THE Electoral Commissions Forum of Sadc countries (ECF-Sadc) has commended Zimbabwe for holding a peaceful, free, credible and efficient election, but the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) said the poll was seriously compromised by a systematic effort to disenfranchise an estimated one million voters.
Report by Hazel Ndebele
The African Union (AU) and Sadc observers have already indicated the polls were credible.
However, Zesn said the voter registration process was systematically biased against urban voters.
It said the voters’ roll of June 19 as provided by the Registrar-General’s Office clearly showed that urban voters had been systematically denied the opportunity to register as voters.
A total of 99,97% of rural voters were registered while only 67,94% were registered in urban areas.
ECF-Sadc said it was satisfied with the electoral campaign as it was calm and peaceful with no incidents of violence, harassment or intimidation being reported.
ECF-Sadc observed that on polling day, ballot boxes were properly sealed at the opening of polls; indelible ink was available and used and that the secrecy of the ballot was observed.
“In all polling stations there was a remarkable representation of women as polling personnel and we note with satisfaction that some polling stations had ramps to facilitate access for people with disabilities,” said mission leader Notemba Tjipueja of Namibia.
Tjipueja said the counting process was conducted in accordance with the statutory provisions and it took place in the presence of party agents and observers.
“The results were announced at polling stations and ward level in the presence of party agents and observers as provided for by the law,” she said.
Sadc Election Support Network (ESN), which was part of observers in the elections, said the elections day environment generally remained peaceful and orderly with voting progressing well from opening to closing time.
“Our observers on the ground were satisfied with the conduct of the larger part of the elections day proceedings, noting that people were able to exercise their right to vote,” said ESN.
Although ECF-Sadc and Sadc-ESN are satisfied with the electoral process, Zesn said there are factors which fundamentally undermine the degree to which the results of the 2013 general elections can be considered to reflect the will of the people.
Zesn said on elections day, urban voters were disenfranchised.
“At 82% of urban polling stations, many potential voters were turned away and not permitted to vote for reasons which include names not appearing on the voters’ roll and turning up at the wrong ward for voting. This is in sharp contrast to rural areas where only 38% of polling stations turned away many potential voters,” said Zesn.
Zesn calls on the AU and Sadc to be objective in their evaluation of these elections and take into cognisance the pre-election issues that have a bearing on the ability of citizens to genuinely choose their government.
“We reiterate that it is not sufficient for elections to be peaceful. For elections to be credible, they must offer all eligible citizens a reasonable opportunity to register to vote, to inform themselves about the candidates, to vote on elections day and for their votes to be properly counted. We are deeply concerned that for urban voters the first three principles have already been violated,” added Zesn.
Zesn urged the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to handle the results management in a transparent and timeous manner.
It said although the pre-election period was calm and peaceful, there are many other critical factors that can undermine the credibility of the entire electoral process.
Zesn reported that preparations were inadequate, the voter registration and voters’ roll were flawed, voter education was limited and the special voting was chaotic.
Zimbabwe Council of Churches president Bishop Ishmael Mukuwanda praised Zimbabweans for participating in the elections in a largely peaceful manner.
“We would like to urge all Zimbabweans to respect the official elections results that will be announced by Zec. We encourage all the political parties to continue to abide by the conditions set out in the Political Parties Code of Conduct which they agreed to adhere to and to abide by the law,” said Mukuwanda.
“We are hopeful that the full results will be available within the time required under the laws of the country.”