IN a scandal which fuels fears elections are usually rigged in Zimbabwe and which further damages the image of the already discredited Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), the elections body, run by sympathisers of the ruling Zanu PF and state security agents, has suspended its officers for handing over the voters’ roll to the main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC).
The voters’ roll was requested for by CCC deputy secretary for elections Ellen Shiri who complied with all formal procedures and then used for analysis by advocacy group Pachedu which unearthed irregularities on voters registration and polling stations.
The irregularities included new polling stations and changing of some of them without the knowledge of voters.
This came as Zec defended the use of the state security agency, Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), in accreditation of election observers and voter registration, saying the law allows it to do so.
Over the years, there have been reports that CIO and the army run Zimbabwe’s elections on behalf of Zanu PF, right from voters’ education, registration, campaigning, accreditation, voting and counting of the ballots.
Former minister and MP Jonathan Moyo, who is also a professor of politics now living in self-exile, exposed in his elections monograph Excelgate – How Zimbabwe’s 2018 Presidential Election was Stolen the way the last polls were rigged and the role of the CIO and the military. He named some security agents involved.
Moyo recently said President Emmerson Mnangagwa has assembled a crack security team to hunt him down and other exiled former Zanu PF leaders who fled after the November 2017 coup that brought him to power.
After the voters’ roll scam, Zec acting chief executive Jane Pamhidzirai Chigidji said the electoral body had swiftly suspended officials who released the register “unprocedurally”.
“Now that various issues have been raised in the social media concerning an alleged 2022 voters roll that is being analysed by a certain consultant of a stakeholder, the commission ought to give a response to let the public know of the truth and other administrative processes being undertaken regarding the issue,” she said.
“The commission wishes to dissociate itself with the copy of the alleged voters roll that was allegedly issued to the stakeholder concerned for the reason that it was not procedurally issued and for the record, it has reason to believe that there was connivance between certain members of its staff and a representative of the stakeholder to issue a tempered copy so as to suit that stakeholder’s narrative.
“Preliminary investigations have indicated that the proper procedure followed once a person requests for the voters roll in terms of section 21(3) of the Electoral Act [Chapter 2:13] was not observed. There is no written record of the request made by the stakeholder concerned to the chief elections officer as is the normal procedure.
“There is no record or information confirming that the CEO sanctioned the issuance of that alleged voters roll. In fact what has been established is that the alleged voters roll was issued on a verbal request to an officer in the department concerned without the approval or knowledge of the chief elections officer. The request document upon which it was issued does not bear any signature from any ZEC official.
“As a result of that incident, the commission has suspended some officials involved in the production of the voters rolls while investigations are being carried to establish the circumstances under which the alleged 2020 voters roll was issued without following proper procedure and without the authority or knowledge of the CEO. The commission views the matter seriously and urges all stakeholders to adopt a professional approach when dealing with it.
“While the voters roll is a public document, there is an administrative procedure to follow for control purposes once a request is made in terms of Section 21(3) of the Electoral Act. It is also important to note that the voters roll is a fluid document which undergoes constant changes save in cases where it is closed for election purposes.
“Each day there are new registrants, transfers, deaths and corrections that are added on or effected in the voters roll and that is the reason why the law provides for a reasonable period within which the commission should provide same to a person who has requested it. That period is meant to allow the voters roll to be updated so that all information therein is accurate and reflects the correct state of affairs as of the date of issue.
“The commission will not take responsibility for any documents issued clandestinely, under unclear circumstances and without following proper procedure. Those who require copies of the voters roll are requested to direct their written requests to the CEO and their requests are formally acknowledged and are advised to approach the relevant department which in turn will inform them of the date of collection. The question that arises when procedure is usurped is ‘what motivated the usurpation in the first instance?’.
“Stakeholders are therefore advised to follow due process in making requests to avoid disappointment. In as much the voters’ roll is a public document, the legislature was not blind to the fact that it contains people’s confidential information which is security related. It is unlawful for any stakeholder to without prior written consent of the commission to make use of information therein for any purpose unconnected with an election. The publication of voters sensitive information in social and other media circles as was happening is an offence punishable by law. The commission will publish its own voters’ roll analysis in due course for public information.”
CCC spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere challenged Zec’s claims that the voters’ roll was obtained unprocedurally, saying it was lying to cover up the rigging scandal.
“It’s a matter of regret that Zec is casting aspersions on our deputy secretary for elections Ellen Shiri who complied with all formal procedures to access the voters’ roll used by Pachedu,” she said.
“Here is the proof we obtained it procedurally (she attached proof on social media). They must apologise for lying.”
Pachedu said: “Zec tried to disown the voters’ roll that we got from them in a vain attempt to cover up their criminal and unconstitutional conduct. Sadly for Zec our findings are well-substantiated by screenshots from the BVR (biometric voter registration) site to prove we got the most current roll.”