HARARE – Attempts by Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC to have voter registration centres for Harare and Bulawayo deliberately increased to favour their political party are unacceptable under the Constitution and is an attempt to rig the elections, a Zanu PF legislator has said.
This comes after MDC director of elections Murisi Zwizwai complained at a high-level Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) meeting with political parties that contested the 2013 general elections last week that the two metropolitan provinces had fewer voting centres compared to rural provinces.
The MDC has said it wants the voter registration centres to reflect the population census figures.
Former Zanu PF director of information and now legislator for Highfield West, Psychology Maziwisa said Section 233 (b) of the Constitution enjoins Zec to protect the interests of the people, not the interests of a political party.
“By demanding that Zec puts more polling stations in Harare and Bulawayo than are proportionally reasonable simply and only because Harare and Bulawayo are perceived opposition strongholds, the MDC-T wants the Zec to advance its partisan interests rather than the interests of the people,” Maziwisa told the Daily News.
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya-Moyo said Maziwisa was “obviously speaking as a Member of Parliament”, adding that Zec must answer if State electoral maps were drawn to give one party an advantage over another.
“That is for Zec. It is for them to say whether it is reasonable or not, it is decided by Zec,” Khaya-Moyo told the Daily News yesterday.
Answering Zwizwai last week, Zec chairperson Justice Rita Makarau said: “The number of polling stations will be determined by the voter registration exercise. The number of voter registration centres was mainly determined using the delimitation exercise carried out in 2007-2008.
“We will accept your representations in writing as long as they are based on facts, objective and scientific reasoning. You should tell us why we should increase registration centres in one province and where we will reduce the centres given the number of kits available.”
MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said: “Harare province is the most populous province in Zimbabwe and as such, it certainly deserves to be allocated more than 700 voter registration centres.
“Prospective voters shouldn’t be discouraged from registering to vote by the long queues that will characterise few registration centres.”
Maziwisa also slammed the MDC for applying undue pressure on Zec over the purchase of equipment for the new electronic voter register.
“The MDC-T has been seeking to direct the activities of Zec by suggesting who Zec should buy materials from and why Zec should not deal with certain companies.
“This sort of behaviour is not only despicable, it is inconsistent with section 235 of the Constitution which prohibits anyone from directing or controlling the activities of Zec,” he said, referring to Zec’s acquisition of biometric voter registration (BVR) technology whose tendering process descended into acrimony.
Gutu said: “We are not seeking to control Zec by demanding transparency in the process of buying BVR kits and the central computer system that goes with it.
“Our demands are completely legitimate and totally above board.”
Zec has acquired BVR technology to replace a manual system that was discredited in 2013 polls when ballot boxes were found to contain the votes of people who had not registered or were dead.
Maziwisa said yesterday’s MDC demonstration called to demand sweeping electoral and political reforms was “motivated by a desire to instil fear in Zec”.
The opposition has long alleged that the Zec remains biased in favour of President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF and is run by security agents loyal to Mugabe, charges the agency denies.
A conglomeration of opposition parties, including the MDC, want the next vote in 2018 to be supervised by international observers, including the United Nations and seek changes in election laws they say hinder a free and fair vote.
Maziwisa said: “There is only one reasonable conclusion to be drawn from this: the MDC-T wants to rig the next election. They know there is no possibility of them ever winning against president Mugabe and the well-oiled machinery of Zanu PF. They have now resorted to rigging by not only instilling fear in Zec but by seeking to compromise the independence of what should constitutionally be an independent commission.
“Progressive Zimbabweans must resist this unconstitutional move by the MDC-T and government needs to ensure, as it is enjoined to do by the Constitution, that the independence of Zec is not compromised at all and that Zec is allowed the freedom to discharge its duties effectively and without fear or favour.”
Gutu said “the allegation that the MDC would like to rig next year’s elections is not only absurd and utterly outrageous; it is also totally unfounded, false and completely delusional.”
“In fact, it is part of Zimbabwe’s documented history that Zanu PF has routinely rigged elections; abusing and manipulating Zec in the process.”
Piers Pigou, senior consultant at the International Crisis Group, said: “Masiwiza’s comments betray his lack of understanding of the key challenges regarding creating conditions for free and fair elections, a crude political ploy to divert attention from the real issues, or possibly both.”
Stephen Chan, a professor of world politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, said “the sparring around next year’s elections has clearly started — but this is just psychological warfare as both sides lay down some opening moves”.
“The MDC wishes to put the Zec on notice — but it might do well if it took some time to plan a decent voter registration campaign, and to ensure it is able to conduct a nationwide parallel vote tabulation.
“If the election is to have even an element of biometric voting, then all parties and their monitoring agents need to know how to grapple with that.
“In that sense, printed ballot papers may in many cases be redundant,” Chan told the Daily News.