By Felix Matasva, Manicaland Correspondent
A POLLING station was allegedly dismantled on the eve of the by-election in Mutasa South National Constituency election, leading to the disenfranchisement of hundreds of voters which may have held sway in the result, it has emerged.
The development has triggered fears the polling station ruined Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) candidate, Regai Tsunga’s chance of winning the election.
Tsunga was narrowly beaten by Zanu PF candidate Misheck Mugadza after garnering 5 269 votes against his nemesis’ 5 818.
Mugadza holds a senior position in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
Well-placed official sources who presided over the elections said the removal of a polling station deprived a number of people from voting within an urban ward, which was one of Tsunga’s strongholds.
“A polling station in Florida middle density suburb was removed from the system in the last minute. The officials responsible for that polling station were given a directive to remove it from the system under unclear circumstances,” an official source said.
“They later realised that it was a trick aimed at influencing election outcome only after results started trickling in. That polling station had a remarkable number of voters from the leafy suburbs of Mutare, and Mugadza had lessor chances of winning there. This is real. The move influenced the outcome, a team of government officials who presided over the elections even testified,” the source added.
ZEC Manicaland elections officer, Thompson Chivereveshe, declined to comment on the matter saying: “We are no longer talking about elections. Anyone with allegations can go to the electoral court. I do not know anything regarding this issue. The elections are over, hence I do not know what you are talking about.”
Tsunga confirmed that a polling station in Florida was dismantled.
He said another one in Chikanga phase one (ward 14), was moved to a different.
.“Yes it’s true. The explanation can only come from ZEC why they did that. It resulted in many people not getting the chance to vote. I talked to the district elections officer regarding the Florida polling station and he simply said it was because they had to merge the two polling stations into one,” Tsunga said.
“Whether that was done in good faith or there was a sinister motive, as we suspect, it is a question for ZEC to answer. We hope that in the future, if any changes have to be made regarding configuration of polling stations, it will be communicated to all political parties and interested stakeholders in advance,” he said.
“Once they continue to do things in a clandestine manner, they give us every reason to be suspicious. We always clamour for electoral reforms so that the outcome is not thereof ever disputed. If everything is done in a transparent manner, with no issues arising, the winner and the loser will feel content after elections are conducted.”
Mutasa South constituency consists of some parts of Mutare urban, including Penhalonga peri-urban.
According to statistics availed by the Election Resource Centre (ERC), the voter turnout in Mutasa South during by-elections was 34,47% compared to 85% during the 2018 polls.