Preliminary Statement on the Lupane East Constituency National Assembly, Nkayi Rural District Council (RDC) Ward 23 and Bubi RDC Ward 22 by-election

As part of its comprehensive efforts to observe the Lupane East Constituency National Assembly, Nkayi Rural District Council (RDC) Ward 23 and Bubi RDC Ward 22 by-elections. For the Lupane East constituency by-election, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) deployed 14 long-term observers who also observed at the ward collation centre on Election Day and 62 polling station based observers. In addition, ZESN deployed two roving teams that also observed the general political environment around the constituency. 3 observers were deployed in each of the Wards 22 and 23 in Bubi and Nkayi respectively.

Lupane East Constituency By-Election

Pre-electoral Environment

For the Lupane East by-election, the environment was generally calm and peaceful with no incidences of violence or intimidation reported however ZESN observers received reports of incidents of vote buying by some of the electoral contestants. ZANU-PF and MDC-Alliance conducted vibrant campaigns in the constituency which included rallies, door to door meetings, and distribution of campaign posters and flyers. ZESN observers also reported that the other political parties such as National Patriotic Front (NPF) , Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDCT), Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP) were reported to have held rallies which were addressed by their party’s leadership.

ZESN noted reports of alleged electoral malpractice where a letter posted on social media, written by the Minister of Health and Child Care, in response to the ZANU PF Political Commissariat request for the supply of medicines to local clinics in Lupane East. This request was in support of ZANU PF campaign efforts for the by-election. The actions of this letter, if authentic, can be classified as vote buying aimed at influencing the voters’ choice.

Observation Methodology

The findings and recommendations of this preliminary statement are made in reference to the Electoral Laws of Zimbabwe, the Revised Southern African Development Community (SADC) Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections as well as other regional and African election guidelines and principles.

ZESN’s observation of the by-election included the deployment of 14 long term observers (LTOs) to observe the pre-election political environment during the campaign period. The LTOs were complemented by 62 short term observers and 2 roving teams on Election Day. This preliminary statement is based on reports received from the LTOs, STOs and roving teams. All polling station observers reported using coded text messages that were sent to a centralized database in real time.

Set up and opening of polling stations

61 polling stations opened on time (by 07:15am) with only one opening between 7.16 am- 8am. All 62 polling stations had essential materials needed for polling such as ballot boxes, correct ballot papers, indelible ink, had biometric voters roll with photographs, official ZEC stamp for stamping ballot papers. All polling stations were set up so voters could mark their ballots in secret and were easily accessible to persons with disabilities. In all 62 polling stations the ballot box was shown to be empty before being sealed for voting to start.

The average number of polling officials was 6 with 3 of them being women. In 18 of the polling stations the gender of the presiding officer was a woman.

All 62 polling stations had a ZANU PF agent, 59 had an MDC Alliance party agent, 11 had an NCA agent with other parties had agents in 20 polling stations.

Voting process and procedures

Observers reported that the voting process in the Lupane East National Assembly by-election proceeded well at all polling stations with the relevant procedures followed. In all (62) polling stations:

  • Voters fingers were checked of indelible ink before being permitted to vote
  • Voters names were checked against the voters roll before being permitted to vote
  • Ballot papers stamped with the ZEC stamp before being given to voters
  • There were no incidences of intimidation, harassment or violence during voting
  • Disabled persons, the elderly and pregnant women were allowed to go to the front of the queue
  • No one attempted to disrupt the voting process
  • There was no campaigning within 300 meters of the polling station
  • There were no unauthorized persons in the polling station

In 32 polling stations everyone in the queue at 7:00pm was allowed to vote while in 30 polling stations, there was no one in the queue by 7:00pm.

In addition, observers reported that all voters were required to present their national identification documents before voting.

Redirected and turned away voters

A new development noted in this by-election is the posting of the voters’ roll outside the polling station. ZESN LTOs reported that voters’ rolls had already been displayed outside polling stations by Election day, thereby assisting voters to confirm their polling stations. This reduces the number of voters redirected on Election Day and also enhances the efficiency of processing voters. This further strengthens the distinction between re-directed and turned away voters.[1] In 28 polling stations there were over 5 people who were turned and not allowed to vote. Majority of these voters did not have their identification documents or appeared at the wrong polling station for voting.

Assisted Voters

In 52 polling station over 5 people (both men and women) were assisted to vote. In 47 of them the majority assisted were women. In 22 polling stations the assisted persons had a person of their own choosing, while in 33 polling stations they were assisted by the presiding officer and in 6 of the polling stations by someone else.

Voter turnout

The voter turnout for the by election was 59% which is lower than the 2018 turnout.

Counting and results collation

In all (62) polling stations:

  • There was a ZANU PF agent during counting
  • There was an MDC Alliance agent during counting though 59 were present during opening and set up
  • The ballot box seals were intact before counting
  • No one attempted to influence the polling officers during counting
  • No one attempted to disrupt the counting process
  • No party agent requested for a recount of the ballot papers

In 13 polling stations an agent of NCA party was present during counting while in 25 polling stations other party candidates were present. ZESN commends the presence of party agents at polling stations for this by-election as they are important in following and verifying the conduct of the election on behalf of their parties.

Election Results Table

Name of CandidatePolitical PartyNumber of votes receivedZEC Constituency Collation Center Results[3]
Dube, Given MDC-T363363
Dube, MbongeniZanu PF6,3696,369
Khumalo, DalumuziMDC Alliance4,5054,505
Mkandla, NelsonNational Action Party4751
Mkhwebu, GezekileZAPU5252
Ndlovu, MorganLabour Economists & African Democrats Party1818
Sibanda, AliceNCA2727
Sibanda, NjabuloNational Patriotic Front3439
Tshaba, AndrewMthwakazi Republic Party8681

Source: ZESN Observers Data

Total valid votes Cast: 11,501*
Rejected votes: 153*
Total votes cast 11,654*

* The ZESN Observer at the Constituency Collation Center did not receive this data.

The table reveals that the results obtained from the ZESN observers are in line with the ZEC official announced results. ZANU-PF retained the Lupane East National Assembly seat. In 2018 Harmonized Elections the party’s candidate won the election having garnered 7875 votes as shown in the table below:

Bubi Ward 22 and Nkayi Ward 23 Rural District Council By-elections

ZESN observer reports indicated that at all the polling stations where they were present, voting commenced on time, had sufficient polling materials and due procedures were adhered to. As in the Lupane East National Assembly By-election, ZANU-PF and MDC-A deployed party agents comprehensively throughout the respective Wards. ZESN observers also reported that the political environment on Election Day was peaceful, and that this trend was in keeping with the campaign reports. ZESN relied on reports of observers it deployed to both local authority by-election.

Local Authority By-election Results

Bubi Ward 22

Name of CandidatePolitical PartyNumber of votes received
Chile PresentMDC-A216
Dube ThandazileZanu PF449
Zodziwa SilvesterLEAD17

Total valid votes Cast: 682
Rejected votes: 5
Total votes cast: 687

Nkayi Ward 23

Name of CandidatePolitical PartyNumber of votes received
Moyo BekezelaMDC A176
Mpofu BrendaMDC T147
Nyoni QhubaniZanu PF396
Sibabda MelusiMRP16

Total valid votes Cast: 735
Rejected votes: 4
Total votes cast: 739

Results Analysis

ZANU-PF retained both local authority seats. In 2018 ZANU-PF won the Nkayi and Bubi local authority elections having garnered 544 votes and 777 votes respectively. The number of votes received by all contesting political parties has reduced as a result of the lower voter turnouts that are experienced during by-election. Voting trends in the country always been at their peak during the Harmonized Elections hence the need for Political parties and all electoral stakeholders to continue supporting Voter Education efforts on the need to participate in Local Authority elections.

Recommendations

  1. ZEC should be given the mandate for political parties regulation to enable the Commission to be able to enforce the provisions of the Code of Conduct.
  2. ZESN implores the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and the Police to investigate reports of alleged infringement of rights that were reported during the Lupane East By-election Campaign period.
  3. The ZEC should adopt the displaying of voters’ rolls outside polling stations in the upcoming by-elections and in future elections to support easy identification of voters’ correct polling stations.
  4. There is need to support ZEC’s efforts to provide voter education on the importance of participating in Local Authority elections.
  5. ZESN urges political parties to create structures and policies that are more gender responsive to ensure enhanced participation of women as electoral contestants.

Source: Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN)

Notes:

  1. A redirected voter refers to those voters who turn up at the wrong polling station while turned away voters are not eligible to vote in the particular by-election.
  2. Results from polling station based observers
  3. Results obtained from the ZESN Observer deployed at the constituency collation centre