'Army will influence election results'

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LEGAL think-tank, Veritas has said the military had a strong influence over the way people voted in yesterday’s elections, although top military officials have publicly declared that they would recognise the presidential winner regardless of political affiliation.

Veritas, in its latest report released on Sunday, said most Zimbabweans were still sceptical of the military’s position regarding a victory by other candidates other than Zanu PF’s Emmerson Mnangagwa.

“Human rights monitors have reported considerable military presence in rural communities, and the military, which has for long been linked to the current President, also has a presence in farming areas as they are heavily involved in command agriculture (crops and livestock) introduced by the current President,” Veritas said.

“According to a survey by Afrobarometer this month, 44% of Zimbabweans thought the armed forces would not respect the election result.”

Veritas said other factors to consider during this election pertaining to the military include that 15% of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) staff is known to be from the military, even though the extent of its influence on Zec is unknown.

“The military say they will follow the Constitution in recognising the outcome of the elections – this is an ambiguous phrase, as they said they were following the Constitution in replacing former President Robert Mugabe. For 37 years, the people of Zimbabwe have lived in fear of the security forces and youth militias during election periods – this fear has influenced voting in the past,” Veritas said.

The think-tank said it will not be possible for everyone to see if the elections were verifiably conducted according to the Constitution, and that the outcome is acceptable to all.

“Regrettably no, because Zec has shown so little transparency that there cannot be sufficient criteria for verifiability.”

Veritas also blamed Zec for refusing requests from stakeholders to make its internal rules more widely known and to publish its prodecural manuals in time for stakeholder and observer scrutiny.

On whether Zec is independent, neutral and impartial, Veritas said it is not clear how far it has delegated its functions to bodies outside its control such as the national logistics committee, which is an inter-ministerial committee set up to provide logistical support for Zec.

“It is not clear how far Zec is influenced by the ruling party and embedded military personnel. Zec has taken weeks to answer questions raised by the public, if it has answered them at all, and at Press conferences its spokespersons have given contradictory statements.”

On whether Zec was ready for the elections, Veritas said they had not done enough voter education, while some of it has been confusing.

“The current President is perceived as having played a leading role in winning past elections for Mugabe by illegal means and by unleashing violence, and he is now at the helm. He has stated he wants free and fair elections, but has enough been done to dismantle past machinery and habits?” Veritas said.

– NewsDay


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