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Tsvangirai accuses ZEC of key changes to vote counting

by Tererai Karimakwenda
27 Jul 2013 at 09:25hrs | Views
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Friday expressed deep concern over last minute changes to vote counting procedures and other potential electoral vote rigging by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).

Addressing the press in Harare, the MDC-T president claimed ZEC had informed their electoral agents that ballots from next week's crucial election would be counted at ward level, and not at polling stations as stipulated by law.

"Part of the political parties negotiations of the Electoral law amendments included the provision that counting of votes be done at the polling station and not at the ward level. This was further fortified in the amendment law we agreed in Cabinet this year," Tsvangirai told reporters.

He explained that counting and verifying votes at polling stations is an important "anti-rigging mechanism" without which the election can be stolen. The changes by ZEC would mean that ballots will have to be ferried from polling stations to wards in each constituency. This is organized by the National Logistics Committee (NLC), which handles all technical aspects of the election.

But according to Tsvangirai, there is "severe lack of transparency by the committee which actually runs the election machinery. We understand that this committee has been militarized. For example, civil service drivers have been replaced by personnel from the military."

The PM also claimed that many ballots cast in his favour during the special vote had been discovered in a bin. No details were given as to how many such ballots had been discovered.

Outlining other concerns, the MDC-T director of elections, Dennis Murira, told SW Radio Africa that ZEC had also decreased the number of polling stations in Harare, which is one of the largest provinces in Zimbabwe.

According to research by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), Harare has been allocated only 830 stations to serve an estimate 1.2 million voters. The Midlands, whose estimated voter population is just over 762,000, has 1,341polling stations.

Murira said: "Harare has religiously voted for the MDC-T since 2002 and this move by ZEC is designed to slow down the voting process. It's simply an attempt to limit the number of ballots cast by our supporters in one of the most important constituencies in the country."

The elections director also pointed to the widespread use of traditional leaders by ZANU-PF to intimidate voters and mobilize them to vote in favour of Robert Mugabe and his party.

Meanwhile, the concerns of the MDC-T were echoed by a coalition of civil society organizations from across the Southern African region. Under the banner of the Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum (ZSF), they have organized protest rallies in several SADC countries, calling for free and fair elections in Zimbabwe.

In a statement on Friday, the ZSF said: "This joint Regional Zimbabwe Solidarity action serves to galvanize support from across the region to call on our governments to say that enough is enough, a culture of un-manipulated free and fair electoral democracy is at the heart of our collective struggles for freedom, for liberation and for emancipation."

As part of their demands, the ZSF called on the Israeli company NIKUV to back off from helping ZANU-PF manipulate ballots in next week's election. The company has been accused of working with the Central Intelligence Organisation to rig the elections on behalf of ZANU PF, accusations which they have denied.

The ZSF said similar Zimbabwe solidarity protests will be held in Namibia, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Botswana, Swaziland, Mozambique, and Lesotho.  Details of the protests can be found at:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ZimbabweSolidarityForum
ZSF on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ZSolidaritForum

Source - SW Radio Africa

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