In a bid to win this year’s elections at all cost, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, through his party ZANU PF, has embarked on a nationwide writing down of voter slip serial numbers, amid cases of voter intimidation.
Under this exercise the ruling party is said to be forcing people in rural areas to surrender their Biometric Voter Registration slips to party officials for serial numbers recording, at the same time threatening those who do not comply.
Though the ruling party claims that the move is in good faith, and meant to let the party know its supporters, most villagers say they are being intimidated during the exercise.
One villager from Mashonaland Central’s Guruve District had this to say; “I had to comply, because by not doing so, then they know, I support an opposition party. ZANU PF officials at ward and district levels are telling us that anyone who doesn’t surrender his slip is against the party, will not get government aid and on top of that, will be dealt with accordingly when the time comes.”
The villager also said they are being told that the serial numbers being recorded will enable the party to know who voted for which party.
Another villager from Madziva who declined to be named for fear of being victimisation concurred that it was true that people were being intimidated.
“The officials from ZANU PF are telling us that the recording of serial numbers will enable the party to identify those who are wayward, and that the army will be unleashed upon the people if it loses the elections,” said a 48 year old villager.
Meanwhile, according to Community Tolerance Reconciliation and Development (COTRAD) registered voters in Gutu, Zaka, and Chiredzi districts confirmed having faced intimidation from the ruling party officials.
COTRAD say its community voter educators in the named areas have revealed that former chief Serima who is now Gutu West ward 5 ZANU PF chairperson, George Chivhande, and his ward councillor Martin Nhamoinesu, recently told a meeting that those who did not surrender their voters’ slips will not get food aid from government.
According a number of people who spoke to this publication, it is believed that the ruling party is in a drive to rig elections, by using serial numbers to edit and distort certain voters’ information so that many people in opposition party strongholds will be turned away.
Meanwhile, a political analyst Walter Wakabikwa, said voters should not lose sleep over the fears that ZANU PF through the biased Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) might distort voters’ data so that many would be turned away as there would be still time to correct those anomalies.
“Yes, ZANU PF may temper with voters’ information in the voter database systems, but, the good thing is that when voters inspect the voters’ roll, they will rectify those distortions,” says Wakabikwa.
He added that in this regard, to guard against errors of commission or omission, it is crucial for all registered voters to visit their relevant polling stations and inspect the voters’ roll when it is published.
Wakabikwa says what the ruling party is doing; tempering with ZEC property or election material, (voter registration slips) is illegal. He urged opposition political parties in Zimbabwe to embark on vigorous voter education so that their supporters would be better informed as far as electoral processes are concerned.
Foremost, this year’s elections pit President Emmerson Mnangagwa, leader of the ruling ZANU PF party against Nelson Chamisa, President of the MDC-T, who replaced the late Morgan Tsvangirai. Chamisa who has also been granted the mandate to lead an alliance of opposition parties in Zimbabwe is giving Mnangagwa sleepless nights.
Mnangagwa is on record pledging his total commitment to see to it that the forthcoming elections are going to be free and fair.
While addressing his first rally in Mashonaland Central’s Guruve district, President Mnangagwa said he was ready to open the forthcoming polls to international scrutiny, by inviting monitors who were previously not allowed by Mugabe, claiming he has no skeleton to hide in his closet.
However, the situation on the ground is proving otherwise, he is afraid of the young Chamisa and will not level the playing field.
Renowned political commentator, Dr Pedzisai Ruhanya said that President Mnangagwa will not change, as he and Mugabe are just different sides of the same coin.
Dr Ruhanya adds that President Mnangagwa’s ZANU PF party has clearly shown that Chamisa is now their greatest threat, and as such, they cannot level the playing field.
“It is doubtful that President Mnangagwa and his military cabal can administer free and fair elections,” he says.
Another well-known political analyst, Alex Magaisa writing on his blog, implied that Mnangagwa is employing the ‘preach change, but be slow to change approach.’
On the other hand since coming on board as leader of the main opposition party, Chamisa who is so popular with the party’s supporters and has been there since the formation of MDC-T seems to be gaining traction, with each outing since hitting the campaign trail.
His rallies are being well attended.
The young man kick-started his election campaign with a reportedly highly attended rally in Chinhoyi where he managed to charm his supporters by rejecting an umbrella after it rained; his point was: “Why should I be under shelter, when everybody else is being drenched by the rain?”