THE Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) has singled out the Zimbabwe Republic Police as the major perpetrators of electoral fraud in the just ended by-election in Mwenezi East.
In its Mwenezi East By-election Report released Thursday, ZESN said the police selectively applied the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) by refusing to accept notifications for meetings and rallies by the opposition while accepting those of the ruling party.
This, the electoral monitoring body said, distorted citizens’ electoral preferences and denied them their voting rights.
“The Zimbabwe People First candidate reported that several notifications for public meetings were rejected by the police,” ZESN wrote in the 24-page report.
“Even when fraud does not materially alter the outcome, i.e., if the election winners turn out to be the same as would have occurred in the absence of fraud, its effects are devastating for the consolidation of democracy because it represents a reward for attitudes underlying an undemocratic culture and undemocratic values.”
ZESN said second on the electoral fraudsters list were the Office of the President and Cabinet, the Provincial Affairs Minister for Masvingo and the Masvingo District Administrator, who it said imposed political and administrative barriers on the campaigns by political opposition parties and candidates.
“Opposition candidates were required to seek approval to hold rallies from the Masvingo Provincial Affairs Minister, the President’s Office and the District Administrator,” the report noted.
The report also noted that in brazen contravention of Section 45 (2) of the Traditional Leaders’ Act which barred traditional leaders from discharging their duties in a partisan manner and campaigning for any political party, some traditional leaders shared platforms with the Zanu PF candidate at his campaign rallies.
The Zanu PF candidate, the report further noted, had distributed maize and fertilizer during his campaign rallies and meetings, which was tantamount to vote buying.
“It was also evident that the playing field remains uneven with the ruling party benefiting from the advantages that the incumbency provides, unbalanced media coverage by the government owned print and electronic media,” the report noted.
“Some Traditional Leaders continued campaigning for the ruling party in contravention of the Traditional Leaders Act.”
The report bemoaned the absence of the Special Investigative Committee, adding violence was well pronounced during the run up to the elections, which led to the withdrawal of one of the candidates.
ZESN further noted that the political environment in the country was restrictive and hindered free expression and association of the individual citizens.
“ZESN continues to call upon the political parties, candidates, the police, the election management body, the government of Zimbabwe and all other stakeholders to make concerted efforts to support the creation of a conducive environment for the holding of free, fair, credible and peaceful elections in accordance with the Constitution of Zimbabwe, SADC guidelines and norms, AU Charter and the international standards for holding elections,”.