Connect with us

Support The NewsHawks


Police, prison officers forced to apply for postal voting



POLICE and prison officers were this week forced to apply for postal voting by their superiors ahead of the 23 August general elections, including those who will be on leave or have been seconded to other departments.


Junior officers however felt the order was supposed to target only those who will be on duty on polling day as prescribed by the law, amid fears they will be made to vote under supervision, as has happened in previous elections.

Postal voting is voting in an election where ballot papers are distributed to electors and typically returned by post, in contrast to electors voting in person at a polling station or in some developed countries, electronically via an electronic voting system.

In Zimbabwe, it typically applies to state security agents and Zimbabwe Electoral Commission staff.  

The directive for the prisons officials to apply for postal voting was communicated to them through a memo, seen by The NewsHawks, which recalled persons on leave or seconded elsewhere to physically go and register for postal voting at their respective stations.

Police officers were given similar orders through officers commanding provinces.

“Notice, All officers station at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison to report on duty. Date. 04 July 2023. Time. 0715hrs. NB Including all officers on Study leave, Vacc leave, Occasional, Compassionate, Attachment, shift off, Secondment etc,” read the memo, which was sent to staff at Chikurubi Maximum Prison.

Sources close to the process say officers at the prisons and correctional facilities and police stations were not given an option to choose against the instruction on the basis of whether they would be deployed away from their polling stations or not.

They were also not asked whether they wanted to exercise their right to vote or not.

“They asked all officers to bring photocopy of national IDs last Friday and yesterday they ordered every officer off and on leave to report to the station today the 4th of July to which they gave us postal ballot application forms and instructed them to fill in and sign,” revealed a source.

By 1pm on Tuesday, more than 400 officers had applied at Chikurubi.

The numbers were that high because sources close to the process said officers feared victimisation.

“But most officers aren’t happy and they only took part in that process of applying for the postal votes because they fear victimisation,” revealed the source.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s calender shows that postal voting applications were last received on Wednesday.

In the 2018 elections as well as previous polls, there were reports of police officers and prison officials casting their postal votes under the watchful eyes of their commanders.
Voting is supposed to be secret.

In terms of section 72 of the Electoral Act, the only people who can vote by post are registered voters who, on polling day, will be unable to vote at their polling station because:
“They will be on duty as members of a disciplined force [i.e. police officers, prison officers or members of the Defence Forces] or as electoral officers [i.e. employees of Zec on electoral duty or persons seconded to Zec to perform electoral duties].

“They will be outside Zimbabwe in the service of the government [normally as diplomatic or consular officials] or because they are married to such an official,” reads the act.

So only government employees and employees of Zec, and persons who are seconded to Zec for electoral duties, are entitled to vote by post.

Under section 73 of the Act, applications for postal votes are made to Zec’s chief elections officer on a prescribed form.

Applications for postal votes must be sent to Zec no later than two weeks after nomination day [section 73(2)(c) of the Electoral Act].  

If Zec is satisfied that a person who has applied for a postal vote is entitled to one, the chief elections officer must send them a postal ballot paper for each election plus envelopes marked with the applicant’s name, voter registration number and the polling station on whose roll the applicant is registered.  

Further steps must be taken: “He/she must enter the applicant’s name on a numbered list which is kept open for public inspection for the whole electoral period.

“. . . He/she must put a line through the applicant’s name on the voters roll prepared for the applicant’s polling station, with an annotation showing that the applicant has been issued a postal ballot paper.”

These steps are laid down in section 74 of the Electoral Act.  If they are followed they will prevent, or at least discourage, double voting by people who have voted by post.

Postal voters vote by filling in their ballot papers in the same way as voters at polling stations — by putting an X opposite the candidates of their choice. 

They must then seal the ballot papers into their covering envelopes and have them sent back to Zec at least 14 days before polling in the election, to give Zec time to have them distributed to polling stations.  

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *