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Locals wait to cast their votes during the Zimbabwe general elections in Kwekwe, outside Harare, Zimbabwe August 23, 2023. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko


‘36% polling stations in CCC strongholds opened very late’



THIRTY-SIX percent of polling stations, mostly in urban areas which are opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change strongholds, opened very late on polling day in the August elections, among other irregularities amounting to massive voter suppression, according to the Sadc Election Observer Mission Final Report.


On the election days on 23 and 24 August, the Southern African Development Community Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) observed the voting process in 10 provinces in Zimbabwe. The deployed observer teams covered 172 polling stations in their respective areas.

In the final report handed to Sadc by the bloc’s politics, defence and security organ chairperson and Zambian President Hikainde Hachilema after being compiled collectively by the SEOM led by former Zambian vice-president Nevers Mumba, the observer mission said elections held in Zimbabwe were marred by various irregularities.

Part of the report reads: “64% of the voting stations observed opened on time, 36% did not open on time for the 07:00am stipulated opening time. Some polling stations opened more than 12 hours after stipulated time. The reason provided by Zec for this unprecedented development was the unavailability of ballot papers, particularly of the local authority elections, and also due to previous litigation.”

“This challenge was, however, specific to Harare and Bulawayo Provinces. Due to the delays, some voters left without casting their votes, while others remained in lengthy queues throughout the day and night. By 06:00 am on 24 August 2023, some voters in these two provinces had still not voted. Consequently, these delays also had a knock-on effect as they dissuaded voters from voting in the first place.”

Added the report: “Section 52 (1) of the Electoral Act provides that in any election, Zec shall ensure that every constituency elections officer ‘shall be provided with polling booths or voting compartments and ballot boxes and shall provide papers, including ballot papers’. Before election day, Zec had assured our SEOM and other stakeholders that all necessary voting materials, including ballot papers, were available and ready for use. This communication was made in terms of Section 52 A (2) of the Electoral Act which requires Zec to provide information on the number of ballot papers and publication of details regarding them.”

The SEOM final report noted: “Based on these two considerations, the subsequent information from Zec that they did not have adequate ballot papers had the unfortunate effect of creating doubts about the credibility of this electoral process. As a result of the excessive delays in the opening of polling stations in Harare and Bulawayo provinces, at least 36% of the voting stations observed did not close at the scheduled closing time of 1900hrs, while some had not even been opened by that time, it was announced that voting would be extended to proceed into 24 August 2023 to compensate for the late opening.”

The report also pointed out that the voting delay affected voters and violated the Electoral Act, reducing the elections to a sham.

“Several voters expressed concern due to lack or late arrival of ballot papers and poor administration at some polling stations contrary to Section 52 (1 ) Electoral Act which requires Zec to ensure that  every constituency elections  officer is provided with polling booths or papers including ballot papers and make such arrangements…. as the commission may consider advisable for effectively conducting the election,” reads the report.

The report further said that during the voting period, at 26% of the polling stations observed, not all voters who turned out could vote.

“The reasons advanced for this included: Voters were identified, but their names were not found on the voters’ roll,  it was not  possible  to establish the voter’s identity. Voters were at the wrong polling station; and voters did not have a national identity card or passport, or due to the absence of an official witness confirming an electorate’s identity,” reads the report.

The opposition CCC has complained that this was a ploy to cause voter suppression in its strongholds.

The SEOM also observed that people with disability had their rights violated during the election days.

“8% of the polling stations observed were not accessible to voters living with disabilities. The SEOM noted that the said polling stations were not compliant with Section 51(1a) of the Electoral Act which requires every polling station to be in a place that is readily accessible to the public, including persons with disabilities,” reads the report.

The report added that the mission further noted that paragraph 4.1.1 of the Sadc Principles and Guidelines governing Democratic Elections wherein Member States of Sadc committed to encourage the full participation of all citizens in the democratic and development process, was violated because of these circumstances.

“At 50% of the polling stations, voters living with disabilities, the elderly, and pregnant women were not given priority to vote.

“ln 3% of polling stations observed, indelible ink was not checked on the voter before allowing them to vote.

The SEOM report also took aim at Zanu PF’s shadowy group, Forever Associates Zimbabwe (Faz), led by the Central Intelligence Organisation’s deputy director Walter Tapfumaneyi, which ran campaigns for Zanu PF.

“ln previous stakeholder consultations, a shadowy organisation called Forever Associates Zimbabwe was accused of conducting a countrywide exercise of electoral intimidation.
“Our observers confirmed the existence of this group as its officials or agents were easily identified at some polling stations as they were dressed in regalia emblazoned with the Faz name and were accredited local observers. These and other unidentified noted persons’ names before they cast their votes. In some areas, voters were intimidated by actions of these individuals,” reads the report.

The SEOM also noted that section 4.1.4 of the Sadc Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, which calls upon member states to take all necessary measures and precautions to prevent intimidation was violated by the activities of Faz.

The mission further noted that section 2 of the Fourth Schedule of the Electoral Act (Electoral Code of Conduct for Political Parties and Candidates  and other Stakeholders) which provides that the legitimacy of a government born out of democratic multi-party-political activity rests on, among other factors, that the political environment is at all times free of violence, coercion and intimidation was again violated by what Faz did on election days when it set up exit survey desks near polling stations to instill fear in voters.

The mission observed the closing and vote counting processes and the findings were as follows: 100% of polling stations had police officers; 100% of ballot party candidates ‘ agents were allowed to stay after the closing procedure to monitor counting; 100% ballot boxes party adequately locked and sealed at the end of the closing process.

Again, 100% of the serial numbers of the ballot boxes sealed were the same as the serial numbers of the ballot box opening time and 100% polling stations allowed for easy counting and monitoring observation, according to the report.

In another section of the report, there is public diplomacy language used to commend some scenarios observed by the SEOM.

For instance, the report says the environment at polling stations was relatively calm and peaceful, while “professional and attentive police presence enhanced the overall peace and secure environment in all polling stations observed in terms of Paragraph 5.1.6 of the Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.”

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