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Chaos dogs poll

Dumisani Muleya

A WEEK before Zimbabwe’s crucial general election, administrative and logistical hitches are dogging the poll amid fears it could deteriorate into a washout unless urgent corrective mea

sures are taken.

Confusion is reigning supreme over the issue of polling officers, polling agents, polling stations and the voters’ roll, among other important concerns.

This comes as former Information minister and independent candidate for Tsholotsho, Professor Jonathan Moyo, threatened legal action to stop the election unless contentious issues were addressed. Moyo said the issue of election agents could create untold chaos unless it was dealt with urgently.

“In terms of the law, there shall in each polling station be at least three voting compartments, each containing at least one ballot box, allocated for the use of voters whose surnames begin with the letters A to L, M, and N to Z,” Moyo said.

“This means that each candidate will need at least four election agents, three inside and one outside. But as it is, each candidate will have two agents, one inside and the other outside.”

Moyo, the author of Voting for Democracy which explores in detail the electoral system in Zimbabwe, said it would be impossible for election agents to cope, resulting in serious delays.

“How can one person deal with three copies of the voters’ roll, three polling booths, three queues of voters and counting of ballots from three booths at the same time?” Moyo asked in an interview yesterday.

“There should have been adequate arrangements for this new electoral dispensation.”

Moyo said he had raised the issue with Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, but nothing has been done yet.

“I raised the issue with Chinamasa two weeks ago but there has been no action taken. The relevant authorities continue to dilly-dally and exhibit ignorance about these fundamental issues,” Moyo said.

“Meanwhile, time is ticking away and we are getting closer to the poll. If they continue to vacillate we will seek court intervention on these issues.”

Chinamasa could not be reached for comment. However, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) chair Justice George Chiweshe a week ago claimed: “Indications are that all preparations are on course.”

But MDC candidate Priscillah Misihairabwi-Mushonga said yesterday ZEC could not competently comment on poll preparedness as it had no “capacity and human resources” to run the election.

“The ZEC has no capacity and what is happening is that the same old bodies are running the election,” she said. “The old national logistics committee, which has failed us in the past, is still in charge.”

Polling officers will be trained during this weekend on the new voting system, a few days before voting day on Thursday next week. The candidates have not yet received from their constituency registrars the final voters’ roll copies. They have also not yet seen the supplementary voters’ registers, allegedly used to commit electoral fraud in the past.

These issues, combined with the problem of poorly trained staff, could dramatically slow down the voting process, replaying the 2002 presidential election fiasco.

“A rose is still a rose by any other name,” Moyo said. “The reality is that the same old institutions and staff are still in charge of the electoral process. Nothing has changed.”

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