By Sij Ncube
Harare, October 21, 2016 – THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has come under-fire for allegedly turning a blind eye to apparent cases of vote buying by Zanu PF ahead of Saturday’s by-election in Norton.
The by-election is being contested among independent candidate Temba Mliswa, Zanu PF’s Ronald Chindedza and David Choga of the National Constitution Assembly.
Freebies in the constituencies have been flying like confetti at a wedding with Zanu PF youth league secretary, Kudzai Chipanga parcelling out of 5000 unserviced stands in Norton, three days before the by-election.
This comes hard on the heels of yet another Father Christmas moment by party commissar and Local Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere who took time to dole out grain and other groceries among potential voters last week.
Residents in Harare’s satellite town told RadioVOP during a visit early Friday free beer has also been flowing as Zanu PF politicians pull all the stops to try and prevent the much popular Mliswa from winning the seat.
Kasukuwere is on record as saying the seizure of the seat by the outspoken former Zanu PF chair for Mashonaland West would be a great embarrassment to President Robert Mugabe and his party as it readies for the crunch 2018 polls.
But it the silence by Zec, the only body charged with running all elections in Zimbabwe, over the vote-buying antics by Zanu PF that has unsettled Mliswa and the broader opposition in Zimbabwe.
Under Zimbabwe’s Constitution and electoral laws, giving freebies ahead of an election is illegal.
Zec, which is chaired by Supreme Court judge Rita Makaru, who was cherry-picked for the controversial post by Mugabe, stands accused of deliberately refusing to enforce the Electoral Act which bars bribery of voters.
Jestina Mukoko, the director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) which is closely monitoring the by-election, expressed concern over what she described as Zanu PF’s 11th hour vote-buying strategy.
“ZEC has never spoken out about these things. The other day (Patrick) Zhuwawo (Youth and indigenisation minister) was saying they are not going to apologise for making Zanu PF supporters access all these things and there is no mechanism to sanction all those who do that,” said Mukoko.
The ZPP, which documents politically motivated violations in Zimbabwe, has already condemned the violence that has marred the period leading up to Saturday’s election.
Vivid Gwede, a human rights defender, charged that the silence of ZEC over a serious violation of electoral laws is worrying given that the by-elections are a precursor to the general election in 2018.
“What emerges is a confirmation that we have an electoral commission that lacks the required independence, principled fortitude and integrity to run a free, fair and credible election in Zimbabwean circumstances,” said Gwede, adding that it was clear ZEC has already done a shoddy job before even the actual casting of the ballots.
Obert Gutu, the MDC-T spokesman which is backing Mliswa, said freebies parcelled out to Zanu PF supporters was a clear and unmitigated case of vote-buying.
“As we have stated on times without number, ZEC, as currently constituted, is totally and hopelessly incapable of ensuring that election 2018 will be free and fair. The fact of the matter is that ZEC has virtually been held hostage by the CIO operatives and other state security agents who constitute the bulk of the ZEC secretariat,” said Gutu.
Makarau was not immediately available for comment but all candidates say they are confident of winning the seat.
The Norton seat was left vacant after the expulsion of fire-brand war veterans’ leader Christopher Mutsvangwa for allegedly violating the Zanu PF constitution by showing disrespect to party leader President Mugabe.