Harare, July 16, 2013 – The chaos that characterised the just ended two days of special voting by uniformed forces and other civil servants is a harbinger of mayhem that could engulf the country during the harmonized elections slated for later this month, says a local elections monitoring body.
In a statement, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), which shadowed the process, warned that the disorder witnessed during the special voting could recur on 31 July when Zimbabweans vote during the harmonized presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections.
“ZESN is seriously concerned that the chaos that prevailed during the special voting process serves as a telling and worrying indicator that could repeat itself on 31 July. We are concerned that with only 16 days to the harmonised elections, this shoddy state of affairs could impact on ZEC’s preparedness to fully manage the election process on 31 July 2013. We urge that adequate resources are availed to ZEC to ensure that the organisation carries out its constitutionally mandated duties,” reads part of the ZESN statement.
Thousands of uniformed forces were left disenfranchised after failing to cast their votes during the two days that had been reserved for special voting owing to severe logistical flaws. The challenges included the late opening of polling stations, shortage of sensitive voting materials such as indelible ink, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) stamps, approved voters’ lists, ballot papers and ballot boxes.
On the first day of voting and in most areas in the country voting began as late as 1600hrs instead of the stipulated time of 0700hrs and continued late into the night and uniformed forces remained in queues in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
At Town House in Harare, truncheon wielding police officers had to be called in to restore order as voters’ patience grew thin due to the slow pace of the process.
ZEC deputy chairperson Joyce Kazembe admitted that the elections management body had spoiled the exercise by under-estimating the process.
“This was mainly due to the fact that we delayed dispatching ballot papers to the centres. I wish to advise that the printing of ballot papers delayed even beyond our expectation. This was due to a number of reasons, chief of which was the delay in finalising the designing of ballot papers in those wards and constituencies where nomination was under challenge. We admit we underestimated the process,” said Kazembe even though ZEC had on numerous occasions boasted that it was more than ready to host elections in Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile MDC-T secretary-general Tendai Biti on Tuesday accused ZEC of breaching the country’s electoral laws after allowing the special voting to spill into a third day, which the former opposition party said was unconstitutional.
Biti said it appears some strangers had hijacked the management of the elections from ZEC and had extended the special voting to Tuesday without first seeking the court’s approval to do so.