WHILE opposition political parties, with the MDC Alliance leading the pack, have genuine questions concerning the voters’ roll, ballots, postal votes and polling booths, they must now focus on other critical aspects of the electoral process, which have a huge potential to influence results come July 30.
Candid Comment,Faith Zaba
One of the most important issues they should be dealing with is that of polling agents. It is a mammoth task to ensure they deploy at least three polling agents to the 10 985 polling stations countrywide.
Instead of demanding electoral reforms at the eleventh hour, which will not happen because it is too late in the game, each party should be assembling a team of close to 33 000 agents, with administrative and technical capabilities, as well as basic knowledge on electoral rules and regulations, to monitor the voting process across the country to prevent fraud.
With just 10 days to go, the opposition should concentrate on training polling agents — their eyes and ears during voting.
The agents — one inside the polling station and the other two outside — are there to monitor the voting process and verify ballots, paying close attention to the serial numbers on the ballot boxes and papers before and after voting. They are there also to guard ballot boxes overnight and verify the vote count before signing the polling station return form (V.11), which is a declaration that it is a correct statement of all votes cast. They also receive the original versions of the form, one of which is affixed outside the polling station so that it is visible to the public to inspect and record its contents.
Polling agents should be studying the 62-page electoral officers’ manual which outlines the electoral processes involving pre-, during and post-polling issues. They should also attend polling officers and agents’ training to be conducted by Zec, which gives them a platform to discuss legal provisions related to elections and outline roles of polling agents and officers.
While the MDC Alliance is marching in the streets and organising vigils at Zec offices, starting next Tuesday until election day, they must shift attention to the voting process and security of ballots.
Even if they manage to pressurise Zec to make concessions, that will come to naught without effective polling agents.
It is not that the other issues do not matter, but that feat is unattainable in 10 days.
One of the main problems for the opposition parties has been resources for the deployment of polling agents across the country. Fortunately for them, the European Union has come to their rescue with a US$1,16 million (€1 million) facility for polling agents for five main parties with 25% representation in the contest.
There is absolutely no excuse, except lack of capacity and incompetence, for them not to field the 33 000 polling agents required. They have already failed to field candidates in some municipal areas and in two National Assembly constituencies, but in this case, failure to deploy agents in every polling station nationwide would be suicidal.