By Staff Reporter
ZIMBABWE Electoral Commission (ZEC) chair, Priscilla Chigumba has distanced the poll management authority from the Thursday debacle that saw hundreds of junior Bulawayo police allegedly commandeered to cast their postal votes in front of their bosses.
Claims of junior police officers forced to vote were initially rejected by ZEC chief elections officer Utoile Silaigwana.
The opposition MDC Alliance was up in arms Thursday, claiming the process was held in secret and without the presence of interested parties, chief among them ZEC polling officers.
But ZEC staged a dramatic u-turn Friday with Chigumba admitting the process indeed took place.
During the ZEC briefing, Chigumba also revealed traditional leaders had already cast their ballots.
She was adamant the postal voting process was going on according to the laws of the country.
“We announced at our media briefing on Monday that postal voting had begun,” she said.
“We have sent out 17 ballots to Darfur (Sudan) for members of the Zimbabwe National Army.”
Chigumba said ZEC was not obliged to deploy staff to monitor the process.
“There is no role for ZEC other than the receipt of the application and processing it as prescribed by law. There is no role for observers and political parties,” she said.
On Thursday, Silaigwana had dismissed the claims in a State media statement as “hogwash and very stupid propaganda”.
He further dismissed circulating social media images of the police officers casting their ballots at Ross Camp Police station in Bulawayo.
Subsequent events have proven him wrong with his statement later pulled down.
Asked to clarify the issue Friday, Silaigwana blamed the State media.
“They did not get me correctly. I said there had not been a polling station established by ZEC for the purposes of the postal voting,” he said.
Quizzed on the large numbers of police officers at the same place and seemingly voting, the ZEC boss said it was an administrative decision.
“It probably was an administrative issue by police. Officers who had applied for postal voting had been called to receive their envelops containing their ballots,” he said.
Meanwhile, police commander in charge of the 2018 elections team Senior Assistant Commissioner Erasmus Makodza said no police officer had voted in the presence of their superior.
“We have very literate police officers who are aware of their rights. Our senior officers in charge of provinces are also aware that all voting has to be in secrecy.
“We issued a radio communication indicating that all officers eligible for postal voting needed to collect their envelopes, vote and return the same for onward transmission to ZEC. That is what happened,” said Makodza. “We have sent out ballots to Manicaland and Masvingo as well as other areas.”
Chigumba revealed that traditional leaders had cast their votes.
“The election of national council of chiefs took place on 11 July 2018 at various venues in the eight non-metropolitan provinces of the country. The elections were presided over by Zec provincial election officers,” she said.