THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) will no longer be using a polling station in Kwekwe situated in an area where there is a traditional Zanu PF torture base manned by the party’s violent terror squad known as Al-Shabaab.
Kwekwe chief elections officer Assan Mkwananzi confirmed the development in an interview with The NewsHawks, saying the polling station, located in ward 12, Mbizo 9, in the vicinity of Black Wadada shopping centre, could no longer be useable going forward.
The polling station has been in existence since 2008 when Zanu PF launched a murderous rampage after the inconclusive first round of the general elections won by MDC founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Mkwananzi was diplomatic in stating the reasons for the abandonment of the polling station.
“Among other reasons, the space to pitch tents is limited. If anything, security logistics are difficult to implement. Elections should not affect economic activity as closure of shops is imminent on election day. The 300-metre polling area demarcation cannot be met, which in itself is violation of the electoral law,” he said.
He added: “We measure 300 metres from the polling station/room or tent. Within a radius of 300 metres, there should be no other activity except that of polling business. That is why I am saying in real terms all shops at Black Wadada will be legally affected and cease to function once the polling station is set up not only on polling day but even five days before.”
However, Mbizo MP Settlement Chikwinya (Citizens’ Coalition for Change) confirmed that the underlying reason for abandoning the polling station was that it was located at the nerve centre of a Zanu PF torture base which made security of the vote impossible.
“To start off with, Zanu PF terror youths known as Al-Shabaab use the centre as the launch pad for all terror activities in Mbizo. Any election in Mbizo is accompanied with violence easily traceable to Al-Shabaab and this made voters at Black Wadada fear to come out and express themselves freely (on voting days)” said MP Chikwinya.
In the 2013 electikn, Chikwinya’s campaign team was violently attacked at Black Wadada shopping centre where the polling station that is now being abandoned is located.
He revealed that the abandonment of the polling station was long overdue even at law due to the set up that is densely populated with pubs as close as 10 metres away from the Zec polling booths.
“Black Wadada is predominantly a shopping centre and the growing number of small-scale grocery shops and bottle stores has now made it difficult for Zec to comply with polling station regulations without interfering with established businesses. Some bottle stores were less than 10 metres away from the Zec tents (in previous elections) and owners of these bottle stores were forced by Zanu PF youths to play Zanu PF jingles during polling days and this interfered with the free expression of the voter,” said Chikwinya.
During the 26 March by-elections which pitted Chikwinya and Zanu PF’s Vongai Mupereri who is President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s nephew, riot police deployed at 6pm at the polling station to thwart plans by Zanu PF’s Al-Shabaab militia to snatch away ballot boxes under the cover of darkness.
During the March by-elections, the marauding thugs quickly realised that Zanu PF’s defeat was imminent. Chikwinya confirmed the occurrence.
“The youths had gathered in bottle stores and ZRP intelligence officers picked that,” he said.
In the 2 000, 2008, 2013 and 2018 elections, the Al-Shabaab group would abduct opposition supporters and torture them at the centre. Contacted for comment, Midlands provincial police spokesperson inspector Emmanuel Mahoko said he was unable to give useful information because he is away from the province attending the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in Bulawayo.–STAFF WRITER.