THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) faces a litmus test when it conducts the controversial two-day special voting starting on Sunday across the country ahead of crucial general elections on July 31.
Report by Elias Mambo
According to Section 81A of the Electoral Act, special voting is conducted at least 16 days before the actual day of polling to allow people who would be on elections duty to cast their ballot in advance.
These may include members of the uniformed forces and election officials. Postal voting for people working at Zimbabwe missions abroad is also done at the same time.
Zec said more than 80 000 applications for special voting have been processed and requisite logistics are in order.
Zec chairperson Justice Rita Makarau this week said of the 120 000 application forms issued for special voting, 87 316 had been returned to Zec with the police accounting for 69 222; Zec officials 15 954; Zimbabwe Prison Services (ZPS) 2 000 and Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) 140.
However, for the first time in Zimbabwe’s history, members of the uniformed forces and other security apparatus will not cast ballots at their camps, but at 209 Zec-designated polling stations.
“Special voting is conducted in a polling booth like the one set up for the general elections and it will be supervised by Zec officials following the same procedures,” said Makarau. “Polling stations will be at schools and some centres, not barracks and police camps as some of you claim.”
President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party have in the past been blamed for manipulating special votes for the uniformed forces to win elections.
However, Makarau this week re-assured political parties that there would be no rigging through the controversial special voting system, amid widespread fears the ballots would be tampered with.
“The ballots are transported from polling stations to the chief elections officer and thereafter to the ward in tamper-proof envelops that will be sealed in the presence of election agents who are entitled to sign on the seal,” she said.
Makarau also said political party agents are entitled to be present when the tamper-proof envelopes are opened.
Suspicions have already been raised as Zimbabweans are questioning the number of police officers set to vote this weekend.
Zanu PF has been stepping up its election campaign with the army, police and prison services embarking on a massive recruitment drive to aid the party to win the do-or-die polls.
Government sources told the Zimbabwe Independent recently that secret hiring by ZNA, ZPS and the police were underway in defiance of the Public Service Commission freeze on recruitment.
MDC-T secretary for defence and security Giles Mutsekwa said the recruitment drive was “suspicious” and aimed at boosting Zanu PF’s chances in the elections.
“This is a deliberate attempt by Zanu PF to recruit as many people as possible to boost their chances of winning the next elections. What Zanu PF is not aware of is that those people do not support them.
“Those are desperate people seeking employment and won’t help the dying party’s chances to win the elections,” Mutsekwa said.