THE country’s electoral administration body has contracted Fidelity Printers & Refiners to print ballot papers for the presidential election. Another government entity Printflow Pvt (Ltd) has been engaged to print ballot papers for the House of Assembly, senatorial and local government polls.
By Bernard Mpofu
The printing of ballot papers has become one of the sticking points as Zimbabwe gears up for its first general elections since the toppling of long-time leader Robert Mugabe in a coup last November.
Information gathered by the Zimbabwe Independent shows that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) will print ballot papers for the forthcoming general elections locally.
It is understood that the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe gave Zec the approval to source voting materials through direct tender due to security and time considerations.
The Independent understands that South Africa-based paper and packaging giant Mondi Ltd had been contracted to supply newsprint to be used for printing ballot papers. There was heightened speculation that government was considering hiring a company from Eastern Europe to do the work, raising suspicion of manipulation.
The speculation gained traction after Zec chairperson Priscilla Chigumba and special advisor to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Chris Mutsvangwa visited Russia to observe elections recently.
Mnangagwa is facing MDC Alliance candidate Nelson Chamisa in the country’s first elections after the overthrow of Mugabe.
Former vice-president Joice Mujuru, former MDC-T deputy president Thokozani Khupe and 17 others are also participating in the polls. A senior government official told the Independent the electoral management body had resolved to print ballot papers locally.
“The printing of the ballot papers is already underway. Fidelity will print ballot papers for the presidential election, while Printflow will print ballot papers for the other elections. Contesting parties are expected to witness this process starting next week,” the source said
“The commission will ensure that the elections are free, fair and credible and that the will of the people will prevail. What we will ensure is that the outcome of the elections will not create any disputes. We must come out of the elections more united than divided.”
Asked for comment last night, Zec chairperson Priscilla Chigumba asked for written questions through the commission’s acting chief elections officer Utoile Silaigwana.
Silaigwana would not be reached for comment while questions sent to Zec officials in charge of public relatuions were not responded to at the time of going to print.
With just over a month before the polls, the opposition has raised the red flag, complaining that there is no transparency in terms of who will be responsible for the printing of ballot paper, while demanding the implementation of sweeping electoral reforms around Zec.
Last week, the MDC Alliance submitted a list of electoral reform demands. Some of the issues raised include impartiality of state-controlled media, an audit of the voters’ roll and transparency over the printing and security of ballot papers. Zec has dismissed the petition, saying it has no legal basis.
However, Section 52A of the Electoral Act mandates Zec to provide, without delay, the relevant information to all political parties and candidates contesting an election, and all observers.