Nyemudzai Kakore, Harare Bureau
Printing of the ballot paper is the sole constitutional prerogative of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) and any political party which feels aggrieved has the democratic right to approach the African Union and SADC to air their grievances.
Addressing her weekly media briefing yesterday, Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba said the electoral body went beyond its constitutional mandate by inviting all political parties to observe the printing of the ballot paper.
She said in other jurisdictions, stakeholders were allowed to “touch the ballot or feel it” because they had a legislative framework for that.
On the transportation of the ballot papers, Justice Chigumba said it will certainly not be the military, but the printers.
“The strict letter of the law is that we have the exclusive constitutional mandate to procure ballot paper, to design it, to print it and to distribute it. The reason why we keep having these disputes around these areas is that the law does not provide that members of the public or stakeholders be involved in this processes. Our law says only Zec can do that. We respect the democratic right of each and every Zimbabwean to approach any fora that they feel will give them the relief that they seek,” she said.
“We will not be releasing pictures of voters to the public and this is because the right to access to information is not absolute. It must be juggled with the right to privacy. The format in which we have released the voters’ roll, and the information that we have given on the voters’ roll is sufficient to fulfil our constitutional mandate that we must provide a final voters roll which is analysable and which is searchable.
“We are aware of our constitutional duty to be transparent, to provide a final voters’ roll which is analysable and searchable. It is our considered view that we have done so and that we have complied with the law without necessarily impinging on the rights of others.
Rights are not absolute; they are subject to control in a democratic society.
“Would you like your picture and your fingerprint, your name and your identification card number, your telephone, address number to be floating around somewhere in the public arena? We have a duty to actually protect our registered voters from identity thefts and all sorts of things, we balance conflicting interests,” she said.
Added another Zec Commissioner Dr Qhubani Moyo:
“The political parties were allowed to observe the printing of the ballot paper at Fidelity Printers in which they saw it from a gallery side. The requirements of the printing regulations at Fidelity Printers is that when you do the observation, you do it from the printing gallery,” he said.
“What we later heard from the parties is that they actually wanted to be involved in the process of touching, getting to the printing press, things that are not allowed in terms of the law. We also want to remind the people of Zimbabwe that the prerogative of the printing of the ballot lies with the Commission. The process of allowing parties to go in and observe was a way of trying to find consensus and common ground with political parties so that we can minimise on conflict and we did our duty. We can’t go beyond, that will be unlawful.”
Justice Chigumba and Dr Moyo were responding to questions where MDC Alliance candidate Mr Nelson Chamisa said they will demonstrate so that Zec produce a new set of ballot papers in the presence of all key stakeholders and that they will dispatch a team to AU and Sadc for their concerns to be addressed.
On polling stations, Justice Chigumba said the Commission had established 10 985 polling stations throughout the country with the list having been published in yesterday’s press.
So far, she said the total number of registered voters is 5 695 706 with 3 073 190 constituting female voters and the remainder of 2 622 516 are male voters.
She said the list will also be published on polling day.
“The law compels the Commission to establish adequate polling stations in each of the country’s 1 958 wards with each polling station being located at a place that is readily accessible to the public, including persons with physical disabilities,” she said.
“We are just a few weeks away from July 30, 2018. We would like Zimbabweans to know that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) is conducting final preparations to ensure that the 2018 harmonised elections are successful,” she said.
“the decryption of the remaining registrants who registered during the voters’ roll inspection period was completed and these entries are now on the final voters roll which has a total of 5 695 706 voters.”
To date, Justice Chigumba said Zec has accredited 830 election observers. Of these, 15 are foreign while the rest are local.
Observers, she said, were not allowed to attend multiparty liaison committee meetings but can only do so upon consensus among committee members, but if allowed to attend, the observers are not allowed to record proceedings.
“The Commission is taking steps towards ensuring that the elections will be conducted peacefully in an environment that ensures that the will of the electorate prevails. It is satisfied that its preparations are well on course and is ready to discharge its mandate in accordance with the law,” she said.
“With regards to this week activities we would like to report that we recruited about 130 000 officers required for the polling exercise. The Commission has already recruited 210 constituency election officers and their deputies. Their training was conducted from 2 to 4 July 2018 and they are already in the field.
“An additional 1 958 ward elections officers and their deputies have been recruited and they will be trained between 16 and 18 July 2018.The recruitment of 10 985 presiding officers will be finalised end of this week while that of polling officers will be concluded on 20 July 2018.”
Justice Chigumba added that they will investigate cases where reports have been circulating that registered voters have been receiving messages on their mobile phones to vote for a certain political party or individuals.