Irregularities irredeemably compromise Zec credibility
FROM young voters getting national identity cards (IDs) issued years before they were born to fake IDs, similar or duplicate ones, bloated numbers of dead voters, chaotic voters’ registration, manipulation of polling stations, gerrymandering during delimitation, militarisation, and resisting sharing the voters’ roll, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) is buffeted by crippling problems.
It would be difficult for Zec to efficiently run impartial and credible elections in 2023. Pulling together threads from various sources — electoral officials, state security apparatchiks, research, literature reviews and snippets from activists like Team Pachedu — information gathered shows Zec is compromised and incapacitated to run free, fair and credible elections.
This comes as The NewsHawks learnt President Emmerson Mnangagwa is worried about Zec chair Priscilla Chigumba and her team’s capacity to run the elections satisfactorily after he only scraped through by a narrow margin in 2018 at the height of his popularity.
Chigumba ran into serious problems with Mnangagwa after the 2018 elections over electoral reform issues to a point of contemplating leaving the country, according to Zanu PF sources and some reports.
Latest information shows there is a new problem around Zec sparked by the delimitation process, which apparently was not done properly. Some constituencies and wards were redrawn beyond recognition, while some rural areas lost constituencies. This has not gone down well with Zanu PF officials.
Delimitation in the context of elections in Zimbabwe is the fixing of electoral boundaries, dividing the country into constituencies and wards for the purposes of electing parliamentary and municipal representatives.
The process is carried out in terms of sections 160 and 161 of the constitution and section 37A of the Electoral Act. It is done every 10 years after the population census.
A source said: “After the delimitation exercise, which is supposed to be completed this month, Zec produced a preliminary report with some significant changes which were not welcome, like loss of constituencies in rural areas, with overlaps to towns and growth points. This has put Chigumba and her officials under scrutiny.”
After delimiting wards and constituencies, Zec has to submit a preliminary report to the President containing a list of the wards and constituencies, with the names assigned to each and a description of their boundaries.
There also has to be a map or maps showing the wards and constituencies; and any further information or particulars which it considers necessary. The President must cause the preliminary delimitation report to be tabled before Parliament within seven days.
Within 14 days after the report has been submitted to Parliament, the President may refer it back to Zec for further consideration of any matter or issue arising.
Parliament may also refer the report back to Zec for further consideration, and in that event the President must return it to the electoral body for further engagement. Once Zec has prepared its final report, it has to send it to the President who must publish it in the Government Gazette within 14 days.
In terms of section 161(2) of the constitution, delimitation must be completed six months before the conduct of any general election for it to be applicable to that poll. Failure to adhere to that provision means the results of the delimitation exercise will not apply in the next general election, as Zec would be compelled by law to revert to boundaries of the last delimitation exercise.
“Zec is facing many serious problems, both logistical, technical and credibility related,” a source said. Just this week, Pachedu, which describes itself as a group of “patriotic Zimbabwean citizens who strive to promote a culture of transparency, responsibility and accountability without any fear or favour”, unearthed more sensational irregularities, including fake IDs, some issued before young voters were born and false numbers of dead voters, badly exposing Zec.
With extracts from the voters’ roll, which the authorities do not want to easily release for inspection despite saying it is open for that, as exhibits and evidence, Pachedu said: “Zec has been lying about the total number of dead voters that they removed from the roll since 2018. Zec overstated these totals by creating duplicate dead voters on the gazetted lists. This is either pure deception or gross incompetence.”
In another revelation, it said: “We have found more fake IDs in the 2022 VR (voters’ registration). The Registrar-General’s Office verified our list and confirmed that the IDs don’t exist. They also reiterated that no valid ID can have 7 (seven) middle digits with a zero leading digit (XX-0XXXXXX). Zec must explain these fake IDs”.
An authentic Zimbabwean ID has a two-digit code at the beginning for the area where one took the card from, then six digits for the order number of the card, a check alphabet letter and a two-digit number at the end for the place where one originates from, except for those with IDs that end with 00, denoting “alien” or “foreign”.
Pachedu added: “The 2022 VR (voters’ roll) has voters with IDs that were issued decades BEFORE they were born. After investigating these IDs against the 2000-2013 (voters’ roll) and (Registrar-General) Office, we confirmed that Zec assigned fake young ages for some old IDs. Zec must explain!
“While IDs can end with 00, No valid ID starts with 00 [issuing district]. In February, we exposed these fakes, but have now confirmed how Zec did it thanks to fuzzy matching & (Registrar-General) Office. eg, FAKE 00-3135709-D03 below was created by adding a zero to a valid ID 03-135709-D03.”
“Zec is not willing to run fair elections. Zec must explain why there are fake IDs in the voters’ roll. Zec must explain why the voters’ roll has double voters using different IDs. These are very serious electoral fraud cases, but Zec openly refused to meet us to resolve them.”
As Zimbabwe moves towards the next general elections next year, possibly in July, more of the same is to be expected: Rigged and disputed elections, particularly the presidential poll.
The state of Zec and the voters’ roll portends yet another disputed election, particularly the presidential poll where the stakes are much higher.
Aggregated incidents of irregularities provide sufficient evidence to show Zec is not fit for purpose, and elections would simply not be impartial and convincing. Sources within and outside Zec told The NewsHawks this week the controversial electoral body is now “irredeemably captured, compromised, and partisan”.
A top security source said: “Zec is now deeply part of the problem; not just on elections, but also for electoral democracy and national stability. Something must be done, and done urgently to stop electoral officials — who are hired guns — from continuously manipulating elections to the detriment of the country and its people. It’s no longer acceptable and sustainable.”
Zec is not only constitutionally and legally tasked with running elections in a non-partisan way — its legitimacy depends on being perceived to do so. In other words, irrespective of citizens’ political persuasion, they should have confidence in it.
Besides these technical issues over the voters’ roll, there is the Zec computer server which showed that the military was in charge, in particular that the 2018 elections were run by the army.
Zec was caught up in a new transparency gap in April as it got increasingly entangled in a web of lies over its mysterious server at the centre of the 2018 presidential election controversy after an independent internet geolocation investigation traced its system — the client-server connection — to a military-owned communication service provider, Africom Holdings.
While the army says it does not run elections, evidence has shown that it in fact did through Fernhaven Investments, which was chaired by the late Foreign minister Sibusiso B. Moyo, who was the face of the November 2017 coup that initially brought President Emmerson Mnangagwa to power.
The technical link between Africom and the army — and in the process Zec — is undeniable. This is besides having security or army personnel seconded to the electoral body. According to High Court case number HH 357-18, Moyo was a board chairperson and director of Africom, while Chonaka Hlabangane Ndlovu was also Africom director.
Kwanayi Kashangura was the major shareholder and director until he was removed. Moyo then took charge on behalf of the army through Fernhaven.
It has already been revealed that key state security agents instrumental in the rigging of 2018 elections, included retired major Chivasa and Mavis Matsanga from the Central Intelligence Organisation.
In his seminal monograph on the 2018 presidential election, Excelgate — How Zimbabwe’s 2018 Presidential Election was Stolen, Jonathan Moyo, a professor of politics and former minister, says Mnangagwa lost the election to his main rival Nelson Chamisa, then MDC-Alliance and now Citizens’ Coalition for Change leader, but was rescued by Zec through manipulation and rigging.
Moyo is now brutality critical of Chamisa’s politics and says he will lose the next election as his main opposition CCC is “structureless”. However, Chamisa this week told The NewsHawks he is working through “community structures and social actions” pending the launch of his party. Moyo’s book mentions Chigumba’s flight bid after angering Mnangagwa. After taking over the control of the state and its institutions, the military, in a bid to protect and consolidate the gains of the coup, brazenly commandeered the Zec machinery, particularly its computer network server, corrupted its internal system as well as logistics and illegally changed the route and destination for the collation, compilation and transmission of the result of the 2018 presidential election for purposes of rigging the election in favour of Mnangagwa, whom it had imposed as President of Zimbabwe on 24 November 2017 after toppling the late former president Robert Mugabe.
Zec’s computer server was at the heart of the rigging system and 2018 electoral dispute. At the time, Zec first indirectly said it had a server, then changed the story in court and said it did not have one.
However, Mnangagwa, better placed to know, confirmed it was there in his opposing court papers. Later Zec said it had no server linked to an external host, meaning it has one housed within its system.
However, an investigation by Pachedu showed Zec servers were hosted by Africom. When the Zec website was hacked on 1 August 2018, forensic experts investigated. They found that Zec was hosted on an Africom server, IP 184.108.40.206, sharing hosting with other sites like netguardsec.com. Shared hosting means the server was not at Zec.
The geolocation was an important confirmation of what Moyo says in his book. Africom was located at No.99 Churchill, Gunhill, Harare.
Moyo writes: “The foregoing discussion of the 2018 rigging system is particularly important regarding the question of the Zec server, which contained the result of the presidential election that showed Chamisa with 66% of the vote and Mnangagwa with 33%. I have pointed out in the preceding chapters that Zec’s bare denial in Chamisa’s ConCourt case that it did not have any server on which it kept the result of the 2018 presidential election was false and not supported by any evidence, and inconsistent with its constitutional obligation not only to be transparent, but also to be seen to be transparent.
“Mnangagwa himself — as President, presidential candidate and the one respondent with everything to lose in the ConCourt case — virtually confirmed the existence of the server in his opposing papers, which Zec claimed did not exist.
“And more tellingly, the involvement of Africom, a military company, was precisely to computerise the electoral process and network the system with respect to the capturing and processing of voting data at Zec’s national command centre. It is Zec that roped in Africom to computerise the system and run its multiple servers, fully knowing that the company’s purpose was to set up a voting and results database.
“It is dishonest for Zec to deny the existence of the server or servers to give the impression that, in this day and age, Zimbabwe’s electoral body does not have a computerised system for capturing, storing and processing voting data. Zec had a main sever with election results and it was linked to other multiple servers run by Africom on behalf of the electoral body.”
Contrary to what is commonly believed, authoritarian leaders who agree to hold elections are generally able to remain in power longer than autocrats who refuse to allow the populace to vote. In the engaging and provocative book, How to Rig an Election, Nic Cheeseman and Brian Klaas expose the limitations of national elections as a means of promoting democratisation, and reveal the six essential strategies that dictators use to undermine the electoral process in order to guarantee victory for themselves.
Based on their first-hand experiences as election watchers and their hundreds of interviews with presidents, prime ministers, diplomats, election officials, and conspirators, Cheeseman and Klaas document instances of election rigging from Argentina to Zimbabwe, including notable examples from Brazil, India, Nigeria, Russia, and the United States — touching on the 2016 election.
The eye-opening study offers a sobering overview of corrupted professional politics, while providing fertile intellectual ground for the development of new solutions for protecting democracy from authoritarian subversion.
Efforts to get a comment from Zec were unsuccessful.