Fresh row over voters' details

HARARE - A fresh row has erupted between the MDC Alliance and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) over the release of voters’ cellphone numbers — after Zanu PF allegedly sent text messages to people soliciting for votes ahead of this month’s watershed national elections.

This comes after Jameson Timba, the chief election agent for the Alliance’s presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa, told the Daily News yesterday that there was a potential breach of the Constitution — following several Zanu PF candidates allegedly sending out SMS messages to registered voters.

Among its allegations, the MDC Alliance claims that Zec may have given the ruling party a voters’ roll with the cellphone numbers of voters.

“Although we are prepared to talk to Zec, we are worried that Zanu PF seems to have the telephone numbers of people. It seems as though Zec gave Zanu PF a voters’ roll with people’s numbers and that is a cause for concern,” the irate Timba said.

But Zec vehemently denied the claims yesterday, describing the allegations as “mischievous”.

The electoral body also claimed that the messages were bulk telemarketing advertisements that are always sent to mobile users by service providers.

In disowning the messages, Zec said further that the messages did not also show the polling stations, wards and other registration details of voters.

Zec commissioner Qhubani Moyo told an interface meeting that personalised messages sent to members of the public asking them to vote for the ruling party were not emanating from the commission, but from service providers.

“We have read that reports that the commission has dispatched your numbers to political parties. That is untrue. You may want to know that service providers do have a facility in which anyone doing marketing can pay to access the data base of their clients and pay for that, to distribute their messages.

“In this case, no one accessed your information via the database of the commission. We are protecting the privacy of voters. That information is straight from the service providers … we are not responsible,” Moyo said.

But the SMS messages that are being sent by Zanu PF candidates are said to be targeting people registered in particular constituencies.

At the same time, the country’s biggest mobile network operator, Econet Wireless, also dismissed the claims that it could have played a part in the saga, saying it was against its company policies and the law to issue its customers’ information to third parties.

“Econet holds customer and client data in the strictest of confidence in line with the requirements of the law. It does not give or sell any customer data to third parties.

“The company only shares relevant customer information with regulatory authorities, such as Potraz (Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe, in line with subscriber registration rules and its licensing requirements,” Econet said in a statement.

State fixed line operator TelOne also said in a terse response: “We do not issue any customer information to Zec”.

Efforts to obtain comments from the other two mobile operators — NetOne and Telecel — did not bear fruit.

Priscilla Chigumba, the Zec chairperson, said she would probe the matter to establish if there had been any data breach.

“We will investigate and find out where the source is coming from …and where we discover that there has been any wrong doing, we will take appropriate measures,” she said.

Constitutional law expert Alex Magaisa said Zec had to explain to the electorate how contestants had ended up having the numbers of registered voters around the country.

“Some have reported that they received texts from candidates soliciting for votes. They are concerned as it is unclear how the candidates got their numbers.

“If it’s from the voters’ roll, Zec must clarify if this use is consistent with Section 20(9) (b) of the Electoral Act,” he said.

Magaisa, who once served as an advisor to the late MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, said Section 20(9) of the Constitution “has restrictions into the use of information on the voters roll”.

Opposition parties, particularly the MDC Alliance, have been at odds with Zec over demands for electoral reforms.

On June 5, the MDC Alliance held a huge demonstration to press Zec to accede to its demands to avail the voters’ roll and to allow the opposition to witness the printing of ballot papers.

Tomorrow the MDC Alliance, backed by other parties, will hold another demonstration against Zec.

Comments (6)

If this is a viable and effective strategy, why doesn't the MDC Alliance use its massive diaspora connections...Zimbabweans in the diaspora to engage their relatives especially in the rural areas so that the Alliance can garner a 45% or better rural vote? This will translate the massive rally attendances into votes. The time is limited. The strategy is non-threatening - relatives talking to each other about the country's future...there hopes and dreams and how all can play a part...and will effectively neutralise the ZANU/zec interface

Diaspora Proxy Vote Strategy - 10 July 2018

The focus should be on how ZANU PF got the numbers. If ZEC was involved in the procurement and provision of the numbers to ZANU PF, it has a case to answer because it is not because it is not mandated to provide that service to any candidate whatsoever. However, If Justice Chigumba and company believe its proper and legal then it should avail the same information to all candidates and not do it selectively or at least allow them to source from the same bulk providers. Its mind boggling that ZEC believes it operating within the confines of law and in a fair and transparent manner despite its unashamed and active participation in creating an uneven playing field for the general elections.

Jaikolu Maison - 11 July 2018

thats a big lie and manipulation of the electorate . MDC is formulating all these lies, they are unfounded this is as similar as thinking the ballot paper can throw itself from MDC box to ZANU PF box, miraculous

kid marongorongo - 11 July 2018

Its surprising that some people believe that ZANU PF can win an election without rigging today. It will not garner even 10% of the vote where 80% of the population is unemployed, 70% lives below the poverty datum line, there is no cash in the economy. massive looting and corruption is rampant, education and health sectors have collapsed and only chefs can go abroad even for primary treatment, the land distribution programme has been hijacked and failed to transform the economy, over half the population has abandoned the country et all. Someone please tell me why anyone would vote for ZANU under these circumstances. Don't insult or treat the electorate like fools they are bearing the brunt of ZANU's total failure to lead. Even a mere promise to extricate the electorate from this dysfunctional way of existence is sufficient to wake up anyone from the hypnosis induced by ZANU PF over the past 38 years.

Jaikolu Maison - 11 July 2018

Kid Mawrongwrong so you think it is all lies. Cash is plenty. The US dollar is readily available and equivalent to the bond notes. Ecocash transactions are available at par. Jobs are plenty. Health services are excellent. Roads are excellent. If all this true then I will vote for your party so that you can give us another 38 years of the same.

Zimbabwe Unity Movement - 11 July 2018

So , if the use of these numbers was done illegally, why not just arrest those who used these numbers illegally and get them to disclose their source or face the harshest possible sentence provided for by the law

Changamire - 11 July 2018

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