By Kundai Marunya
Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) has discredited the recently held parliamentary By Elections over violations of the Electoral Act of Zimbabwe.
The elections which saw ZANU PF grabbing all the 16 contested seats that fell vacant after MDC-T and ZANU PF recalled 14 and 2 parliamentarians (respectively) who opted for leadership renewal , are reported been in violation of the Electoral Act as there are reported cases of voter intimidation and vote buying.
Addressing a press briefing at Cresta Lodge yesterday, ZESN chair Irene Petras said though the polling day was peaceful, the pre-election period was marred my violent incidents and vote buying. “On the Election Day, ZESN observe intimidation of voters at various polling stations. Reports from observers indicated that in a number of constituencies, suspected ZANU PF officials and village heads were recording details of voters before they arrived at a polling station an after the voter ha cast their vote,” she said.
The reports came from observers in Tsholotsho (Zabagwaudi Bussiness Centre), Headlands (Nehumba Primary School), and Hurungwe West (Murapa Primary School). Petras said, “The practice violates section 133B (c) (1) of the Electoral Act which outlaws any attempts to compel voters to vote for a particular candidate or party.”
Petras said the presence of police officers inside 90 percent of the polling stations may have intimidated the electorate. “ZESN notes that the heavy police presence inside and outside the polling stations may intimidate voters,” she added. “Furthermore observers witnessed personnel being actively involved in assisting voters. This practice goes against international best norms and standards where the role of the police is limited to maintaining law an order.”
ZESN also expressed concerns over the absence of political party agents at some of the polling stations and the lack of voter education leading to thousands being turned away. “It is regrettable that some political parties and independent candidates failed to deploy agents at all polling stations. For instance, in Tsholotsho only ZANU PF party agents were present in all the polling stations where ZESN observed,” said Petras.
“This development is unfortunate because election observation remains an important tool that allows systematic assessment of the conduct of an election process on the basis of national legislation, regional, and international best practices.”
Meanwhile, Petras said there was a low turnout of voters in urban areas. “ZESN observed that there was voter apathy in urban constituencies as compared to the rural constituencies. The low turnout could be attributed to the fact that the by elections were held on a working day.” Normally, election days are declared public holidays to enable all registered voters to cast their ballot.
ZESN deployed 158 static observers for the By Elections, all base at some of the Ward and Constituency Collation Centre in additional to 42 mobile observers.
By Kundai Marunya