BY SILAS NKALA
FORMER Ntabazinduna traditional leader Chief Nhlanhlayamangwe Ndiweni has predicted overwhelming rigging of the March 26 by-elections in favour of Zanu PF saying the the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the police are already showing they are inclined to favour the ruling party.
Zimbabwe has a total of 133 elective vacancies, which comprise 28 parliamentary seats and 105 council seats emanating from recalls and deaths.
Douglas Mwonzora’s MDC-T and Lucia Matibenga’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have been responsible for the majority of seats that fell vacant from 2018 to date. Matibenga recalled six House of Assembly members with two representing Bulawayo constituencies.
Zimbabwe is gearing towards the March 26 by-elections to fill the vacant seats with the Matabeleland region having a total of 19 vacant local authority seats and four national assembly seats.
Ndiweni, who is in exile in Britain was dethroned by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government in 2019 under controversial circumstances.
In an eight page report in this paper’s possession, Ndiweni said he recently observed the Zanu PF primaries where some members complained of rigging. That is the same rigging that will manifest in the by-elections, he said.
Zanu PF conducted primary elections in all provinces with vacant wards and parliament seats amid internal party complaints that the polls were characterised by rigging, intimidation and ballot stuffing.
To date the complaints have not been resolved.
“What an event that should be captured and put onto the big screen. We observed Zanu PF members crying out loud about vote rigging by some of their very own. Cries over stuffed ballot boxes and shouts over missing ballot boxes. There were shouts of party election officials being stranded without fuel so that they could not officiate during the vote counting,” Ndiweni said.
“(There were) shouts of influential candidates letting loose the Zimbabwe Republic Police to beat up whole villages, shouts over fist fights at venues, shouts over candidates bribing voters and officials.
“There were shouts over candidates that are parachuted into a constituency having not been chosen by the local people as their candidate… This list is very long. However, it was giving us all a glimpse of vote rigging in action by the ruling party, by Zanu PF. It is therefore 100 %. Let us say this again, it is 100 % guaranteed that we will see vote rigging during the coming by-elections.”
The chief said before it had even started, they had already seen the long arm of ZEC tampering with the voters roll to favour the ruling party, Zanu PF.
“People are being moved from one constituency to another, even though they have not moved their physical addresses. We are seeing ZEC tampering with constituency boundaries, gerrymandering, as it is called, once again to suit Zanu PF. We are seeing the ZRP starting to lean on the true opposition parties. No doubt the true opposition party is going to have great difficulties in holding gatherings and campaigning. As we saw in the Zanu PF primaries, we will see many other rigging events,” Ndiweni said.
“Let us not forget that the Zanu PF government has refused to implement the electoral reforms that we Zimbabweans wanted. These reforms were tabulated by Zimbabweans, political parties, clergy, academics, NGO’s, civic society, traditional leaders, government officials, legal professionals, lawyers, magistrates, judges the public, chiefs and other traditional leaders.”
Ndiweni said these electoral reforms were not something that was just created by the West to be forced on the Zimbabwean government. He said lack of the implementation of these electoral reforms meant that already the true opposition is starting at a disadvantage.
ZEC recently announced that they have set aside USD$3,7 million for the by elections and Ndiweni said this issue was of great concern to the citizens.
“Such a large sum of money does not bode well for the public purse. A huge percentage of these funds will disappear. Since it is now evident to all that ZEC is really not fulfilling its constitutional mandate in the manner that it should.
“So funds, public funds , will be converted into private funds,” Ndiweni said.
Ndiweni’s remarks came at a time when the opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) party threatened protests against ZEC, accusing the election management body of attempting to rig the March 26 by-elections.
Zec is being accused of illegally moving over 170 000 voters from their original constituencies and wards on the voters roll to be used for the March 26 by-elections, a move which critics say could affect the credibility of the polls.
However, Zanu PF spokesperson Christopher Mutsvangwa said CCC was panicking and sensing defeat ahead of the elections.
“They definitely will not wash with an electorate long wallowing in the miasma of flowing sewage, stinking uncollected garbage, dirty well water, pothole roads and stark lack of jobs,” Mutsvangwa said.
Chief elections officer, Utoile Silaigwana recently said citizens or organisations affected by the changes should approach ZEC district offices.
“Can we see the claims because we haven’t received any complaints to date? You are very aware that the voter registration exercise is still underway, and so we can only have the correct information when it has been completed,” Silaigwana said.