Zimbabwe on edge as robbers break into heavily-guarded ZEC headquarters days before elections


THERE are fears that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) might have lost critical information following a break-in at its Mahachi Quantum Building headquarters in Harare, an incident that has added a new twist to the controversy surrounding the August 23 elections.

Zec lost three laptops belonging to chief elections officer Utoile Silaigwana and his secretary Isabel Mariwowo after suspected robbers broke into the heavily-guarded offices in the capital’s central business district on Sunday night.

Zec deputy chairperson Rodney Kiwa yesterday said he could not comment on whether or not there was sensitive information in the stolen laptops.

“I can confirm that there was a break-in at Zec and the matter is under investigation,” Kiwa said.

“At this moment, I can’t talk more because the matter is still under investigation.

“Once we have an update from the police, Zec will release a statement to the public.”

The police said they were investigating the alleged break-in.

“The Zimbabwe Republic Police confirms that it has received a report of an alleged break-in at Zimbabwe Electoral Commission offices,” police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi told NewsDay.

“Investigations are now underway. More details to be released in due course.”

Zimbabwe Election Support Network chairperson Andrew Makoni said the break-in at Zec was worrisome.

“This is a very worrisome development, especially as we are a few days before the general elections voting day,” Makoni said.

“Zec, as an electoral body, should have tight security so for there to have a break-in in just a blink, it is an issue of concern.

“Zec has not indicated the type of information that was in the laptops, so I would not comment on the implications of the break-in.”

Zanu PF national spokesperson Christopher Mutsvangwa refused to comment on the matter.

“The ZRP could be doing their investigations,” Mutsvangwa said.

“I do not want to prejudice their professional work.”

According to reports, two of the laptops belonged to Silaigwana, while the third was assigned to Mariwowo.

Mariwowo is said to have discovered the break-in and theft when she turned up for work and observed that her electrical appliances were off.

A police memo indicated that Mariwowo also discovered that an adaptor was missing from her office.

She allegedly discovered that her Dell laptop was missing, and in Silaigwana’s office, an HP Pro Book and Mac Book Pro had also been stolen.

“The south facing window for Silaigwana’s office was broken with a stone, which was on the floor,” the memo read.

Zec is saddled with more 100 legal challenges that are affecting its preparations for the August 23 harmonised elections.

Kiwa recently told election observers that Zec has a constitutional duty to design, manufacture and distribute ballot papers, but the process was stalled owing to ongoing legal challenges.

He said Zec’s hands were “tied” and that it would have to “live with that” until the legal processes were concluded.

Kiwa also said the legal challenges had implications on the issuance of the voters roll.

The credibility of the elections is already in doubt following the disqualification of opponents of the ruling Zanu PF party, including its former commissar Saviour Kasukuwere who wanted to challenge President Emmerson Mnangagwa for the presidency as an independent candidate.

— NewsDay

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