The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) is observing the Zaka East National Assembly and Insiza Rural District Council (RDC) Ward 15 by-elections in line with its mandate to assess the extent to which standards of holding democratic elections as espoused by the Constitution, the Electoral Act, and other regional as well as international principles are adhered to. This midday statement is based on reports received from ZESN observers so far. Network challenges experienced in the by-election areas, especially Zaka East, are affecting communication with observers.
Pre-election Period and Campaigns
The pre-election period was largely peaceful. There was however intimidation by the ruling party supporters and traditional leaders, in particular village heads soliciting for support in favour of the ruling party.
Campaigns for Free Zim and NCA were low key. ZANU-PF and the MDC Alliance were visible holding meetings and rallies addressed by senior party leadership.
For Zaka East, ZESN has a total of 13 observers; static, mobile, Ward and Constituency Collation Centre observers, altogether. For Insiza, ZESN has deployed a total of four trained observers to cover three out of six polling stations and the Ward Collation Centre.
Set up and Opening of Polling Stations
ZESN observers have reported that ZEC posted the voters’ roll outside all polling stations in all the two by-elections. This is commendable as it enables the easy identification of polling stations by voters. More so, polling stations were set up in accordance with the requirements of the law to ensure that voters mark their ballots in secrecy. ZESN observers have reported that essential voting materials such as ballot boxes, ballot papers, ZEC stamp, indelible marking pens, biometric voters’ roll were present at all polling stations. Furthermore, observers reported that all the polling stations opened on time and had started processing voters by 7:15 am. All the polling stations were reported to be easily accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities. On average, there are 7 polling officers per polling station in both by-elections.
Assisted, Turned Away, and Redirected Voters
There were 20 assisted voters at Chiromo Polling station in Zaka due to illiteracy and a few cases of redirected voters by noon. The low numbers of redirected voters of 7 people at Mthwakazi Hall (A) in Insiza by midday may be attributed to the displaying of the voters’ roll outside polling stations that has been observed in both by-elections. There were however a few isolated cases of voters who were turned away for turning up at the wrong polling station for example, 5 voters had been turned away as at midday with 3 turned away voters at Mthwakazi Hall (A) and 2 at Filabusi Primary School polling stations respectively.
Political Parties and candidates are allowed to have one election agent inside the polling station and an additional agent stationed within the vicinity of the polling station. At polling stations where ZESN has observers or observed ZANU-PF and the MDC Alliance have deployed election party agents comprehensively in Zaka East Constituency while other parties deployed to selected polling stations. For Insiza, ZANU-PF and MDC Alliance have deployed party agents at all polling stations where ZESN has observers.
There were isolated incidences of electoral malpractices that were observed in both by-elections such as acts of victimization of an MDC Alliance polling agent by ZANU PF polling agents at Mthwakazi Hall (A) polling station in Insiza. Observers could not get much of what the crying victimised candidate was saying to the presiding officer who attended to him.
Observers reported that political parties’ agents were still taking down their campaign posters and materials within 100 metres upon the Presiding Officer’s instruction between 6am and 7am an hour before polling stations opened at Mthwakazi (A). The displaying of campaign materials in the vicinity of a polling station is in defiance of the Electoral Code of Conduct for Political Parties Schedule 7 (1) (d) on the Conduct during polling period which states that, “No political party or candidate may, from midnight twenty-four hours before polling day in any election or referendum campaign or display campaign material within 300 metres of a polling station or counting centre until polling stations are closed on that day.”
In Zaka East, observers reported that a Village Head came to cast out their vote at Machiva polling station wearing a ZANU PF T-shirt and a cap, ZEC ordered him to remove the cap and wear a jacket to cover his T-shirt. ZESN commends the ZEC for the action they took in keeping with the provisions of the Code of Conduct as well as Section 146 of the Electoral Act which also prohibits the wearing of party symbols and regalia in the vicinity of a polling station.
ZESN observed that as at midday, there was generally low voter turnout in Zaka East Constituency and Insiza RDC ward 15. Perhaps this can be attributed to voter apathy that ZESN has consistently observed in the previous by-elections.
|Derick Charamba Gudzameso||MDC Alliance||M|
|Clemence Chiduwa||Zanu PF||M|
|Lazarus Mubango||Free Zimbabwe Congress||M|
|Zenzo Moyo||Zanu PF||M|
|Reymond Mugadza||MDC Alliance||M|
Polling is still ongoing and ZESN encourages all registered voters in Zaka East Constituency and Insiza Ward 15 Local Authority to go out and exercise their right to vote in peace.
Source: Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN)