Thursday, 3 March 2022

CHIGUMBA GOES AFTER WHISTLEBLOWERS

THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) yesterday threatened to sue activists and other pressure groups for exposing discrepancies on the voters roll, with the electoral management body saying public disclosures containing people’s personal details are a security risk.

Zec has been under the spotlight after activists such as Team Pachedu exposed massive irregularities including the alleged registration of voters without known addresses and movement of over 170 000 registered voters from constituencies without their consent.

Zec has, however, dismissed reports that the voters roll was shambolic.

Independent election watchdogs and critics have said Zec’s defensive stance without addressing stakeholder concerns on the voters roll fuelled fears that the electoral management body had something to hide.

Opposition parties and other critics have gone further saying the exposures lend credence to their fears of a plot to rig the March 26 by-elections and the 2023 polls.

Zec chief elections officer Utoile Silaigwana in a meeting yesterday with the Misheck Mataranyika-chaired Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, said public disclosure of the discrepancies on the voters roll was illegal, and exposed voters to physical attacks.

He singled out Team Pachedu.

“First and foremost, it is important to note that most, if not all, of the allegations that are being raised in the social media have not been formally brought to the attention of the commission save through unorthodox means,” Silaigwana said.

The meeting was held in partnership with the Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust.

“A shadowy group called Team Pachedu has been at the forefront of raising some of the allegations on social media, especially regarding issues related to the national voters roll. The publication of voters’ information on social media, as is now being done without seeking clarification from the commission, is highly deplorable and puts voters at risk.”

Silaigwana added: “As much as the national voters roll is a public document, it is also a security document containing voters’ personal details. Any abuse of it attracts legal consequences and the commission has a duty to protect voters’ information which they supplied in confidence. The advent of social media has exacerbated challenges related to security of information of citizens.”

Early this week, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) urged Zec to address stakeholder concerns on the voters roll to safeguard the integrity of the polls.

In its recommendations, Zesn said the electoral management body should allow the voters roll to be audited by independent data experts.

The country’s voters roll has been the subject of contention, with stakeholders poking holes in the document.

“The commission is accountable to Parliament through the Justice Committee and has engaged to give updates on electoral activities. Of concern to the commission are the various allegations which relate to the mandate of the commission that have been highly publicised in the social media, which have a damaging effect of casting aspersions on the credibility of our electrical process,” Silaigwana said.

Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba condemned rising cases of politically-motivated violence as the country marches towards the March 26 by-elections.

On Sunday, a Citizens Coalition for Change supporter died after he was stabbed by suspected Zanu PF activists during a rally which was being addressed by party leader Nelson Chamisa in Kwekwe.

“The commission condemns and abhors in strongest terms such acts of violence which have the effects of marring and negatively impacting the electoral environment in the build-up to the by-elections set for March 26,” Chigumba said.

“It is everybody’s responsibility to promote an environment conducive to the holding of free and fair elections and a climate of tolerance in which electioneering activities may take place without fear or coercion, intimidation or reprisal.” Newsday

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