By Andrew Kunambura
IRATE veterans of the 1970s liberation war – a key cog in the Zanu PF wheel – have come out guns blazing against alleged widespread vote rigging during Tuesday’s provincial elections and are calling for a re-run of the polls, described by some as a sham.
In a strongly worded letter addressed to the party’s leadership Thursday, war veterans from Mashonaland Central province said they were appalled by shocking levels of rigging.
Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe claimed victory in the provincial chairmanship race although supporters of his rival, businessman Tafadzwa Musarara told NewZimbabwe.com the victory was laced with poisonous rigging mechanisms.
They said unless this anomaly was ironed out, it will be very difficult for the party to maintain its hitherto unassailable dominance in the province, which it considers its bastion.
“There is a serious outcry over the way the elections were conducted and the clear evidence of rigging which renders the results not a reflection of the wishes of the people of Mash Central,” the letter, signed off by Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association provincial chairman Sam Parirenyatwa, reads.
“This will most likely pose serious challenges for the new administration to effectively unite the and run the province most effectively, a challenge the outgoing administration has perennially encountered. More so as we edge towards 2023 with our five million vote vision,” it reads.
The highly influential ex-combatants raised several irregularities that characterised the election, including the fact that election officers were seriously compromised, resulting in many of them disregarding the rules of conduct set by the party and that some polling officers actually took ballot papers to their homes overnight. For example, campaign agents of candidates were allowed to distribute voting material on their own resulting in ballot papers missing especially in Mt Darwin, Muzarabani, Mbire and Guruve. Some candidates, especially those in the DCC’s, were allowed to run elections in direct violation of the election rules and regulations. This was more rampant in Mbire and Guruve (which gave Kazembe the victory) where these interested candidates influenced the direction of elections in favour of their preferred outcomes. Some candidates’ names were not appearing at some polling stations suggesting a deliberate strategy to exclude them from contesting,” the letter reads.
The war vets added: “Vote-buying and intimidation was rife at some polling stations especially in Mbire and Guruve and this contributed to eligible voters not being able to cast their votes. Despite most voters failing to vote, the results sheets reflected a massive turnout which is clear evidence that the election process was seriously manipulated. There is irrefutable evidence that some ballot papers in Muzarabani and Mbire, were taken home overnight and only brought to the centres the following morning. These papers were being worked on overnight to ensure a preferred outcome.”
“In Mbire, ballot papers were only delivered at midnight on the election day long after the voting period had expired. Most voters had already gone home without voting but the manipulated papers reflected a massive turnout. Voting also continued on 29/12/2021 up to around 1000hrs without polling agents or police as required. No voters’ roll was used as these rogue officials sought assistance from their rigging teams to fill-in voting slips. The deliberate lack of the presence of the police in most districts, particularly Mt Darwin, Muzarabani, Mbire and Guruve opened the whole process to manipulation by uncouth and abusive officials resulting in wrong results being sent to the command centre.”
“The Provincial Director in particular, behaved very suspiciously when results started trickling in and started chasing away people from the centre including barring security officers (CIO, MID and PISI) from entering the centre. This is clear proof that this official had issues to hide from the system which by nature should be very transparent. He barred security officials from accessing data on the election results. It later turned out that data submitted from the district centres was completely different from that inputted at the Provincial Command Centre. This triggered an outcry and serious claims of corruption and rigging from all corners against these district and provincial officials.
“It is our observation that the election results from this heavily compromised and manipulated process does not reflect the wishes of the electorate. This is the kind of behaviour that causes endless intractable conflicts in the party which unavoidably ends up affecting national elections. An election is a sacrosanct process that is supposed to culminate in the voice of the majority.”
“That a few power-hungry people with narrow interests are allowed to replace the true wishes of the electorate is a very dangerous proposition that threatens the credibility of the whole electoral system and reflects badly on party leadership. Zanu PF is the only true custodian of the people’s democracy in this country and therefore we must be seen to be living the values that we espouse. This kind of vote manipulation should never be tolerated if we are to retain credibility as the true custodians of democracy and progressive values. The level of manipulation, intimidation, corruption, system abuse and lack of transparency destroys the credibility of these elections and obviously deprives the electorate of free expression of their will.”
The war vets also demanded that elections should be redone if credibility was to be retained.
“Considering the foregoing, and in the interest of protecting the people’s voice, we hereby strongly recommend that these elections be re-run especially in the most affected districts like Guruve and Mbire. Ignoring this level of system abuse will have a negative impact on future elections. Our people will obviously shun elections as they perceive the processes to be worthless. We will suffer voter apathy that can impact even on national elections and obviously hamper our efforts to garner a minimum of 5 million votes for 2023. Already this is coming on top of perennial disgruntlements over the way the current administration has been doing business that resulted in failure to unite our people and rally them behind the party leadership,” they warned.
The war vets’ letter comes at a time Kazembe’s supporters have already sprung into action denouncing their calls for a re-run. A poster seen by NewZimbabwe.com reads: “Defend the vote, Taramba re-run.”