V11s saga: Polling agents under siege

Source: V11s saga: Polling agents under siege – The Standard

State security agents have been accused of haranguing polling agents and observers whom they are allegedly forcing to amend V11 forms used in last week’s elections amid allegations of rigging.

The V11 forms are signed by all polling agents confirming results per polling station.

The forms were part of a 2018 Constitutional Court challenge when Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) leader, Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) , challenged President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s victory.

As criticism grew over the way the August 23 to 24 elections were conducted, civil society organisations said they were worried about the alleged harassment of polling agents that were part of the elections.

The Elections Resources Centre (ERC) said its observers had been targeted in the crackdown.

“The observers informed our offices that they were being summoned to polling locations to sign new V11 results forms as there allegedly were errors on previous ones. In other instances they were summoned to surrender phones used to communicate with ERC offices on election day,” the ERC said.

 “While the majority of observers have been contacted telephonically, the ERC notes concerning cases in Kariba, Karoi and Makoni where observers have been physically visited at their homes with these requests.

“As per the legislative framework on elections, V11 forms by now should be sealed in boxes, which contain election residue and cannot be reopened unless someone requests a recount.

“Further, it is through an election petition when the court orders the reopening of election residue to solve an electoral outcome dispute.”

CCC deputy elections officer Ellen Shiriyedenga  told The Standard that they had advised the party’s agents to report to their polling stations, but not to sign new forms.

“We said that they should go, but what’s important, however, is that once results were declared and announced, no change should be made on the V11 or the V23 forms, which is contrary to what has been declared,” Shiriyedenga said.

“They will go, but they will not sign or agree to have ballot boxes reopened.

“We told them that they should refuse unless it is a question of clerical errors and not any alterations as projected in the V11 and V23 forms.”

Police last week arrested 39 ERC and Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) observers on charges of planning to prematurely announce election results.

They were released on US$200 bail each on Friday.

 The United Kingdom and United States embassies condemned their arrest saying “independent observers must be able to carry out their duties freely’.

Observer missions also raised concerns over the arrests in their preliminary reports that were released on Friday.

The Southern Defenders, a regional umbrella body of human rights activists, also criticised the arrest and intimidation of polling officers and observers.

 “Uphold and protect the inherent freedoms of association and assembly and ensure an open, inclusive and genuinely democratic electoral process,” Southern Defenders said.

“Immediately unconditionally drop all pending charges pending against election observers and desist from weaponising the legal system to criminalise election observation.”

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