By Staff Reporter
THE Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) says the Mutoko North by-election won by Zanu PF last month was fraught with irregularities and hence, failed to meet the minimum standards of a free and fair election.
In its November report on political violations per province, the Jestina Mukoko led NGO said the poll was marred by acts of vote buying as well as partisan conduct by traditional leaders.
The country’s first by-election since the July 30 general election was contested among Zanu PF, MDC and the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA).
The election saw Zanu PF’s Rambidzai Nyabote get 11 141 votes against MDC’s Boniface Mushore who polled 1 329 while Edson Mugoma of NCA was a distant third with 94 votes.
ZPP, in its report, gave a damning account of the poll which it said was marred by some “suspicious high numbers of assisted voters who were attributed to ‘paddocking’ where villagers in wards opt to be assisted for fear of victimisation if the results are against the ruling party”.
“The ward based voting system makes it easy to identify voting patterns in a specific area,” added the NGO.
“Unlike in the harmonised elections where there was an elections command centre, there was no such mechanism in the by-election leaving villagers with nowhere to report cases on intimidation and harassment.
“There were cases of vote buying through food and other aid distribution that is partisan. Traditional leaders openly took political sides by being polling agents and wearing Zanu PF regalia.”
ZPP said the poll fell short of the electoral regulations of the country and failed to heed the recommendations made by the European Union, SADC and AU reports produced after the July harmonised elections.
Added the group, “The failure to make improvements as recommended in the carious reports signals an intention by the government to continue mismanaging elections to maintain the ruling party advantage.”
ZPP further said the poll failed to heed SADC observer mission recommendations for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to have polling stations which were disability friendly.
“There was a regression or no improvement at all factoring in the recommendations made by various election observers,” said ZPP.
The peace based group also did not spare MDC in its condemnation of political players that fanned political hostilities in thecountry, describing its political rallies, just like those of Zanu PF, as potentially divisive.
“The two political parties have remained in perpetual election mode through their ‘Thank You’ rallies which in reality have been platforms to attack political opponents,” said ZPP.
“The rhetoric emanating from the rallies has worsened polarisation and escalated conflict. In Mashonaland East, the increase in human rights violations indicated how the toxic nature of Zimbabwean politics continues to be breeding ground for conflict.”