Source: Poll observers forced to sign ‘Official Secrets Act’ forms – NewsDay Zimbabwe July 26, 2016
THE Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) has claimed its observers involved in the just-ended Mazowe North by-election, won by Zanu PF candidate Martin Dinha, were forced to sign “Official Secrets Act” forms and swear they would not publicly disclose any misdemeanours they observed in the polls.
BY MUNESU NYAKUDYA
In a statement yesterday, Zesn said: “Of concern, Zesn observers stationed at polling stations were made to sign the official secrecy declaration forms before voting started.
“According to Sections 86 and 87 of the Electoral Act [Chapter 2:13] only electoral officers, candidates and political party agents are required to sign the forms. The provisions in the Electoral Act do not apply to observers.”
Contacted for comment, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson, Rita Makarau said: “All I have are the results. I haven’t received that information, but I will have to confirm.
“All I know is that the elections were free and fair and there was no violence. But if you wish, I could direct you to talk to our CEO, who may have the information.”
Zec chief executive officer, Constance Chigwamba also professed ignorance over the matter.
“I do not have that information right now. I will tell you when I see it,” she said.
Zesn said it had also observed that despite Zec’s adoption of a polling station-based voting system, voters were still walking long distances to cast their votes and expressed concern over an unnecessarily high number of assisted voters.
“We also observed isolated incidents of voters who were redirected to other polling stations despite their claims of having been registered at those polling stations during the registration exercise prior to the by-election. For instance, a number of voters at Pembichase Farm in Ward 26 were redirected to other polling stations such as the Mvurwi Country Club polling station,” Zesn said.
In the 2013 elections, opposition parties and independent observers claimed as much as 10 000 voters, including teachers, had been “assisted” in voting in one constituency.
The Mazowe North seat fell vacant in March following the death of Zanu PF’s Edgar Chidavaenzi. Dinha romped to victory garnering over 12 500 votes, to beat his rival, Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe’s Elias Malukula, who polled just over 600 votes.