Midday Statement on the Tsholotsho Rural District Council Wards 16 and 20,and Hwedza Rural District Council Ward 4 Local Authority By-Elections

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) has deployed static observers to track electoral developments in the three local authority by-elections that are being conducted by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) today. ZESN deployed observers to three out of five polling stations in Tsholotsho Ward 16, three out of four polling stations in Tsholotsho Ward 20 and two of the four polling stations in the Hwedza Rural District Council (RDC) Ward 4 as well as the Ward Collation Centres in all the wards.

The Tsholotsho by-elections followed the expulsion of former ZANU-PF Councillors, Ngwenya Patrick Hlakaza for Ward 16 and Gideon Ndlovu for Ward 20, accused of embezzling Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (Campfire) funds. The Hwedza RDC Ward 4 seat fell vacant following the death of former ZANU-PF Councillor, Alderman Samson Makamba. Two parties, ZANU-PF and the MDC Alliance are contesting in all the three by-elections.

By midday, ZESN observers had made the following observations:

Political environment

In keeping with observer reports received during the pre-election period, the political environment has been reported to be tranquil in the three local authority by-elections with no incidents.

Displaying of the voters’ roll outside polling stations

The voters’ roll was displayed outside polling stations ahead of the Election Day in all the three Wards to enable voters to check their names.

Set up and opening of polling stations

Voting started on time at all polling stations where ZESN has observers in the three by-elections are deployed/assigned. ZESN observers reported that all essential materials for polling were available at the time of opening and polling stations were set up in a manner that ensured that voters could mark their ballots in secrecy. On average, each polling station has six polling officers.

Voting process and procedures

ZESN observers reported that all polling processes were duly followed in line with the law at all polling stations where ZESN observers were stationed in the three by-elections.

Party agents

Political parties’ election agents for contesting parties were reported to be present from the time of opening at all polling stations where ZESN has observers in the three by-elections.

Assisted voters

As of midday, the numbers of assisted to vote were generally low in the by-elections. For instance, nine voters had been assisted to vote at Sydney Malunga Primary School polling station; seven at Horton Primary School; while no voters had been assisted at Sedgewick Farm polling station in Tsholotsho Ward 20. At Nata Primary School polling station, 11 voters had been assisted. Some of the assisted voters were visually impaired while others were illiterate. Relatively, higher numbers of 28 assisted voters were recorded at Shaba Primary School polling station in Tsholotsho Ward 16 and 17 at Tongogara Primary School polling station in Hwedza RDC Ward 4.

Turned away and redirected voters

In general, the number of turned away voters was also low in the three by-elections. For example, two people had been turned away at Sydney Malunga Primary polling station in Tsholotsho Ward 20; one was not registered to vote the other brought a photocopy of his national ID which cannot be used for voting and no voters had been turned away at Sedgewick Farm polling station in Tsholotsho Ward 20. At Dogwe Primary School polling station in Tsholotsho Ward 16, five people had been turned away; three who had no national IDs and two who were not registered to vote. At Nata Primary School polling station in Tsholotsho Ward 16, 12 had been turned away, the majority of whom were not registered and one could not produce an ID document. At Shaba Primary School polling station in Tsholotsho Ward 16, 13 people had been turned away. Only one voter had been redirected at Dogwe Primary School polling station.

In Hwedza Ward 4, five voters had been turned away at Magamba Primary School polling station while four had been turned away at Tongogara Primary School.

Conclusion

ZESN will continue to observe polling right up to the closing of polling stations and counting and collation of votes. The network will also release a statement and a report of the by-election with its recommendations. ZESN urges registered voters in Hwedza Ward 4 Rural District as well as Tsholotsho Wards 16 and 20 to exercise their democratic right to vote.

Source: Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN)