Anarchy tarnishes Mwenezi mini poll

By | April 10, 2017

Source: Anarchy tarnishes Mwenezi mini poll – DailyNews Live

STAFF WRITER      9 April 2017

HARARE – Chaos marred yesterday’s Mwenezi East by-election where many
voters were turned away, including Zanu PF candidate Joosbi Omar – who,
tragicomically, was only able to cast his vote at the third attempt after
travelling almost 20 kilometres from the original polling station.

The build-up to the by-election had also been sullied by allegations of
intimidation and vote buying – which forced one of the candidates,
Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, to withdraw from the contest three weeks ago.

Civil society groups – who were monitoring yesterday’s mini poll –
reported “widespread confusion” at polling stations, leading to many
voters being turned away.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) said most of the confusion
arose as a result of poor voter education on the polling station-based
voters’ roll, which resulted in many voters turning up at the wrong
polling stations.

“As of midday, Zesn had observed a significant number of voters being
turned away for turning up at the wrong polling stations and having
improper identification.

“Some of the voters who turned up at the wrong polling stations were
redirected to other polling stations, which at times were a considerable
distance away.

“For instance, at Guramatunhu Primary School in Ward 13, by midday 19
people had been redirected to other polling stations as far away as five
kilometres.

“The Zanu PF candidate Joosbi Omar was redirected from Vilivili Primary
School to Muzhanjire Primary School, about 20km away in Ward 13, having
also failed to vote at Chatagwi Primary School,” Zesn said.

“There is need for Zec (the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) to conduct
robust voter education on the polling station-based voters’ roll, and to
adequately publicise the inspection of the voters’ rolls to avoid cases of
voters turning up at the wrong polling stations,” it added.

Apart from voters turning up at wrong polling stations, civic groups also
reported many problematic cases of voters being assisted to vote, even as
this practice is allowed by the constitution.

They also observed that although the election went largely peacefully, the
campaign period was marred by allegations of intimidation, abuse of
traditional leaders, the defacing of campaign materials, vote buying and
the partisan distribution of food.

Analysts told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that the peaceful voting
that had taken place was largely due to the fact that Zanu PF was not
facing any formidable opponents in the by-election.

Deadly violence reared its ugly head in the last three by-elections in
Norton, Chimanimani West and Bikita West – where Zanu PF thugs attacked
opposition supporters and even poll candidates.

The Mwenezi East constituency fell vacant following the death of Zanu PF
Member of Parliament Joshua Moyo, in December last year.

Omar contested little-known Welcome Masuku of the National Consultative
Assembly (NCA) and Turner Mhango who represented an outfit called Free
Zimbabwe Congress.

Zimbabwe’s biggest opposition party, the MDC, has been boycotting
by-elections as part of its calls to have much-needed electoral reforms
before the country holds next year’s watershed national elections.

The MDC and other opposition parties coalescing under the banner of the
National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) are also demanding the
re-constitution of Zec, as well as a raft of other reforms.

Nera parties argue that in its present form, Zec is compromised by Zanu PF
functionaries who they say are part of its secretariat.

The opposition has on a number of occasions been barred from holding
demonstrations over outstanding electoral reforms, including the
government’s hijacking of the procurement of biometric voter registration
kits.

The controversy erupted into the open recently following the government’s
sudden decision to sideline the UNDP from assisting in the procurement of
the kits, with unanswered questions being raised about how and where the
stone-broke government will secure funding for this, to the staggering
tune of $17 million.

The opposition has alleged that the government is hijacking the process to
rig next year’s eagerly-anticipated national elections.

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