Yesterday, Friday the 1st of June 2018, Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET) in collaboration with Transparency International Zimbabwe conducted an “Electoral Integrity Workshop” in St Mary’s Chitungwiza at the Leisure Gardens. The workshop is part and parcel of TIZ and VISET’s collective thrust of ensuring honesty, uprightness, probity, rectitude and honor in the holding of crucial national plebiscite. The objective of the workshop was to ensure that citizens have a practical appreciation of all tools that can be employed to ensure transparency and uprightness in the management of the upcoming harmonised election set for the 30th of July 2018. In particular, the workshop focused on exploring strategies to curb voting day irregularities and strengthening citizens’ ability and readiness to defend their vote.

VISET Executive Director, Samuel Wadzai, delivered a presentation dubbed “Strategies on how to Defending the People’s Vote”. The presentation was anchored on exploring the vote protection mechanisms that are suitable in the context of a heavily repressive state with a history of electoral fraud, violence and military involvement in electoral politics among other electoral vices.

The presentation stressed on the important role that election observers and political party agents at the polling station and counting centre can play in deterring electoral fraud. Examples given for the success of both these tools include Zambia, Tanzania and Cambodia. Further, emphasis was placed on the need for party agents to pay close attention that results are reported accurately from their respective results tabulation centers. An example of Cambodia was given, where a monitoring group by the name CONFREL conducted Parallel Voter Tabulation (PVT) to verify results, a survey and audit of the voter registration list to assess its integrity.

According to Wadzai, voters can also protect their votes in a very direct way by remaining at the voting station after casting their vote and observing the remaining voting and then counting .This strategy is particularly appropriate where voter trust in the process is low and where voters are sufficiently educated. Likewise, in Zambia, there were cases where voters themselves raised questions regarding aspects of voting operations on Election Day.

Technology can also pay a critically important role. The rise of social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Twitter and Face book is particularly important to the defending of the people’s vote. These platforms can be used to record, document and report cases of vote rigging or the occurrence of electoral malpractices. Another strategy is insisting that cast ballots are kept until the next election, so that recounts can be conducted in the event of allegations of electoral fraud.

The workshop was attended by over 64 residents of Chitungwiza that included VISET’s trained Vendors Voter Educators (VVEs). A number of recommendations were proposed and these shall be shared with the relevant authorities including, ZEC, Civic Society, the Media, Government and all its agencies.

Source: Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET)