Intimidation marred weekend polls, ZESN

via Intimidation marred weekend polls, ZESN – New Zimbabwe 20/09/2015

THE Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) has condemned the three by-elections which were held on Saturday in Marondera, Epworth and Mbire because of “active “involvement of the police in the election process “including assisting voters” and voter intimidation.

Marondera Central and Mbire constituencies fell vacant after Zanu PF fired and recalled from Parliament, Ray Kaukonde and David Butau while the Epworth seat was left open following the death of former Zanu PF Harare Provincial Chairman Amos Midzi in a suspected suicide case.

ZESN, which deployed 62 observers, said it has, once again, noted with concern the active involvement of the police in the polls despite calls by election watchdogs and the constitution that police should be limited to maintaining law and order in line with international best norms and standards of conducting a free and fair election.

“Worrying reports of assisted voters were received from Makuvatsine Primary school where a total of 91 people had been assisted to vote by late afternoon (Saturday).

“At Mahuwe primary school by midday 38 people had also been assisted to vote,” said the election watchdog in a statement Sunday.

“Of concern is a report from a ZESN observer that a former Zanu PF district chairperson was also assisted.”

The election watchdog said voters were also forced to vote by known Zanu PF leaders and activists.

There were also reports of the destruction of other contesting candidates’ posters.

“We received reports of voter intimidation in Marondera Central where political party representatives were allegedly recording the serial numbers at the back of registration slips during voter registration in a bid to intimidate voters and influence their voting preferences,” ZESN said.

ZESN also said they observed that Zanu PF was using voters’ registration slips and supplementary voters’ rolls in the process.

The MDC-T, which has boycotted all the national by-elections until electoral reforms are implemented, has said voters’ registration slips assisted Zanu PF to “rig” the disputed 2013 polls.

“In Marondera Central constituency where ZEC is piloting the polling station based voting system, ZESN has noted the use of polling station-based voters’ rolls as well as a supplementary roll based on the previous ward-based voters’ rolls.

“The supplementary voters’ roll is being used to redirect voters who missed the polling station-based voter registration exercise to their specific polling stations based on their addresses,” said ZESN.

ZESN said ZEC should conduct a comprehensive audit of the country’s voters’ roll and remove ghost voters if the body is to be respected by the nation.

“Such an audit should involve key electoral stakeholders such as political parties and other organisations working on elections.”

Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede is on record admitting that the voters’ roll has hundreds of thousands of people who have since died.

He, however, said it was difficult to record every death because of the inaccessibility of some remote areas and the resources needed in the process.