On 3 August 2019, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) conducted a National Assembly by-election in Lupane East Constituency and two Local Authority By-elections for Ward 22 of Bubi Rural District Council (RDC) and Ward 23 of Nkayi RDC. All three by elections were held to fill vacancies that arose following the deaths of the incumbents.
For the Lupane East by-election, ZESN deployed observers comprehensively. ZESN observers tracked Election Day processes at the 62 polling stations, 14 Ward Collation Centres and the Constituency Collation Centre. In addition, two teams of mobile observers were deployed to serve a dual role of supporting the static observers and observing the political environment outside the respective polling stations. In addition, ZESN deployed three observers to both local authority by-elections (Ward 22 of Bubi Rural District Council (RDC) and Ward 23 of Nkayi RDC).
Ahead of the by-elections, the ZEC conducted voter education for polling from 24 to 28 July 2019. ZEC deployed a team of four voter educators in all the 14 wards in Lupane East and in Bubi and Nkayi as well. ZESN, at the invitation of the ZEC, was able to send a team of voter educators to support the Commission’s voter education efforts.
ZEC’s registration centres remain open at the Provincial and District centres, affording those who wish to register or transfer the vote to do so. Despite this, the number of voters registered in Lupane East has actually declined by 110 voters owing to the ongoing clean up exercises that enables ZEC to remove deceased persons from the voter register for the Constituency.
ZANU-PF won all the three by-elections, thus the party managed to retain all the seats that had become vacant in Lupane East, Bubi and Nkayi. Although the campaign season was reported to be peaceful, incidents of vote buying were reported throughout the campaign season. The participation of women as electoral contestant remains low. The by-elections held on 3 August were not an exception as each of the three by-elections had only one female candidate. In addition, none of the political parties which contested in the Lupane East by-election held primary elections. All the electoral contestants were nominated by their respective political parties.
For all the three by-elections, Election Day processes were reported to have been followed in accordance with procedures laid down in the Electoral Law. The polling officials conducted themselves professionally, and party agents signed V11 forms at all the polling stations where ZESN observers were stationed. The number of re-directed and turned away voters was low compared with previous by-elections. This was attributed to the posting of the voters’ roll outside the respective polling stations, ahead of Election Day. This allowed voters the opportunity to check their names and polling stations before presenting themselves at their respective polling stations.
Following the observations highlighted in the report, ZESN proffers the following recommendations:
- ZEC should be given the mandate for political parties’ regulation to enable the Commission to enforce the provisions of the Code of Conduct for Political Parties, Candidates, and Stakeholders. Breaches of the electoral code of conduct such as vote buying can thus be effectively dealt with.
- 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.
- The ZEC should adopt the displaying of voters’ rolls outside polling stations in future elections to facilitate easy identification of voters’ correct polling stations.
- To further enhance transparency in the polling processes, ZEC should provide copies of the voters’ roll to party agents who are stationed inside the polling station.
- ZESN urges political parties to create structures and policies that are more gender responsive to enhance the participation of women as electoral contestants.
- Political parties should invest in the recruitment, training and deployment of their party agents to allow them to comment authoritatively on Election Day processes.
Source: Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN)