…police, Zec show bias  

THE by-elections set for tomorrow have revealed that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration is stuck in the past by continuing to abuse state institutions and independent commissions to manipulate electoral processes with observers saying the polls have failed the credibility test.

Mnangagwa stands accused of abusing the police, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) and the courts to manipulate the by-elections, with the opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) always at the receiving end.

The Nelson Chamisa-led outfit has complained about Zec’s refusal to give them a copy of the voters’ roll for inspection.

Party secretary-general Chalton Hwende has also complained bitterly over why the police was being used to block him from making enquiries with the supposedly independent commission on Tuesday.

Recommendations made by several local, regional and international observer missions that include the need for the demilitarisation of Zec, police impartiality, and electoral reforms have been ignored, raising fears the by-elections will not be free and fair.

National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) leader and member of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Political Actors’ Dialogue mem (Lovemore Madhuku told The NewsHawks that the situation that prevailed ahead of tomorrow’s by-elections was evidence enough of how Zimbabwe was desperate for electoral reforms particularly ahead of the 2023 elections.

“There are a lot issues that came out in the by-election process which justified electoral reforms.  It is clear from what has been happening in these campaigns for by-elections that there is very much need for reforms that we are championing as Polad,” the NCA leader and constitutional law expert said.

“There are issues related to the role of the police in monitoring law and order at rallies. I think it is clear that the police are still an impediment to free and credible elections,” Madhuku added.

Madhuku said it was unfortunate that the opposition parties, particularly the Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) was forced to turn to the courts to hold its rallies while other parties, Zanu PF and the MDC-T had it smooth sailing.

“It was very unfortunate and completely something that must not happen to have opposition political parties campaigning having to turn to the courts several times to have their rallies. It ought not to happen and we never heard any single Zanu PF rally banned,” Madhuku said.

“We never heard there was no police manpower at the Zanu PF rallies and the main reason that the courts had to be involved allowing people to do political campaigning is a very bad indictment and that needs to be reformed and we made the proposals challenging that as Polad.”

“(As for) The public media, I wasn’t able to see the rallies of opposition parties, which is something we are fighting for. Many people ended up relying on social media. There was selective coverage in the public media and it must be stopped as it is unfair.”

The Zimbabwe Election Advocacy Trust (ZEAT) executive director Ignatius Sadziwa said Zimbabwe was experiencing one of its worst elections ever and its credibility was already up in flames.

“We are witnessing the worst elections ever in the history of our troubled democracy. Zec’s blunders are too legendary for these by-elections to qualify for a credibility test,” Sadziwa said.

“Everything is conducted nicodemously from ballot paper printing to a shambolic voters’ roll. We are disappointed by such gross incompetence and we call upon Parliament to quickly resume business and act on this,” he added.

“As ZEAT we don’t tolerate such exhibition of incompetence. In their defense on failing to tender, ZEC said the ballot paper has special security features on it hence their handpicking Printflow (Pvt) LTD and Fidelity Printers. Shockingly they present a black and white paper. How incredible.”

Amnesty International media manager Robert Shivambu said Zimbabwe is in crisis and there is a need for action from the local, regional and international community.

“These are some of the violent attacks we have seen being meted out against the opposition in the past few weeks and months and this is not good because we are going to the by-elections. These reminds us of the violence associated with the history of elections in Zimbabwe,” Shivambu said.

“As Amnesty International we have been calling onğ authorities to investigate these attacks on the opposition and make sure perpetrators are held to account,” he said.

“We are saying to the authorities in Zimbabwe, there should be a proper and impartial investigation into acts of violence we have seen against the opposition in the country.”

He accused Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga of using inflammatory language by threatening to crush the opposition like lice, saying it was a call to the Zanu PF militia to silence dissent.

Chiwenga told thousands of Zanu PF supporters in Kwekwe last month that the opposition will be crushed like lice. A day later, opposition activist Mboneni Ncube was killed by Zanu PF thugs who besieged a rally addressed by Chamisa in Mbizo, Kwekwe.

Political commentator Stephen Chan said of the by-elections: “A key question has a simple answer. Why has the government concentrated on disruption and suppression in these by-elections? It seems the government had no track record of its own on which to run. A host of stubborn wrong turns has meant a feeling of national downturn.”

A network of Zimbabwean activists, Team Pachedu, said it has discovered that the names of at least 165 000 people have been moved to different wards and constituencies without notification, leading to confusion and some people having to travel long distances to vote.

In addition, about 40 000 have been removed from the roll without due process, while one residential address belonging to a politician in the resort town of Victoria Falls registered 46 people, the team was quoted as saying.

Chamisa took to microblogging site Twitter to vent his anger over the behaviour by the electoral mother body that he accused of being both a referee and player.

“Zed, ZEC, ZEC …you are a referee not a wing of any political party. Be transparent, professional, independent, constitutional and honorable. Don’t force us as citizens to demand your disbandment. We have that power,” Chamisa said.

CCC secretary general Chalton Hwende who was on Tuesday blocked by the police from approaching ZEC offices to inquire on the voter’s roll said a lot of hindrances they encountered in the campaign period were indications that the polls have failed the credibility test.

“Everyone knows that Zec has no credibility at all from the way they have been handling elections and we have no expectations at all but basic requirements like the final voters’ roll is something that even a discredited Zec should be able to assist with,” Hwende told The NewsHawks on Thursday.

“We will be on guard to ensure the correct voters’ roll is the one being used and we will resist if they want to use a new voters’ roll,” Hwende added.

“We have faced a lot of hindrances mainly from the police and misinterpretation of laws that government elections. They have banned our rallies, six of them in total and none from Zanu PF or any other party,” Hwende said.

“Six of our candidates have been arrested for various offences. Our volunteers have also been blocked and arrested. Police, particularly senior ones charged with administering laws that govern campaigns favored Zanu PF and usual problems of state broadcaster gave us no publicity even that we are entitled to,” Hwende said.

Hwende said the party was however ready for a clean sweep come Saturday.

Chamisa was blocked from addressing rallies in Binga, Gokwe, Marondera and initially Epworth amid heavy police presence but in some instances, he had to force his way to address the people.

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