The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) says it is taking threats against its staff seriously and has since made reports to police to ensure their security.
Zec deputy chair Commissioner Emmanuel Magade revealed this yesterday during a briefing with election observers in Harare.
His comments follow pressure and acts of intimidation against Zec staff and property by opposition political parties demanding electoral reforms, some of which have been described by Zec chair Justice Priscilla Chigumba as illegal.
The main opposition MDC Alliance, which held a demonstration on Wednesday and petitioned Zec with electoral demands, has been at the forefront of denouncing the elections body, with party officials and supporters making threats against senior Zec officials, including Justice Chigumba.
MDC Alliance leaders, including its presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa, stormed Zec offices in downtown Harare on Wednesday and demanded to see Zec chair and other senior officials, failure of which Mr Chamisa threatened to order a mob into the premises.
Another official captured on video threatened to hunt down Zec officials from their homes and harm them. “I can confirm that such threats have been issued,” said Commissioner Magade.
“Some unkind and uncharitable things have been said about us. We find it totally, totally despicable and unconscionable and deplorable. What we have done as law abiding citizens is to refer those threats to the police and other law enforcement agencies,” he said.
He said Zec was a neutral body playing the role of umpire. “Our wish and our ambition is that we should have an incident-free election. It is very regrettable that people like us who are supposed to be neutral umpires (are subjected to this).
“We are not in the hands of anybody. We are not in the pockets of anybody; we belong to the people of Zimbabwe. So please help us to make the process straightforward and something that we can all be proud of.
“Come July 30, we want to come up with a product that is fit for the purpose. These threats will not deter us in our endeavour to deliver free, verifiable and credible elections and once again I find the threats totally deplorable and in fact diabolical,” he said.
The Zimbabwe Republic Police, which also gave a briefing to the meeting, assured stakeholders involved in the election of safety as well as security of voting materials, which the police are charged with protecting.
The ZRP has also trained its staff and engaged stakeholders to ensure peace.
Senior Assistant Commissioner Erasmus Makodza, who is the ZRP commander for the 2018 elections, told observers that the pre-election environment had largely been peaceful with more incidents of intra-rather than inter-party violence being recorded, especially during party primary elections.
“I would want to make the comment that in most of the intra-party cases that have been reported, the complainants have been coming forward to make withdrawal statements simply because the accused and the complainants belong to the same party,” said Snr Ass Com Makodza.
“Yes, we did receive cases of interparty violence but there are few and most of the accused persons have been accounted for and investigations are ongoing. Some of them have been taken to the courts, some have been convicted and some are likely not to vote because they are now in custody.
“Despite the Bulawayo bomb blast case which is under investigation, the campaign period has been tranquil. May I therefore applaud Zimbabweans for heeding President Mnangagwa’s consistent message of zero tolerance to political violence. This call has enabled the police to perform their duties with renewed focus to ensure a conducive environment for holding the elections is maintained.”
Snr Ass Com Makodza outlined the constitutional duties of the police before, during and after the elections. He said all politically-motivated cases were being investigated impartially.
He also revealed that the judiciary had been equipped to deal with crime in the period, with 75 magistrates, five High Court judges as well as National Prosecuting Authority personnel having been made available.
He said the ZRP would ensure the security of observers, journalists and the general populace.
“May I assure you all that the Zimbabwe Republic Police has made adequate preparations to guarantee the country’s security during these harmonised elections,” said Snr Ass Com Makodza.
Zec has been accused of working with Zanu PF to steal elections.
Stakeholders in the harmonised elections have accused the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) of granting Zanu PF access to the Biometric Voters Roll (BVR) database where the ruling party accessed registered voters’ contact details before sending them text messages soliciting for votes.
MDC Alliance principal, Tendai Biti, described the issue as a “the boob of the century” by Zec.
“This is the mother of all election frauds. It ends all pretence of Zec’s neutrality and shows that Zec are working in connivance with Zanu PF to rig the will of the people. It shows that Zec has given access of the voters roll and its database to Zanu PF,” he said.
“Cde Nyoni may I have your support to be President, Cde (Terrence) Mukupe 0779882507 for MP on 30 (July). Zanu PF values peace and development,” read a message sent to voters registered in Harare East in Shona.
Those in Matabeleland got messages in IsiNdebele.
Zec however claimed its hands were clean and promised toprobe the matter.
Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba denied releasing voters’ phone numbers to political parties.
“Would you like your picture, your ID number, your address and telephone number to be floating around somewhere in the public arena? We have a duty to actually protect our registered voters from identity theft and all sort of other things that could happen,” Chigumba said.
Zec Commissioner Netsai Mushonga said political parties could have done their own market research.
“As Zec, we distributed the voters roll and it had 11 columns and your phone numbers were not distributed to the political parties.
“So we are not the ones who distributed that information. You are also aware there are so many instances where you leave your phone numbers where you buy your goods (from) service providers,” she said.
Another Zec commissioner, Qhubani Moyo, accused mobile phone operators of receiving money to share the data.