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Zimbabwe opposition parties brand voters’ roll ‘shambolic’ as anger builds over election proclamation

Zimbabwe opposition parties brand voters’ roll ‘shambolic’ as anger builds over election proclamation
Citizens Coalition leader Nelson Chamisa inspecting his name in the voters’ roll on 30 May, 2023. (Photo: Frank Chikowore)

The nation's main opposition party has raised the alarm over anomalies in the voters’ roll ahead of general elections set for August. 

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who controversially won the 2018 elections, has proclaimed 23 August as the date of this year’s elections in Zimbabwe.

This was despite opposition from the Movement for Democratic Change – Tsvangirai (MDC-T), led by Douglas Mwonzora, which is challenging the delimitation report of constituency boundaries compiled by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), arguing that it was fundamentally flawed. Mwonzora was also seeking to delay Mnangagwa from proclaiming the election date.

Mwonzora’s spokesperson, Lloyd Damba, said his party is going to contest the elections “under protest”.

“The proclamation of election dates by president Emmerson Mnangagwa is a blatant disregard of the rule of law… We are going to contest under protest to make sure that we expose some of the irregularities that we have already highlighted. I want you to pay attention to the voters’ roll that is in shambles. We are marching into an election that has already been decided by the system, decided by the military intelligence, decided by the CIO [Central Intelligence Organisation], decided by Zanu PF. We are going to participate under protest and they must expect a court challenge after the election itself…,” said Damba.

The Nelson Chamisa-led Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) party has written to the country’s electoral body to complain about the involvement of a shadowy group calling itself Forever Associates of Zimbabwe (FAZ), linked to the dreaded spy network, the CIO, in the voters’ roll inspection exercise that ended on 1 June.

“The presence of the FAZ [organisation] at the inspection centres must be explained because in some instances FAZ officials are interfering with, and even controlling, the process. We cannot have an illegal body overriding the operations of a constitutional body,” reads part of the CCC letter to the electoral body.

FAZ leader and deputy director-general of the CIO, Retired Brigadier-General Walter Tapfumaneyi, refused to comment, directing all questions to the electoral commission.

The CCC also complained about missing names of its members on the voters’ roll and some people’s names appearing in incorrect voting stations or multiple wards. The MDCT approached the high court seeking an order to compel Mnangagwa to delay announcing the election date, arguing that the delimitation report on constituency boundaries was “fundamentally flawed”.

The ruling Zanu PF party spokesperson for Bulawayo province, Archibald Chiponda, said his party was also affected.

“We also have party members whose names are not on the voters’ roll or are in wrong wards or constituencies but I think this is normal when huge data is being moved… The errors do not suggest in any way that elections are being [tampered with] as is being portrayed by the opposition,” said Chibanda.

ZEC chairperson Priscilla Chigumba referred questions to the ZEC’s chief elections officer, Utloile Silaigwana, who said his commission would look into the complaints.

“We are determined to deliver a free, fair and credible election and we will look at the issues raised and come to a conclusion as a commission…,” he said. Silaigwana would not be drawn into discussing the involvement of FAZ, and referred further questions to his commission’s spokesperson, Justin Manyau, who did not respond to calls.

Despite these flaws, Chamisa told reporters on 30 May that he was ready to defeat Mnangagwa in the upcoming polls.

“The truth of the matter is that the people of Zimbabwe know what they want and there is going to be change in this country. He [Mnangagwa] will try to manipulate but the people of Zimbabwe will not allow it,” said Chamisa.

Zanu PF information director, Tafadzwa Mugwadi, said: “We are hopeful that we will win by at least 75% of total votes cast for both the president and house of assembly…”

Lloyd Damba, Zimbabwe elections

Douglas Mwonzora’s spokesperson Lloyd Damba says his party will contest the elections under protest. (Photo: Frank Chikowore)

The CCC, however, said Zanu PF was targeting its members for persecution as it seeks to retain power. Zengeza West legislator Job Sikhala has spent almost a year behind bars without bail on what the party describes as “trumped-up charges” of inciting Zimbabweans to commit public violence after last year’s abduction and murder of CCC activist Moreblessing Ali by a suspected Zanu PF member, who has since admitted to the charges in open court.

With some isolated reports of politically motivated violence in some parts of the country, the US Embassy in Harare urged Zimbabweans to participate in the electoral processes peacefully, but its social media posts provoked president Mnangagwa’s government, resulting in the US’s top diplomat in Harare being summoned on 30 May to explain Washington’s alleged interference in Zimbabwe’s domestic affairs.

However, the embassy’s spokesperson, Meg Riggs, remained adamant that the US will continue to call for peaceful elections in Zimbabwe.

“Elections are a fundamental part of a functioning democracy; all Zimbabweans deserve this chance to choose their future safely. We strongly support a peaceful and transparent process that reflects the will of the people of Zimbabwe…,” said Riggs.

Meanwhile, Mnangagwa’s spokesperson, George Charamba, has threatened to bar Americans from observing this year’s polls because of the diplomatic tiff.

Zanu-PF trounced in Zimbabwe parliamentary and municipal by-elections

Former information minister Jonathan Moyo, who skipped the country during the November 2017 coup that toppled Mugabe from power, also weighed in on the government’s side.

“The US embassy clearly and provocatively crossed the line, and it knew that it was crossing it, to test the political waters to see how deep it could dive into the country’s electoral politics by doing itself what it is already funding local US surrogates to do,” said the former government spin doctor.

Meanwhile, National Constitutional Assembly party president Lovemore Madhuku also complained that the registration fees set by ZEC for candidates to participate in presidential elections were prohibitive.

“Many potential presidential [candidates] won’t be able to raise the $20,000 that have been set by ZEC. In essence, those figures are prohibitive and they undermine our democratic processes.” DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

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