As the countdown to the potentially explosive March 26 by-elections reaches fever-pitch amid injurious leaks of a doctored voters’ roll by fact-finding social media grouping Team Pachedu, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has suspended several of its staffers for leaking the “2020 voters roll” without following proper procedure and without the authority or knowledge of the Commission’s Chief Executive Officer.
The scandalous electoral body, accused by many for doctoring the voters roll to skew poll outcomes in the ruling Zanu PF’s favour, also distanced itself from the copy of a leaked voters’ roll in possesion of the famous, rabble-rousing Team Pachedu.
Arguing in a statement, Zec distanced itself from the leaked voters roll “for the reason that it was not procedurally issued” and also that “it has reason to believe that there was connivance between certain members of its staff and a representative of the stakeholder to issue a tempered copy so as to suit that stakeholder’s narrative.”
According to the body, preliminary investigations have indicated “there is no written record of the request made by the stakeholder concerned to the Chief Elections Officer as is the normal procedure.”
The Commission pushed back against claims of election rigging after Team Pachedu published a damning analysis of the leaked voters roll, alleging the irregular creation of additional polling stations.
Team Pachedu last week accused ZEC of illegally moving 170 000 voters from their original constituencies and wards in the voters roll to be used for the March 26 by-elections.
In response, ZEC said:
“for the record, section 22A of the Electoral Act gives power to the Commission to establish additional polling stations to serve a polling station area in cases where the threshold of voters exceeds the number set by the Commission as manageable for administration purposes.”
ZEC said the current maximum threshold of voters per polling station is 1000 and there are situations or areas where voters at a particular polling station exceed this set threshold and the law empowers the Commission to create other polling points within the same polling station for ease of administering the vote.
“For instance, if voters who vote at Chiradza primary school which is designated as a polling station for the Chiradza polling area are 2100, the Commission can prepare three voters rolls of 700 voters each and establish 3polling points at the school for ease of administering the poll. The Commission consults and educates the affected for them not to be inconvenienced on polling day. Further, section 51 of the same Act grants the Commission the prerogative to determine the number of polling,” ZEC said.
Turning to ZEC officials who gave Pachedu the voters’ roll, ZEC said there was an attempt to drag the Commission to engage in a public wrangle with the electorate over issues concerning its mandate.
“While the voters roll is a public document, there is an administrative procedure to follow for control purposes once a request is made in terms of Section 21(3) of the Electoral Act,” ZEC said in a statement.
“It is also important to note that the voters roll is a fluid document which undergoes constant changes save in cases where it is closed for election purposes. Each day there are new registrants, transfers, deaths and corrections that are added on or effected in the voters roll and that is the reason why the law provides for a reasonable period within which the Commission should provide same to a person who has requested it.”
“That period is meant to allow the voters roll to be updated so that all information therein is accurate and reflects the correct state of affairs as of the date of issue. The Commission will not take responsibility for any documents issued clandestinely, under unclear circumstances and without following proper procedure.”
Those who require copies of the voters roll are requested to direct their written requests to the CEO and their requests are formally acknowledged and are advised to approach the relevant department which in turn will inform them of the date of collection.
“The question that arises when procedure is usurped is “what motivated the usurpation in the first instance?” Stakeholders are therefore advised to follow due process in making requests to avoid disappointment.”
“In as much the voters roll is a public document, the Legislature was not blind to the fact that it contains people’s confidential information which is security related,” the Commission said.
ZEC said it will publish its own voters roll analysis in due course for public information.
Additional Reporting: Zwnews