BY SHARON BUWERIMWE/PREVELEGE GUMBODETE
THE Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) and Election Resource Centre (ERC) have decried vote-buying during the weekend by-elections, mainly by the ruling Zanu PF party.
In past elections, Zanu PF has been accused of abusing State resources to gain unfair advantage over its rivals.
Last week, President Emmerson Mnangagwa donated dozens of bicycles and fishing boats to people in Binga, a few days before the March 26 by-elections. The move was viewed as vote-buying.
Zanu PF’s candidate for Bulawayo ward 21, Janet Moyo also distributed 50kg bags of mealie-meal to party supporters.
In Dangamvura-Chikanga constituency in Mutare, Zanu PF’s National Assembly candidate Esau Mupfumi doled out money and food hand-outs in a bid to gain votes.
In Epworth last Thursday, the party’s National Assembly candidate Zalerah Makari dished out mealie-meal to would-be voters.
In a joint statement, Zesn and ERC said while the elections were largely peaceful, there were several incidents of vote-buying which dented their credibility.
“ERC and Zesn noted activities that qualified as vote-buying during the campaign period, which included the use of food and so on ahead of by-elections,” read the statement.
Citizens in Action Southern Africa (CIASA) also expressed concern over a video of Zanu PF Masvingo Provincial Affairs and Devolution minister Ezra Chadzamira dishing out food parcels to residents while campaigning for Zanu PF candidates.
CIASA said the Electoral Act should prohibit the government from aiding Zanu PF using State resources.
“There is a need to introduce deterrent sanctions to mitigate the abuse of State resources for the incumbent to level the playing field. Sadc PF norms and standards for elections in the Sadc region are clear that in promoting the integrity of the electoral process, parties should not use public funds in the electoral process. The electoral law should prohibit the government from aiding or to abetting any party to gain unfair advantage,” the CIASA statement read.
Political analyst Vivid Gwede described vote buying as an act of corruption, adding that this must be dealt with before the 2023 elections.
“Vote buying is obviously outlawed in the electoral laws and is an act of electoral corruption for which candidates must be held accountable. However, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission itself is at the centre of concerns around impartiality, it has failed to stop this malpractice. If not addressed, it will be for the umpteenth time one of the contentious issues in the forthcoming harmonised elections in 2023,” Gwede said.
Analyst Rashweat Mukundu said there was need for tight electoral law to curb the abuse of State resources by the ruling party during electoral campaigns.
“This is a perennial problem of abuse of State resources by Zanu PF in trying to influence the voting decisions of people,” Mukundu said.