THE police have been told to take charge of the “whole voting process” during the June 27 presidential run-off between President Robert Mugabe and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
The move, analysts said, was likely to compromise not only the independence of ZEC by usurping its role, but also the fairness of the election.
According to a confidential police circular the directive was meant to secure the voting process and prevent recurrence of irregularities that allegedly marred the March 29 harmonised election.
The circular dated May 2 was sent by Police Chief Staff Officer (Operations), Senior Assistant Commissioner Faustino Mazango, to police officers commanding provinces, districts and officers in charge.
Mazango said the March 29 polls were fraught with irregularities and discrepancies that occurred in the presence of police officers who were deployed at polling stations throughout the country.
“This poor record in the history of Zimbabwean elections has been blamed on the police who were docile and unpalatably passive throughout the whole voting process,” Mazango said. “It is hereby directed that for the forthcoming run-off elections, Zimbabwe Republic Police shall have a tacit responsibility to monitor as well as taking charge of the whole voting process at every stageâ€¦”
He said the police must provide thorough and systematic security of polling stations and all electoral material, check prospective votersâ€™ names against the votersâ€™ roll, and ensure that the indelible ink is used on every voter.
Mazango added that police officers should ensure that “the prospective voterâ€™s name has been cancelled completely from the votersâ€™ roll” when issued with a ballot paper and check that each voter has one ballot paper.
The police should assist voters who cannot vote on their own and ensure that records to be completed in the polling station by election officials are properly completed. These include the protocol registers, Forms V11 and V23.
“The discrepancies and irregularities that consist of serious electoral fraud as well as silly errors could have been avoided had deployed police officers taken a keen interest in their job and properly followed the procedures at their respective polling stations,” said Mazango, who was the police commander of the March elections.
He cited a number of cases and irregularities he claimed were part of electoral fraud during the March elections. Mazango said in some constituencies there were inadequate ballot papers, and voting materials went missing during transit to polling stations from constituency command centres. There was also double voting, denying registered voters their right to vote, voting by unregistered people and issuance of more than one ballot paper per voter.
He added that other irregularities unearthed were the falsification of results by electoral officers in favour of candidates of their choice and deliberate withdrawal of voting equipment and accessories.
Mazango said the falsification of results occurred during the transfer of figures from polling stations to collation centres.
â€œPolice should, therefore, take a leading role in monitoring the whole voting process including the counting process at all polling stations, collation at polling stations and collation centres, verification at all centres
and transferring of results until they reach the national command centre,â€ Mazango ordered.
â€œThe police officers should make use of their notebooks to record results at polling stations, ward collation centres and at provincial collations centres.â€
Mazango directed that his circular should be disseminated to all police officers in the country.
â€œAll noted irregularities and discrepancies must not recur during the forthcoming run-off elections or else the commanders in those particular areas would be held responsible,â€ he threatened.
Police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena yesterday confirmed that Mazango issued the internal circular but was adamant that the directive was not tantamount to the police usurping the powers of ZEC.
â€œWe have a separate role to play in the electoral process to that of ZEC officials,â€ Bvudzijena said. â€œOurs is a policing role and I donâ€™t know how we can be accused of usurping ZEC powers.â€
He said police officers would carry out their duties as directed by Mazango to avoid fraud.
â€œWhy are people worried about the police doing their job?â€ Bvudzijena asked.
â€œIs it wrong for police to check that a prospective voter is indeed on the votersâ€™ roll?â€
By Constantine Chimakure