The past few days have been marked by electoral scandals of enormous proportions.
Zanu PF apparently has access to registered voters’ private data, specifically mobile numbers which it is using to solicit for votes for its presidential, parliamentary and local government candidates.
Not only is the issue of privacy at stake here. With a party whose 38-year-old rule has depended on violence, the mere receipt of a message from Zanu PF is enough to strike serious fear in an ordinary Zimbabwean citizen.
The second scandal is the alleged duplicate entries in the voters roll.
There is to us, more than prima facie evidence that the voters roll is not only in shambles but is an outright fraud. The nation cannot go to the polls in the current state of affairs.
With regard to the SMS messages, there is need for an independent region-led investigation into how Zanu PF was able to access voters’ private data; and all those responsible for this scandal, including the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and Zanu PF, should make an unreserved apology to those it targeted for solicitation and to the generality of Zimbabweans.
They also need to publicly take steps to correct this fraud. This would help restore confidence in the elections, or what is left of it.
With regard to the voters roll, the elections need to be postponed to enable ZEC to remove duplicate and fraudulent entries.
If they do not have the capacity to do so as is currently evident, they can call upon international expertise to assist them in the cleaning of the voters roll.
But we believe that the duplicate voters so far unearthed by some of the stakeholders are just a tip of the iceberg.
Our hunch, based on rational deduction, is that there are many more ghost citizens who have recently been added to the national civil registry enabling them to get enrolled on the voters roll with new identities to enable them to vote several times.
An audit of the national civil registry is also necessary in order to flag out suspicious recent registrations.
It is always tempting for opposition parties and civil society organisations to rush to the courts for redress.
We strongly advise against the litigation route as it is heavily booby trapped.
The small victories on the abuse of school children and on the impartiality of traditional leaders should never lead stakeholders to believe that much has changed in our judiciary.
We already see worrying trends reminiscent of 2013 and before: Urgent matters with a bearing on elections are referred to trial thereby defeating all the urgency in them; and from the shadows, obscure individuals are suddenly emerging and approaching the courts to protest against the use of their faces on the voters roll, feeding into the argument that ZEC has used before when pressed for the release of the voters roll that includes voters’ photographs.
We know all too well how in 2013 Zimbabweans were stampeded into an election by an individual emerging from the shadows and screaming for the holding of the elections without delay.
We also know how the Constitutional Court was so eager to hear that individual and to sympathise with them and to declare their fear as well founded.
Yet the same judges had in the past refused or delayed the opposition judicial remedies in cases where their rights had been brazenly violated.
Unfortunately that choreographed charade involving Zanu PF, ZEC and sponsored litigants appears to be repeating itself yet again.
So our advice to the opposition parties and CSOs is to ignore the litigation process for once and instead approach the highest institutions of the African Union and Sadc (not just the AU and Sadc election observer missions on the ground) and implore them to prevail over all relevant institutions to have the elections postponed so that the above matters, in addition to the many others that have so far been raised by stakeholders, are attended to and satisfactorily addressed.
Of course, the demonstrations should continue and Justice Priscillah Chigumba and her crew should not be given any rest until all the issues have been addressed to the satisfaction of everyone.
And while we are at that, we remind all that the ink is also part of the rigging kit. Its producers, quality, and chain of custody must also be matters that are subject to utmost transparency.
We continue to call upon anyone with evidence or suspicions of electoral malpractice, fraud and intimidation to contact us on using our Facebook Page facebook.com/ZimWatch18 or Twitter on Twitter.com/ZimWatch18.
We are a lean team of five that consists of renowned electoral administration experts, lawyers, journalists and new media specialists, and we guarantee that we will follow up on your reports and safeguard your identity if you so wish.
We are also working on coming up with attractive incentives for whistle blowers.
That would, however, depend on whether there are willing cooperating partners who are willing to fund and manage our whistle blowing programme.
We know there are many good men and women in many of our public institutions who are forced to do things that are unlawful and against their conscience.
We want to assist such people to blow the whistle and to do so knowing that their security and wellbeing are guaranteed.
– The Standard/ Zimbabwe Election Watch