via Bulawayo24 NEWS | Report: Zec admits it was rocked by corruption during 2013 elections 04 September 2014
The country’s election management body, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), has admitted it was stampeded into last year’s harmonised elections unprepared and that it was rocked by corruption in the acquisition of the polls materials.
In its comprehensive report to the National Assembly, a year after the elections won resoundingly by President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party, Zec said erratic disbursement of funds from government fuelled graft in purchasing processes.
While the commission headed by Justice Rita Makarau welcomed the changes to the electoral management system by the new constitution as well as amendments to the election law before the elections, ZEC said it was ill-prepared to implement some aspects of the new law.
“On the negative side, the new constitution imposed new duties and obligations on the commission that the commission had no time to pilot test or rehearse on before the actual poll,” reads the report. “The special vote for members of the disciplined forces and staff of the commission who were to be away from wards on voting day was one such new feature introduced by the Electoral Act that in hindsight should have been rehearsed before it was implemented. The commission would be the first to admit that the implementation of the special vote posed a number of logistical challenges that must be addressed and avoided at all costs in the future.”
ZEC said authorisation forms were received after the sitting of the nomination courts, leaving the commission with only 14 days to process them relative to the presidential poll, 210 parliamentary seats and 1 958 wards.
Chaos and at times violent scenes marred the special voting process carried out 16 days before the actual polls as members of the police, military, intelligence and ZEC staff demanded to exercise their vote.
In some areas, according to ZEC, voting material delayed while in other it never arrived.
The commission was forced to approach the Constitutional Court seeking an order to allow those that had been disenfranchised to vote on July 31.
“The situation was not made any better by the provisions of Section 81B (2) of the Electoral Act (Chapter 2:13) which barred all voters who had been authorised to cast a special vote from voting on ordinary poll day,” the report reads.
ZEC said it had been pushed into hurrying procurement procedures because of time constraints caused by the May 31 Constitutional Court ruling forcing Mugabe to proclaim election dates following an application by a citizen, Jealous Mawarire.
“Under normal circumstances and informed by international best practice, procurement of the bulk of non-security election materials such as tents, computers, stationery, protective clothing, lighting, string, ballot boxes, padlocks, booths and sentinel paper should be done 18 to 12 months before an election,” reads the report. “However, indelible visible voting ink/markers, printed ballot papers and election forms need to be available within a period that will allow unhurried and secure delivery to the respective provinces, districts and polling stations, long enough to allow proper setting up of polling stations.”
ZEC said while there were no major problems with the procurement of indelible ink from a South African company, the purchase of other materials caused the commission some headaches.
“There were, however, challenges during the procurement of other election materials due to the late release of funding from treasury, resulting in a congested and hurried procurement process. Some election items that took about three months to procure in ordinary times were procured in a matter of hours, thus creating fertile ground for underhand deals and overpricing of goods,” adds the report.
“Some reputable major suppliers declined to provide services to the commission for fear of soiling their reputation in the event of failure to supply on schedule.”
Opposition parties raised questions on the authenticity of ballot papers with unsubstantiated claims that as soon as ballots were marked some of the marks either disappeared or moved towards a Zanu PF candidate, in particular Mugabe.
Attached to the ZEC report that is yet to be debated by parliament are reports from observer missions, both local and international.
The Catholic lobby group, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe (CCJP), casts a black mark on the polls and concluded that the environment within which the elections were held was not free and fair.
CCJP cited non implementation of agreed reforms by the parties to the coalition government formed under the Global Political Agreement (GPA) that preceded another hotly contested electoral outcome in 2008.
“Most other areas for reform remained unimplemented due to the failures of the parties to agree. An example of this was the MDC parties concern about the uniformed forces alignment to Zanu PF. For their part Zanu PF resisted change citing the need for what they called “state security,” the group said.
It added that the electronic media remained biased towards Zanu PF and Mugabe.
“Zanu PF was given more space in the local electronic media than any other political party. More than 90% of political rallies addressed by its leader were broadcasted (sic) live on national television and radio stations. No other political party was given the same opportunity,” the CCJP said.
This state of affairs, CCJP, said was unfair to other political parties who wanted their manifestos to be known by the voters and even to the voters themselves who wanted information of other political parties so that they could make their own choices.
CCJP said it did an analysis of the process, events involving the legal framework, the pre-election environment, the election day itself and the post-election period.
“But most of the recommended reforms, though logical for free and fair elections, were never implemented. This means that an uneven political and electoral playing field similar to the period prior to the 2008 elections remained in place,” the Catholic group said..
“The pre-election analysis has evidence that some traditional leaders, war veterans and political activists across the country manipulated voters’ freedom to choose candidate of their choice. While the election-day was calm, a significant number of people were forced to pretend to be illiterate and to request assistance to vote from known political activists which compromised their freedom to make political choices.”
The issue of assisted voters led to a near diplomatic row and the embarrassment of then British Ambassador to Zimbabwe Deborah Bronnert, who was reportedly fed with wrong information by the opposition MDC-T to the effect that some 10 000 people had been assisted to vote in one constituency in Mashonaland Central province. She apologised.