TWO opposition parties, Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) and United Zimbabwe Alliance (UZA), yesterday cried foul over what they termed attempts by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to confuse their members through use of “blurred” ballot papers in today’s by-lections.
The ballot papers for the National Assembly were printed by Fidelity Printers and Refiners while those for local authorities were printed by Printflow — both State-owned entities.
The parties claimed that the ballot papers were so faint that their symbols and some candidates’ portrait pictures were hardly visible, a situation they said worked in favour of the ruling party, Zanu PF.
UZA Mbizo parliamentary candidate Gladys Mutunami filed an urgent High Court application seeking an order compelling Zec to reprint the ballot papers for her constituency, saying her picture was hardly recognisable. At the time of going to print, the matter had not yet been set down for hearing.
The court application adds to the chaos that has marred the run-up to the elections, including political violence, the banning of Nelson Chamisa’s CCC rallies and questions over the credibility of the voters roll.
Addressing a Press conference in the capital attended by Mutunami, CCC spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere said her party was participating in the polls under protest.
“What we want to encourage our voters is to make sure they locate the CCC logo, look for it, it might take time, but please be patient and take time to look for it. Let us go out in our numbers and vote, the ballot papers may be a challenge to read or see, but take time to look for the CCC candidate, even if they are a challenge to read, look for it,” Mahere said.
She added that they were participating in the polls to test Zec’s capacity to conduct credible elections.
“We can’t test the system without participating. We want to emphasise that if we don’t participate we won’t have a leg to stand on in terms of holding Zec to account and in terms of implementing some of the legal challenges that we have.
“So make no mistake, everybody has to come out to vote, our participation in the election is not an endorsement of the unconstitutional conduct by State institutions, especially Zec. It’s going to create a platform for us to challenge using the process and remedies that are available. We want to make sure that we have a leg to stand on.”
Early this week, CCC claimed that Zec had changed its party symbols on the ballot papers and complained that the use of black and white voting material would confuse its members.
But Zec has insisted that it is under no obligation to produce colour ballot papers.
Twenty-eight parliamentary and 105 local government seats are up for grabs following the deaths and recall of MDC Alliance legislators and councillors.
In her court challenge, the UZA candidate accused Zec of abrogating its duties on the conduct of elections as enshrined the Electoral Act and the Constitution.
“In the circumstances, I shall set out a case for a compelling order, to compel Zec and (Zec chairperson Priscilla) Chigumba to reprint the ballot papers and ensure that her photo image is recognisable,” she submitted.
Mutunami cited Zec, Chigumba, CCC candidate Settlement Chikwinya, Eventhough Brave Mapfumo (MDC Alliance), Vongaishe Mupereri (Zanu PF), Lovemore Chibukwe (United Democratic Alliance) as respondents.
She is represented by Ephraim Ndhlovu of Mabundu and Ndhlovu Law Chambers.
“Unlike others, the distortions on my photo image appearing on the ballot papers make it difficult to even recognise my gender. The whole picture makes my recognition extremely difficult as compared to the other candidates appearing in the ballot papers,” she said.
Meanwhile, Zec yesterday expressed concern over the alleged harassment of its staff by MDC Alliance candidates at Mhizha Primary School in Highfield East constituency, Harare.
The party accused Zec staff of attempting to tamper with voting material ahead of the polls, but the election management body said there was nothing amiss in its officials’ conduct.
“The commission has reported the matter to the police for investigation. The commission wishes to reiterate that there is a polling station opening procedure which is done before opening of the polling station, where all election material is checked and verified by the polling officers.”