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Foreign observers flag Faz for tormenting rural voters



FOREIGN election observer missions accredited to Zimbabwe have flagged the involvement of shadowy organisation Forever Associates Zimbabwe (Faz) in manipulating voting preferences predominantly in rural areas in the just ended general elections.


Faz has been accused of intimidating the rural electorate while mobilising support for Zanu PF as part of its power retention plan.

Regional bloc Sadc which has in the past been criticized for endorsing electoral process in some authoritarian states, said while the pre-election environment and polling day was generally calm and peaceful, the management of the elections fell short of some regional benchmarks.

Zimbabwe has a history of disputed election outcomes which have in the past triggered post-election violence.

 Ahead of the election, the country’s security agencies have increased their presence fortifying the National Elections Command Centre.

Head of Sadc election observation mission (EOM) Nevers Mumba said his team had noted concerns of voter intimidation allegedly being orchestrated by Faz members around the country.

“The mission was informed that the rural vote may be compromised by alleged intimidation attributed to a group called Forever Associates Zimbabwe, which is said to be a quasi-security intelligence organisation,” Mumba said on Friday.

“This group is said to have been deployed to wards and around 36 000 villages. The allegations were that people were intimidated to vote in a particular manner and were warned that it would be easy to determine who voted against certain parties.

 “In previous stakeholder consultations, a shadowy organisation called Forever Associates Zimbabwe was accused of conducting a country-wide exercise of electoral intimidation. Our observers confirmed the existence of this group as its officials or agents were easily identifiable at some polling stations as they were dressed in regalia emblazoned with the FAZ name and were accredited local observers. These, and other unidentified persons who were not polling officials were also observed taking down the voters’ names before they cast their votes. In some areas, voters were intimidated by the actions of these individuals.”

Former Nigerian President and Head of the African Union-Comesa observer mission, Goodluck Jonathan (pictured above) also raised the red flag over the Faz’s involvement in the elections.

“The mission notes with concerns of stakeholders on the presence of Forever Associates Zimbabwe,” said Jonathan on Friday.

“The group is accused of intimidating citizens especially in the rural areas to vote in a particular way. The mission could not verify the allegations, however interaction with the Zimbabwe Republic Police confirmed that the group exists.

“There was systematic presence of party agents in all the stations visited. Zanu-PF and Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) were represented in all the stations observed by the mission. Representation of independent candidate agents was also noted in certain polling stations observed.”

“The AU-Comesa EOM noted that international observation groups and citizen observers were granted access to all polling stations visited. In few stations visited, the mission also noted the presence of Forever Associates Zimbabwe which in certain cases led to confrontations with voters.”

In preliminary statement which came after the August 23 elections European Union Election Observation Mission said the electoral process curtailed fundamental rights and lack of Level playing field compounded by intimidation affected the credibility of the polls which were largely disorderly.

“Despite appeals for peace by national and international actors, instances of violence, including battery, arson and kidnappings were noted by EU EOM, especially in rural areas. Cases increased as election day neared,” Head of EU Election Observation Mission Fabio Massimo Castaldo said on Friday.

“A CCC supporter was killed in a so-called opposition no-go area; 15 people were arrested and charged, pending trial. The intimidating presence of Forever Associates of Zimbabwe (Faz), was observed by the EU EOM at many rallies. Several observers received first-hand reports of coerced/ incentivised attendance at ZANU-PF events. Cases of the latter’s supporters disturbing other parties’ rallies were observed in several areas.”

As previously reported by The NewsHawks, Faz, took over roles traditionally carried out by Zanu PF’s commissariat in the run-up to the election, the shadowy organisation was accused of intimidating prospective voters, particularly in rural areas, collecting voter information, rolling out door-to-door campaigns, night vigils, community events, technology-based messaging while monitoring all stages of the electoral process.

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