Police ban MDC demo

HARARE - Plans by the MDC Alliance to demonstrate against the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) today were thrown into disarray yesterday after police refused to sanction the protests due to the “absence of manpower” — as many officers are said to be undergoing training ahead of next week’s national elections.

At the same time tempers were flaring at a meeting between Zec and opposition parties yesterday, where the national elections management body made it clear that there would be no more discussions on all the contentious electoral issues that had been raised to date.

The MDC Alliance had planned to hold a demonstration in Harare’s central business district (CBD) today, before proceeding to camp at Zec’s offices — in a last-ditch attempt to force the national elections management body to cave in to its demands.

“The demonstration could not be sanctioned due to the following reasons: you have already applied for a star rally scheduled for the 28th of July 2018 which we have already sanctioned; you previously held two similar demonstrations against Zec on the 5th of June and the 11th of July 2018 over the same issues.

“Our members are also engaged in trainings and the collection of kit, as well as final deployment strategies (for the elections) and other political rallies,” police said in their letter stopping the planned demo.

Police have said that they will be deploying 70 000 officers around the country for next Monday’s harmonised national elections.

But an angry MDC secretary-general, Douglas Mwonzora, said the Alliance leadership would meet urgently to consider its options.

“We were supposed to do our demonstrations tomorrow (today) and we see no reason why the police should deny us. The reasons that they are giving are absolute nonsense, as our demonstrations have been very peaceful.

“We see no reason why they should manufacture these reasons ... we know Zanu PF is timid and they don’t want people in the streets because that will show that we have the numbers,” Mwonzora said.

The MDC Alliance has twice held successful demonstrations against Zec, demanding multiple electoral reforms. This comes as opposition parties have also accused Zec of frustrating their demands for conditions which will lead to a non-disputed poll outcome.

The ensuing political tension has triggered fears that Zimbabwe is once again headed for a disputed poll.

Meanwhile, police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga yesterday warned that police would be on hand to deal with any flash points.

“The ZRP is ready and fully geared to ensure that the harmonised elections are held in a peaceful, violence-free and tranquil environment.

“We shall deal decisively with all forms of violence and perpetrators of violence shall be brought to book irrespective of their station in life,” he warned.

At the same time, Zec yesterday said it had done what it could to accommodate the opposition and was now solely focused on Monday’s election.

Zec commissioner Qhubani Moyo also stirred controversy when he dismissed the proposal by opposition parties to randomly sample ballot papers before elections.

“Zec rejected a request for random testing of ballot papers on polling day to see if the mark X placed for one candidate migrates to another, because it saw it as without substance or justification and will be an administrative nightmare and potential source of conflict.

“The Commission conceded to a request to keep voting booths as they have been placed traditionally. It also agreed as per the requirements of the law that the numbers of ballot papers printed be published,” Moyo said.

Upon this, some leaders of some parties threatened to pull out of Monday’s crucial elections, with Mwonzora saying that the MDC Alliance’s principals would deliberate on Zec’s position.

“The behaviour of Zec is unacceptable. They have refused to allow us access to crucial material in this election. They have refused to allow us access to the ballot papers and refuse our agents to accompany the ballot papers,” he fumed.

But Zanu PF secretary for legal affairs Paul Mangwana said the ruling party would abide by Zec’s decision.

“Zec has made its decision as a constitutional body and we as Zanu PF will abide by that decision. We do not believe in superstition, and all these accusations are based on superstition.

“We believe in empirical evidence. You cannot say that if you put an X on MDC that X will migrate to Zanu PF,” he said.

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