‘There’s no need for observers to be there during postal voting’

Justice Priscilla Chigumba

Justice Priscilla Chigumba

Zvamaida Murwira, Harare Bureau
There is no requirement for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and election observers to be present during postal voting because the process should be conducted in privacy, ZEC chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba has said.

She said there were no postal voting stations under the process and claims that some police officers cast their votes in Bulawayo in the absence of ZEC officials and observers lacked merit as it was not a requirement for them to be present.

Justice Chigumba said this yesterday during an interactive meeting with election observers and the media in Harare.

“You are advised that the procedure for voting by post is set out in Section 75 of the Electoral Act, this provision clearly stipulates that voting by such a voter is done secretly not in the presence of any person. Allegations that postal voting is being conducted in the manner described in social media or depicted in a picture circulating in social media are regrettable. No postal voting stations have been set up or will be set up by the commission,” said Justice Chigumba.

“There are no ballot boxes, postal vote is exactly what it is, these are postal vote and done in secrecy.”

Addressing the same gathering, ZRP commander for this year’s harmonised elections Senior Assistant Commissioner Erasmus Makodza said no police officer was coerced to vote for any candidate or political party when police officers voted in Bulawayo on Thursday.

“No member or officer was ever coerced to vote in front of any officer. The voting process went on very smoothly in Bulawayo Ross Camp but unfortunately the political parties were not privy to the Electoral Act, those political parties who came to Bulawayo yesterday some of them were demanding to have their election agents present, those demands and what the Act provides is totally different,” said Snr Ass Comm Makodza.

MDC-Alliance Mr Tendai Biti rushed to convene a press conference on Thursday after gathering that some members of the police who will be on duty on the polling day were voting in Bulawayo.

ZEC acting chief elections officer, Mr Utloile Silaigwana said they received about 7 600 applications for postal votes and out of that, about 180 were not successful.

Asked if ZEC had received an MDC Alliance petition handed during its demonstration on Wednesday, Justice Chigumba said they were seized with it and would respond after studying the document.

“Our preliminary finding is that the petition is not substantially different from an earlier petition meaning the responses were likely to be the same,” said Justice Chigumba.

On the designing of ballot paper, Justice Chigumba said the proposed one column design would have resulted in a long ballot paper of A3 plus in size and required double the amount of paper.

“The cost benefit analysis revealed that the option would have required not only an increase in ballot paper but also an increase in production time. Thus the option had both financial and logistical implications on the commission’s preparations,” said Justice  Chigumba.

Justice Chigumba reiterated that there were not responsible for the distribution of mobile phone numbers of people to one political party which eventually sent text messages canvassing for support

“Our preliminary finding showed that some of the people who received the messages were not even on the voters roll,” said Justice Chigumba.

Zec deputy chairperson Mr Emmanuel Magade dismissed social media claims that the ballot paper was structured in a way that would result in one’s vote magically moving from one’s preferred candidate to another.

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