Harare (New Ziana) – The opposition’s concerted efforts to discredit the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), ahead of next year’s general elections, have heightened and taken a sinister twist, with the electoral body on Friday revealing that some of its own staff had now been co-opted to provide false, incriminating information.
The revelation comes in the wake of claims last week by an opposition-affiliated group that the electoral body was tampering with the voters roll, which ZEC was currently updating in readiness for next year’s general elections.
It turns out, ZEC revealed on Friday, that some of its own staff had connived with the opposition group to clandestinely obtain a copy of an unofficial voters roll from the commission to use to back up claims that the electoral body was doctoring the document, presumably in favour of the ruling party ahead of the elections.
This also comes weeks before the country holds crucial by-elections next month to fill over a hundred vacant parliamentary and local government seats, a poll widely seen as a dress rehearsal for next year.
An opposition-linked outfit, Team Pachedu, claimed the unofficial voters roll it ‘illegally-obtained’ through connivance with some ZEC staff show the electoral body had shifted 170 867 registered voters from their constituencies ahead of the March 26 by-elections – evidence,it said,that ZEC was fidgeting with figures.
The electoral body swiftly moved and suspended ‘some officials’ over the unprocedural release of the voters roll to Team Pachedu, which it views as part of the long running, wider campaign by the opposition to malign the commission.
In a statement, ZEC acting chief elections officer, Jane Chigidji said although the voters roll was a public document, its release was subject to administrative procedures which were not followed in Team Pachedu’s case.
As such, she dissociated the commission from the copy of the unofficial voters roll illegally obtained by the group, citing, among other things, that it was not procedurally issued in terms of section 21(3) of the Electoral Act [Chapter 2:13].
For instance, she said there was no written record of the request made by the stakeholder concerned to the commission for the voters roll as per normal procedure, and there was also no record confirming that the chief elections officer sanctioned the issuance of the 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,” Chigidji said.
“For the record, (ZEC) 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.
“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 (chief elections officer.”
Chigidji said the commission was treating the matter seriously, and urged all stakeholders to adopt a professional approach in their dealings with ZEC.
She said ZEC was, increasingly, being used as a scapegoat by losing political parties who deliberately attribute their electoral defeat to alleged vote rigging by the electoral body.
Such allegations, ZEC said, have led to voter apathy, and bred loss of confidence in the electoral management body among the electorate.
“Each year leading to an election, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission encounters various allegations that have to do with the voters roll. Again it has been observed that once that has started, false and misleading allegations will be carried into the election year as a fall-back position,” Chigidji said.
“The commission has now come to the conclusion that there are some stakeholders who have resolved to adopt a strategy of soiling its credibility to account for their electoral loss or losses to the electorate. In the past, some have openly confessed to the commission that they cannot always tell their constituents the truth for fear of losing their support. Thus they have to find a scapegoat and that scapegoat is the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. However, lies have no legs and chickens will always come back home to roost.”
Chigidji re-assured Zimbabweans of ZEC’s ability to conduct credible elections as it had “world class” systems in place to detect vote tempering.
“I challenge all Zimbabwean citizens, the next time they come across a person alleging that there is vote rigging in Zimbabwe to invoke the legal maxim he who alleges must prove. If surely there is vote rigging in Zimbabwe, someone must be able to prove it,” she said.
“It is high time Zimbabweans refuse to be abused and to disabuse themselves of thinking that elections are rigged in this country. That is a myth and a fallacy and the Commission challenges anyone to prove it otherwise. All the allegations that have been made against the Commission on vote rigging, are mere bare allegations not supported by fact, no figures, no location or names of people prejudiced.
“Even where courts are roped in to establish any wrongfulness on its part and the Commission is absolved, false political narratives continue to be generated simply to satisfy the ego of its detractors. The allegations are mere political statements meant to hoodwink voters for the selfish gain of politicians who believe only a result in their favour should come out of the ballot.”