Zim election won't be rigged for Zanu PF — Makarau

HARARE - The head of Zimbabwe’s election body has said she has no intentions to rig polls in favour of President Robert Mugabe, 93, who has ruled the former British colony since independence in 1980.

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson Justice Rita Makarau told State TV on Thursday night that she will deliver a credible 2018 vote that does not breach the country’s Constitution.

She ruled out a “Kenya scenario” where the Supreme Court there nullified President Uhuru Kenyatta’s election win last week, citing irregularities, and ordered a new poll within 60 days.

The ruling was an unprecedented in Africa where incumbent governments often hold sway over judges.

“We do not steal elections in favour of any political party and no we do not intend to steal this particular election in favour of Zanu PF,” Makarau, who is a serving Supreme Court judge, said.

The opposition accuse Mugabe of rigging his way to victory in previous elections and say he has used political violence and the State security apparatus to maintain his hold on power.

The teetotaller has rubbished the claims.

Mugabe plans to contest next year’s vote, his last under a new Constitution adopted in 2013, and will be 99 if he wins and finishes the five-year term.

Explaining the new multi-million dollar electronic voter registration system, Makarau said Zec has decided to introduce this new technology just for voter registration purposes at this stage.

Zec has acquired bio-metric voter registration (BVR) technology to replace a manual system that was discredited in 2013 polls when ballot boxes were found to contain the votes of people who had not registered or were dead.

“With the fullness of time, we will be conducting electronic voting but not for the 2018 elections,” she said.

“We have deliberately adopted what we are calling polling station-specific voter registration and not voting, for a good reason. We have reviewed our past conduct of elections and we have realised that this is the way to go.

“It is easier to manage because you will have fewer voters to deal with. Again an example coming from Kenya. Kenya’s threshold was 700 people per polling station (it is 1 500 in Zimbabwe) and before close of midnight, we hear they had (election) results.”

Makarau said Zec had learnt crucial lessons from Kenya, where judges said they found no misconduct by Kenyatta but said the election board “failed, neglected or refused to conduct the presidential election in a manner consistent with the dictates of the Constitution”.

She said: “We understand that the Kenyan scenario arose from a finding by the Supreme Court of that country that the equivalent of Zec in that country did not conduct elections in accordance with the Constitution, in accordance with the electoral laws. So that makes our task very, very easy.

“To avoid that scenario, we simply must just abide by the Constitution and the electoral laws. There are no two ways about it. We have got to go strictly by the book.”

Reacting to complaints that the two metropolitan provinces of Harare and Bulawayo had fewer voter registration centres compared to rural provinces, Makarau said these claims were not well-founded or honest.

She clarified why there were more registration centres in rural areas than in urban areas.

“I will explain why there may appear to be a disparity in the number of voter registration centres. We did not allocate voter registration centres according to whether the land is urban or rural,” Makarau said.

“We allocated voter registration centres per province and some provinces then happen to be urban, some provinces happen to be mainly rural with a few urban areas.

“But in rural areas, we notice that voters do cover a long distance to go to the nearest polling station or voter registration centre.

“So to bring the facility to the people we have had to increase the number of voter registration centres in those areas. In urban areas, the distances tend to be shorter, the population is denser and one registration station can serve quite a large number of people.

“That might explain why we appear to have less voter registration centres in urban areas. But our aim is to cover every eligible Zimbabwean.”

Amid opposition concerns that accessing Zimbabwe’s voters’ roll in any format, was not easy, Makarau said the election law was quite clear, saying that all political parties should have access to the crucial list of registered voters in good time before an election, and in both electronic and hard copy.

“We give soft copies because the law requires us to do so. It is a requirement of the law that if any person wants a copy of the voters’ roll, they need to get a copy. They pay the requisite fee (of $100 000) and we give them a soft copy of the voters’ roll,” Makarau said.

Amid concerns that Zanu PF has maintained control over the rural people — who constitute 75 percent of the Zimbabwean voter bloc — by accessing the voters’ roll and directing registered ordinary voters to give their ballot-paper serial numbers to their village headmen, who would have marshalled the voters to the polling station and made them queue in a predetermined order, blatantly violating the sanctity of the vote, Makarau said information given out in the voters’ roll can only be used to election purposes only and use of the data for any other purpose actually constitute a criminal offence.

Some of the rural voters such as teachers are clearly instructed to tell presiding officers that they were functionally illiterate, so that the police could monitor their choices while pretending to give assistance.

Rural folk have chosen to live in obedience, in silence, well aware any dissent would be crushed.

“If they are victimised because of the information that is on the voters’ roll, then they have cause to go to the police and complain,” Makarau said.

“It is an offence to use the information on the voters’ roll for any other purpose other than for election purposes.”

Election experts have said Mugabe’s Zanu PF is harvesting fear from the 2008 elections that killed over 200 people, with many set to vote for the ruling party out of fear after being made acutely aware that active involvement in politics, particularly on behalf of the opposition, could result in death.

The last electoral commission lost credibility in the eyes of many in the 2008 poll won by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the first round before the MDC president pulled out in the run-off that followed due to widespread violence.

It took a staggering five weeks for the commission to announce presidential elections results amid opposition accusations that it was tinkering with the results to fit the matrix of a presidential election run-off.

Comments (7)

"We do not steal elections in favour of any political party..." has to be the quote of the year... decade?

Remedio Fernandes - 9 September 2017

Imi musanyeperwe mhani munhu uyu ari kuda kukuvaraidzai ozokurovai nesurprise. Do listen to her so called nice statements. Makarau is a zanu dont be fooled. If MDC AND OTHER POLITICAL have experts in BVR and IT specialists the better.

PHD - 9 September 2017

Really? That would be truly a first. 1980 was the first time it was all rigged, and ever since, with a bit of murder and torture thrown in... well, we all know the story.

spiralx - 9 September 2017

There shall come a time in future when officials that have been paid to oversee citizenry suffering will have to pay. It will all end sadly and tragically.

Sagitarr - 9 September 2017

We are heading towards a very poorly run election bcoz what this lady said a lot of it does not make any sense . A highly populated area requires many polling stations to avoid long ques which mighty end UP causing voters to stay at home instead of standing long hours in order to vote . That is already rigging .In 2002 Presidential election many pple failed to vote in Harare bcoz of long ques caused by fewer polling stations then if that is not rigging what is it .? Actually we are waiting for the worst elections this country has ever had . Makarau is incompetent she must be removed A S A P

Diibulaanyika - 10 September 2017

OK Nikuv Makarau, we really really believe you. But 1st tell us why 2008 Presidential results took 6 weeks to announce.

Zuze - 11 September 2017

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menkaiimessor - 12 September 2017

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