the law? Has Zec put up mechanism to protect the secrecy of the postal vote as suggested by our laws?

“If applications for postal ballots are individual and not institutional, did Zec mail the postal ballots to the individual voter and did the individual voter mail back their ballots straight to Zec and not through intermediaries as suggested by the law?”

Chimhini said until these questions are fully addressed, it is naive for Zec to rush to proclaim that the matter is over.


He added that only through an honest response to these issues can Zec declare that it is ready for a constitutional election.

Media analyst Rashweat Mukundu said Zec’s communications is in tatters and they are laying the ground for a disputed electoral outcome.

“At this moment Zec cannot do much if the process is done, yet they need to reassure the electorate and opposition parties that this process was above board.

“While Zec is accountable to parliament and are an ‘independent’ institution, we know independent institutions are not that independent in Zimbabwe, they are made up of people with connections materially and personally with those in power and they tend to serve the interests of the elites, so Zec cannot hide behind the law but must be proactive in disseminating information and enhancing transparency in its actions,” said Mukundu.

Political analyst Vivid Gwede said the fact is that Zec has deliberately created a difficult situation for itself in order to use it as an excuse for not implementing the opposition demands.

“They can always claim that they do not have time to re-do postal voting vis-a-vis the election date, but I don’t see it as an accident. If Zec was concerned with transparency and fairness they would have proactively communicated about the election processes and the logistics, including postal voting rather operating like a secret society,” said Gwede.

He said with one week left to the election, they have created a logistical nightmare to make it difficult to reprint the ballot papers or redo the postal voting.

Crisis Coalition spokesperson Tabani Moyo said the conflation of the ruling party’s interests and partisan nature of Zec, risks throwing Zimbabwe into yet another obit of crisis.

“Zimbabwe cannot afford another disputed election at this time of our existence. It is incumbent upon Zec to ensure that it maintains the highest standards of transparency and accountability across the stakeholder chain, less the election faces the credibility crisis of successive elections.

“Zec should therefore engage the opposition forces and behave in a manner consistent with independent institutions rather than exhibiting traits of a captured creation as it is doing,” said Moyo.

He added that there are glaring inconsistencies which gives the opposition’s concerns traction.

“At one end Zec was claiming that they were still to print ballot papers yet in Bulawayo officers were voting for council, constituency and presidential candidates. It is therefore critical to address stakeholder concerns and then run an election as this whole process smack of a sham.”
Deputy president of MDC led by Thokozani Khupe, Obert Gutu said: “MDC led by…Khupe will always want to remind Zec that they should be guided by their obligations in terms of the provisions of Section 239 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

“We are a very serious and focused political party. We are not given to childish excitability and mass hysteria. We always say what we do and do what we say. If we are not happy with Zec, we will engage them through the necessary lawful channels, including litigation should this become necessary.

“We don’t play to the gallery. Whoever is not happy with the manner in which the postal vote was handled should go to court. Last time I checked, the courts in Zimbabwe are still open for legal business,” said Gutu. Daily News

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