ZEC admits 'political interference' in 2008 vote

HARARE - Delays in announcing results of the March 29, 2008 presidential elections were caused by “political interference” and resource constraints, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has claimed.

Speaking to journalists in Kadoma yesterday, acting Zec chairperson Joyce Kazembe and the commission’s deputy chief elections officer, Utoile Silaigwana said political parties made their work almost insurmountable as expectations were high from the two leading political parties.

Zanu PF lost its Parliament majority to the MDC in the March vote and President Robert Mugabe lost the presidential polls to MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who however, failed to garner the 50 percent-plus one vote needed to enable him to become the President.

The country had to go for a presidential election run-off, again run by Zec, which was however marred by violence. Between March and May, the world was made to wait for more than five weeks by Zec which did not announce election results amid MDC allegations that Zec was cooking up results to fix the matrix of an election run-off.

“There was a lot of political interference in 2008,” Silaigwana said. “People were announcing results when we were still in the process of counting the votes. We had to go back to the polling stations and restart the counting manually.”

MDC secretary-general Tendai Biti announced election results after tallying results posted outside polling stations countrywide. There was a lot of political drama during the election results hold-up, with Zec claiming it was “meticulously verifying” results.

At one point, the MDC, which claimed to have won elections, took Zec to the High Court in order to stop the commission from recounting ballots.

A new look Zec formed in 2009 after the formation of coalition government between Mugabe and Tsvangirai has a new governing law which requires that election results should be announced within five days after the poll date.

Kazembe admitted there was mischief from political parties as the country anxiously waited for poll results before the announcement, which also heralded the genesis of an orgy of violence allegedly engineered by shock-troopers, war veterans and youth militia.

The army also stepped in and is widely believed to have propped up Mugabe to controversially return the presidency after Tsvangirai dropped from the run-off race citing escalating violence meted on his supporters.

Now with another election beckoning, Kazembe said the commission is in the process of computerising its systems so as to eliminate delays that could be caused by human error.

“In 2008 there were a lot of human errors but we do not rule out mischief. So we would like to eliminate human error. When votes are transferred, we hope it will be done through the computer,” said Kazembe. - Wendy Muperi and Fungi Kwaramba

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