Public policy think tank, the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI) says the voter registration exercise by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has indicated that the Commission is captured by the ruling Zanu PF party.
In a paper titled Zimbabwe’s March 26 By-Elections: Unpacking the Menu of Electoral Manipulation, the think tank says the Commission plays an enabling role for the ruling party’s long stay in power.
“In the context of the March 26 by-elections and the forthcoming 2023 harmonized elections, the voter registration exercise has indicated that ZEC is indeed captured by ZANU PF and plays a facilitatory role in its long stay in power.
“To facilitate ZANU PF’s power retention, ZEC has recently played four electoral manipulation strategies – creating uncertainty in voter registration, gerrymandering in voter registration centre allocation, manipulation of the voters roll and militarisation. These four form ZEC’s latest menu for electoral manipulation and is against the constitutional provision of the independence of the commission,” ZDI said
The think tank says the electoral manipulation involves the establishment of few voter registration centres in opposition-dominated areas.
“In areas where the opposition commands a huge following, there are few voter registration centres as revealed in ZEC’s schedule of the first mobile voter registration process which kick-started on 1 February 2022. For example, Bulawayo, an opposition-dominated province, has been allocated 152 voter registration centres while the ZANU-PF stronghold Midlands province was allocated 354 voter registration centres.
“The militarisation of ZEC comes in form of the recruitment and employment of former military men into the commission secretariat. The Chairperson of ZEC, Priscilla Chigumba in 2018 said 15% of the commission’s staff is comprised of military personnel. The appointment of Utoile Silaigwana as the Chief Elections officer confirms a disturbing trend employed by ZEC to have personnel with a military background as vital cogs of ZEC.
“The country’s military is made up of the liberation war partisan military wings of ZANU-PF – the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) and the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA). It, therefore, suffices to say the military has always been affiliated to ZANU-PF – one of the contesting parties in the elections,” said the think tank
ZDI added “The exposed irregularities in the voter’s roll exposes a deliberate attempt by the electoral by ZEC to establish an uneven electoral playing field. The revelation of manipulation of the voters roll by ZEC and the state-sponsored violence against the opposition show the covert and overt manipulation of the electoral processes. This is a signpost revealing the nature and context within which the 2023 electoral processes will be conducted.”