Harare (Mlondolozi Ndlovu) – THE Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) says it has noted a number of irregularities during the just ended Chimanimani West by-election which was won by a Zanu PF candidate.
In a post-election report, ZESN said a significant number of voters were turned away for reasons that included going to the wrong polling station and not bringing appropriate identity documents.
ZESN also reported more voters were forced to travel for longer distances to their correct polling stations after they had turned up to cast their votes at wrong ones.
“A number of voters were redirected from Nyamusundu Primary School to Biriiri Primary school in ward 17 which is about five kilometres away,” ZESN said in its report.
The group could not readily provide the number of people who were turned away or redirected as they did not have observers at all the polling stations.
According the country’s electoral laws, all voters are now supposed to vote within their assigned polling stations, which are often closest to their homes.
The laws also grant permission only to voters who produce their national identification cards or valid passports before polling officers.
ZESN chairperson Henry Masaya said the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission which runs the country’s polls should ensure adequate voter education in future to avoid cases that were experienced in Chimanimani.
“As ZESN, we have always advocated for comprehensive voter education so that when the voters go to vote they are informed and equipped voters.
“ZEC should include reputable civic organisations in voter education. Given the constraints we have as a country, ZEC alone cannot manage comprehensive voter education,” Masaya said.
The constituency, formerly under expelled Zanu PF MP Munacho Mutezo, was characterised by pre-election violence, intimidation and voter buying, independent observers allege.
Zanu PF has often been accused of deliberately creating poll irregularities to confuse and discourage its opponents’ supporters from casting their votes.
The party has however denied any rigging attempts.