THE Election Resource Centre (ERC), an independent think-tank, has urged the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to act swiftly on the shortcomings of the 23 August polls, after it unearthed several irregularities in the electoral process that are likely to blight the credibility of upcoming by-elections.
Zimbabwe is going back to the polls on 9 December following controversial recalls by the main opposition CCC’s self-proclaimed secretary-general Sengezo Tshabangu.
The recalls, which have been endorsed, have been largely viewed as a ploy by the ruling Zanu PF to force through a two-thirds majority that would allow it to amend the constitution to bolster President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s stay in power.
This week, ERC director Barbra Bhebe told The NewsHawks that the by-election are likely to be as equally shambolic as the previous one should Zec fail to address other irregularities which have been largely calculated to promote intimidation.
For instance, in August, Zanu PF came under fire over exit poll desks set up by Forever Associates Zimbabwe (Faz) to collect voter information, which was largely viewed as a way of intimidating voters.
As previously reported, Faz, led by Central Intelligence Organisation co-deputy director-general retired Brigadier-General Walter Tapfumaneyi, hijacked electoral processes, displacing the army’s structure called Heritage that used to perform a similar role and other functions.
With three members in every ward countrywide, Faz intimidated people in the pre-election period, particularly in rural areas, collecting voter information, rolling door-to-door campaigns, night vigils, community events, technology-based messaging while monitoring all stages of the electoral process.
“The situation is worrying, especially if there are going to be those exit points which were used in the August 2023 elections. Because, as a human rights commission states, those somehow intimidated the people. What are they for?
“We do not need them,” Bhebhe said on the sidelines of the launch of thr ERC’s preliminary findings on the August elections.
“So we hope that something is going to be done about that. We are also hoping that there are not going to be any delay of the materials, because the way ballot papers were delayed, the number of people who voted in those particular areas reduced compared to the previous elections. And, that is problematic.”
Findings by the ERC in its preliminary report on the 23 August election have shown that voting was largely impacted by delays, which also saw more than 10.7% of all assisted voters casting their ballots between 3pm and 6.30pm.
Of the 2 348 assisted voters cast in urban sampled polling stations, 60.9% were in rural areas, while 39.1% were in urban areas.
“The ERC notes that on average, 5.4% of the votes cast between 0700hrs and 0900hrs were assisted voters. Alarmingly, at 8.6% of the observed polling stations, statistics show that over 25% of the ballots cast during this period were by assisted voters. The majority of assisted voters between the stipulated time were from Nyaradzo Primary School in Chipinge Central, which constituted 32% of all assisted voters in the constituency. On average, the number of assisted voters in the 9am to 6.30pm intervals, with Kariba, Nkayi, Shurugwi and Chipinge Central constituencies accounting for the highest number of assisted voters.
“The ERC notes that on average, 3.8% of votes cast between 0900hrs and 1200hrs were assisted votes, a reduction from 1.6% in the number of assisted votes cast in relation to total votes cast between 0700 and 0900hrs,” she said.
“On average, 5.0% of votes cast between 1200 and 1500hrs were assisted votes, an increase of 0.6% in the number of assisted votes cast in relation to total votes that had been cast between 0900hrs and 1200hrs.”
The ERC has also shown how delays blighted the urban vote. According to its findings, voter turnout reduced by an average of 1% at polling stations in rural areas where delays in the opening of polling stations were noted, while it had a 6% reduction on the urban vote.
“Voter turnout at polling stations in rural areas which opened on time and had no notable delays (70.2%). Delayed opening, voter turnout at polling stations in rural areas where delays in the opening of polling stations were noted (69.2%),” reads the ERC report.
“Turnout at polling stations in urban areas which opened on time and no notable delays were noted. Voter turnout at polling stations in urban areas where delays in the opening of polling stations was noted. Voter turnout reduced by an average of 6% at polling stations in urban areas where delays in the opening of polling stations were noted.”