Investigate voter intimidation claims, Zec urged

HARARE - The Zimbabwe Elections Support Network (Zesn) — an independent polls watchdog — has urged the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) to probe allegations of voter intimidation by Zanu PF supporters.

This comes amid rising concern over reports that registrants and observers are being intimidated and threatened during the on-going voter registration process.

Addressing journalists in Harare yesterday, Zesn chairperson Andrew Makoni said their observers across the country had witnessed cases of intimidation at the hands of Zanu PF members.

“Of concern to Zesn are incidents where accredited observers were intimidated for observing the biometric voter registration process (BVR). For example, in Chipinge Central, a Zesn observer was threatened and intimidated by the ward councillor and his supporters resulting in the centre being closed by the registration officials who felt the situation was threatening to get out of hand. In Epworth ward 2 at the local board offices, a physically challenged Zesn observer was forced out of a registration centre.

“Zesn received disturbing reports of cases where potential registrants were being misinformed that the BVR system has the ability to reveal voters’ preferences on voting day. There is need for Zec and other electoral stakeholders to amplify civic and voter education efforts in order to demystify the BVR and ensure that voters receive information which will allow them to make informed choices,” Makoni said.

He said Zesn — a grouping of at least 32 non-governmental organisations — is now urging Zec and ZHRC to investigate the alleged intimidation, which has also sucked in traditional leaders.

This comes after the traditional leaders, who have for long rallied villagers to support Zanu PF, recently endorsed the ruling party, an aspect Makoni said is unconstitutional.

“Zesn expresses concern over the recent public announcement by traditional leaders endorsing the ruling party for the forthcoming harmonised elections. Zesn notes that such pronouncements are in contravention of Section 281 (2) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which states that traditional leaders must not belong to any political party nor act in a partisan manner.

“Zesn observed during the first phase that traditional leaders were issuing out proof of residence affidavits and letters stating that the registrants reside in areas under their jurisdiction. Zesn reiterates its previous calls for traditional leaders to play their leadership role in a non-partisan manner as this is critical to the creation of a conducive environment that allows for the enjoyment by their subjects of the right to register and freely participate in electoral processes,” Makoni said.

He further alleged that Zanu PF, in some areas, was also giving its voters pre-filled affidavits, which have the effect of prejudicing other voters.

The organisation further spoke about the challenges of proof of residence that is being faced by many registrants.

“Zesn reiterates its previous position for Zec to put in place additional mechanisms to further ease the proof of residence requirement such as conferring voter registration officials with powers to commission affidavits,” Makoni said.

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